Face by DNA trace
Identikits will soon be compiled, not from the unreliable memories of victims, but from the DNA left at crime scenes by the people who wronged them.
Research at the University of Leuven, Belgium, shows DNA can be used to create a likeness of a person.
Dirk van der Meulen told delegates at the Craniofacial Identification Symposium at Wits University's School of Anatomical Sciences last week by analysing the shapes of various faces, "we were able to establish a link between faces and genetic information".
Research has identified genes that effect facial features, and which allow them to approximate the dimensions and characteristics of a person's face.
They have created close likenesses in their experiments just from taking saliva swabs from their test subjects. But Van der Meulen said the research is still at an early stage.
"We need to be cautious but it will improve," he said, adding more statistical data was needed so experiments can be repeated.
US police have already tried to use DNA to create a physical profile of a criminal. In Miami Beach, US police turned to Parabon NanoLabs to analyse the DNA of a person the media have dubbed the Serial Creeper. For more than two years, the Creeper has slipped into women's bedrooms where he has touched their hair and feet and, at times, sexually assaulted them.
None of his victims have seen him as his face is always covered. He is believed to have assaulted more than 50 victims.
Police have recovered some of his DNA, but there have been no hits on the DNA database.
The likeness produced by the lab is broad, showing a dark-haired, dark-eyed Latino man with smooth skin, high cheekbones and a pointed chin.