Summary: Researchers have developed a new technique that can potentially link serial killer victims based on subtle facial similarities. The concept was based on the victims’ notorious killer, Ted Bundy, selected for his crimes. The researchers found a number of the victims had similar facial geometrics than those randomly selected from a public database. The application of the research could be a new tool to help law enforcement working on unsolved cases, linking victims to known killers.
Source: Murdoch University
Murdoch University researchers have identified a new technique to potentially link serial killer victims based on subtle similarities in their faces.
Sarah Hackett, a Master of Forensic Science student has just published the results of her research project in the highly ranked journal, Expert Systems. The project was conceived and lead by Senior Lecturers in Forensics and Criminology Brendan Chapman and David Keatley, respectively.
The idea for the research came rather obscurely while Mr Chapman was watching the Ted Bundy movie, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.
“Ted Bundy’s victims had a number of physical similarities about them which I thought seemed common to the way that the rest of us, non-psychopaths have similarities between sexual partners such as ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends,” Mr Chapman said.
Many of us have probably been told that they seem attracted a particular “type”, so what if sexually motivated serial killers are the same?
“From there, the team utilised the same techniques used in facial biometrics like digital passports and for unlocking mobile devices to identify trends in the features of Bundy’s victims.”
“We found that a number of Bundy’s victims had more similar facial geometries than those of randomly chosen faces from a public database providing the first demonstration of what we’re calling Facial Similarity Linkage of serial killer victims.”
Mr Chapman said the potential applications of the research are far reaching, offering an additional intelligence tool to law enforcement working on unsolved and cold cases.
While more research is being done to validate the model, Mr Chapman sees the potential for this to help associate victims that may have previously been unattributed to a serial killer.
“In a situation where we have, say, 10 known victims of a sexually motivated serial killer, we might be able to look back over unsolved cases and find victims that could be considered as possibly the 11th victim”.
Face similarity linkage: A novel biometric approach to sexually motivated serial killer victims
Some sexually motivated serial killers target victims on the basis of appearance. Therefore, multiple victims of a single serial killer are likely to have some facial features and geometries that are similar. The current research was undertaken to propose a technique, termed face similarity linkage, to evaluate whether victims of a serial killer have statistically more similar facial measurements than a randomly chosen person of the same gender. To test this, three of Ted Bundy’s victims were randomly selected and anatomical landmarks were located and measured to produce proportionality indices of their faces. A random subject from an online database was used as a comparison. The results showed there were no statistically significant differences between the three of Bundy’s victims, however there was significant difference between 11 of the 17 facial measurements of Bundy’s victims when compared to a random person. This research serves as a proof of concept that, with more advanced means of data collection, may be a useful tool for law enforcement for linking serial homicides. The current method is relatively novel, and in need of expert systems interfaces to improve speed and application, which is outlined in the current study.