Forensic Facial Reconstruction: Finding Mr. X

Learn about the forensic technique of facial reconstruction from the experts involved in a real crime case.

Forensic Facial Reconstruction: Finding Mr. X

  • Duration 2 weeks
  • Weekly study 2 hours
  • Certificate Available

Solve the mystery of the body in the bag

On Saturday 22 January 2000, two men found a small holdall, abandoned on an industrial estate in the north of Sheffield. Upon opening the bag they made a gruesome discovery. A badly decomposed body.

Who was this person? Why did they die? Where had the body been stored all of this time?

On this course, you’ll learn alongside the experts who worked to determine the identity of Mr. X. You’ll discover the forensic science techniques that were used to identify the body and understand the circumstances surrounding their death.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsA male was found in a small holdall, on some waste ground, wrapped in plastic and then wrapped in another material. He was very badly decomposed. There was no identification as to actually who it was.

Skip to 0 minutes and 28 secondsHe was removed from the bags. All forensics were recovered off the bag and inside the bag, off the sheeting. Anything that we could get. Due to the fact obviously we didn't have any idea of who this male was, and basically there was nothing more that we could find. There were no missing persons that matched this description, even out in the press, nothing came back as far as who this particular male could be. They didn't have much they could work with. All really they had was the skull and wisps of hair to try and get some sort of accurate ID to identify this Mr. X. Once the facial reconstruction was actually done, it was put out on Crimewatch.

Skip to 1 minute and 13 secondsWe actually got a number of people come forward saying they think they might actually know who this male is. It also gave us enough information to identify the offenders.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 secondsWe've got a body, no clues. Don't know what he looks like. Don't know where he was killed. From the facial reconstruction, we were able to actually close off that story.

What topics will you cover?

  • An introduction to the study of Forensic Anatomy.
  • How to analyse a skull to determine a person’s sex and ethnicity.
  • The circumstances under which a facial reconstruction would be necessary.
  • The key muscles groups of the face and the order in which they are applied to a skull in a facial reconstruction.
  • How the facial reconstruction method relates to the broader field of forensic work.

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Summarise the context and applications of facial reconstruction within the study of Forensic Anatomy.
  • Identify basic information about a person from their skeleton and in particular, their skull.
  • Describe the key muscle groups of the face.

Who is the course for?

This course is suitable for anyone interested in how forensic anatomy and facial reconstruction can assist police investigations. No prior qualifications in forensic science or other disciplines are required.

Students and practitioners in the fields of archaeology, anatomy, and anthropology may gain valuable insights into the use of anatomy expertise in forensic work that they can apply to their study and work in the field.

What do people say about this course?

Great course, with a lot of information packed into a short time. As an Arts graduate with an interest in archaeology, I like the multi-disciplinary approach that this subject demonstrates and have en

Fiona Young

Who will you learn with?

Katherine Linehan

Katherine Linehan

I'm a Senior Lecturer and Lead Academic in Human Anatomy in the Department of Biomedical Science at the University of Sheffield.

Who developed the course?

The University of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield is one of the world’s top 100 universities with a reputation for teaching and research excellence.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript


Statement of Participation