• The University of Sheffield

Forensic Facial Reconstruction: Finding Mr. X

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

29,876 enrolled on this course

Forensic Facial Reconstruction: Finding Mr. X
  • Duration2 weeks
  • Weekly study2 hours
  • LearnFree
  • Extra BenefitsFrom $59Find out more

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 from The University of Sheffield, 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.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds A 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 seconds He 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 seconds We 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 seconds We’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 muscle 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?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • 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?

I'm a Professor of Anatomical Education and Lead Academic for 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.

Learner reviews

Join this course

Start this course for free, upgrade for extra benefits, or buy Unlimited to access this course and hundreds of other short courses for a year.


Join free and you will get:

  • Access to this course for 4 weeks


Upgrade this course and you will get:

  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • A print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible

Unlimited (New!)
$279.99 for one year

Buy Unlimited and you will get:

  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
  • A printable digital Certificate of Achievement on all short courses once you’re eligible
  • The freedom to keep access to any course you've achieved a digital Certificate of Achievement on, for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn
  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year
Find out more about upgrades or Unlimited.