NSW Police hope an updated digital facial reconstruction and a hefty government reward will aid renewed efforts to identify the body of a murder victim discovered near Marulan 25 years ago.
They have released an updated digital reconstruction of the victim’s face using highly accurate modern technology, boosted by a $500,000 NSW Government reward for information that leads to identifying the person responsible for the “particularly gruesome crime”.
At about 11:30 am on Friday 21 February 1997, a man and woman stopped at a public rest area on the southern side of the Hume Highway at Penrose, near Marulan, where they noticed a body submerged at the river’s edge.
Local police attended the Paddys River location and recovered the body of a man who had been decapitated at the base of the neck.
A crime scene was established and examined by specialist forensic officers, and investigations commenced.
On Monday 31 March 1997, police were told four fishermen had located a shopping bag containing a human head in Salt Pan Creek, Padstow, about a month earlier.
Police retrieved the head and later confirmed it was a match to the remains discovered at Penrose.
The man’s remains and other items were subjected to extensive forensic examinations before a forensic sculptor from Melbourne University created a plaster recreation of the man’s face, which was displayed as part of a public appeal for information later that year.
Despite exhaustive inquiries involving law-enforcement agencies worldwide, the man was never identified.
In 1999, a NSW Coroner inquest found the man had died by strangulation by a person or persons unknown on or around Thursday 20 February 1997.
Subsequent NSW Unsolved Homicide Unit (UHU) fingerprint and familial DNA analyses have been unsuccessful.
The NSW Police Facial Recognition Unit has now created an updated reconstruction.
To support ongoing police investigations the NSW Government has announced a $500,000 reward for information that leads to the man’s identification and/or those responsible for his murder.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Police Paul Toole said the modern technology police use today could resolve long-unsolved crimes.
“While this is a particularly gruesome crime that occurred decades ago, police believe their questions can still be answered by someone in our community,” Mr Toole said.
“This investigation has involved some truly remarkable work by the NSW Police Facial Recognition Unit to help identify this man.
“I’d encourage anyone with even the smallest piece of information to reach out to police.”
Homicide squad commander Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty said advances in technology had enabled a new profile of the man’s face to be developed with high accuracy.
“The technology used in this reconstruction is able to recreate the likeness of what the deceased man would’ve looked like at the time to an incredibly high standard,” Detective Doherty said.
“We have also issued a photo of a distinct letter ‘A’ style tattoo found on the man’s upper-right arm in the hope someone may recognise him.
“He was murdered in a particularly gruesome fashion and his naked body was left in a river on the side of a highway, his head decapitated.
“This brutal crime has remained a mystery for a significant period of time and anyone who can help solve it may receive $500,000 for their efforts, so please come forward.”
Anyone who recognises the man in the released images, or has information about the crime, is urged to contact police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.