Sculpture gives life to severed head

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The Independent Online
A SCIENTIFIC sculpture yesterday gave some identity to an anonymous murder victim whose head was severed and battered before burial 75 miles away from his corpse.

The dead man's likeness was modelled in clay by Richard Neave, the medical artist at Manchester University, after assembling more than 100 pieces of his skull. Mr Neave is also helping police identify the bodies found at Frederick West's home in Cromwell Street, Gloucester.

Mr Neave unveiled his work with Greater Manchester detectives pinning their hopes on the public response for any progress in their murder inquiry. 'You hope for a gut reaction, someone saying 'Good Heavens, that reminds me of so-and-so', ' Mr Neave said yesterday.

The man was aged 35-40, of medium build, possibly of mixed race, and 5ft 7in to 5ft 11in tall. His hair was dark, possibly black and wavy, and he died on 16 December under some arches in Wyre Street near Piccadilly station, Manchester.

The cause of death has not been established. It is not known whether he was killed before being decapitated. The skull was found 31 days after the rest of the body near Cannock, Staffordshire. The head had been smashed, probably with the same machete blade that severed it.

Mr Neave had to work with remains disturbed by animals from a shallow burial in a plastic wrapping. Cold weather preserved some tissue, and DNA material enabled a genetic match with the remains in Manchester.

Detective Superintendent Bernard Rees, in charge of the investigation, already knew the man had not gone to his death destitute. He was well manicured and wore clean underwear.

Mr Neave found another clue. Nine teeth were recovered, showing evidence of expensive dental work.

Dental records would help, but Det Supt Rees said the model head represented the best information they had.

(Photograph omitted)