Pictures of unidentified dead bodies found around the UK are to be posted online for the first time.
The Missing Persons Bureau is posting the images on its new website in a bid to help friends and family members search for their missing loved ones.
The bureau holds details of around 1,000 unidentified people, some dating back to the 1950s.
Images deemed to be distressing will be marked with a clear warning and require specific confirmation before viewing, as all members of the public will be able to search the photographs and case files.
As well as the photographs, information under each entry may include an estimate of the age of the person discovered and details of what they were wearing.
Many of the unidentified bodies were found after spending long periods of time in water, leaving their faces unrecognisable.
Others were among the 250 people who die on the UK’s railways every year – many of whom are never identified – and also cannot be recognised from facial photographs.
Many cases therefore hinge on identifying marks such as scars or tattoos.
One body, that of a man found collapsed in an Islington street in 2007, shows two clearly identifiable tattoos – a panther and a Native American chief.
Joe Apps of the Missing Persons Bureau said: “The aim of the new site is to bring closure to the families and friends of the people featured.”
He added: “With new unidentified person cases we rely on modern forensic techniques for identification but on older cases we look to use every tool available and believe that case publicity is the best chance of getting images recognised.”
He went on to say: “This will be the first time families of missing people have been able to search through records for themselves and it will empower families to play an active part in the search for their loved ones.”
Legally, local councils must cremate or bury unidentified bodies quickly to avoid the risk of disease.
Cremation destroys all DNA, while exhumation requires a lengthy permission process, meaning photographs are often the most efficient way to identify bodies.
The website will also be used to trace living people, such as those suffering from dementia or memory loss, but the Missing Persons Bureau says living people make up only six per cent of its unsolved cases.
83 per cent involve dead bodies, while the remaining 11 per cent are unidentified body parts still sitting in police morgues.
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