Missing boy becomes a man: Police probing disappearance of 15-year-old who vanished from his foster home in 1999 issue computer-generated image of what he might look like today
A 15-year-old boy who went missing 23 years ago has had a computer-generated image of what he might look like today released by Police.
Police investigating the disappearance of Phillip Harris hope that releasing this picture may reignite the search for him.
Mr Harris vanished after he told his foster parents he was spending the night at a friend’s house on July 28, 1999.
The computer generated images of Phillip Harris show him as he would look today, after being officially missing since 1999
Despite media appeals in Birmingham and Manchester, where he had family, there have been no confirmed sightings of Mr Harris since the morning he left his home in St Eleanors Close, West Bromwich.
Police officers spent three weeks searching a house in St Paul’s Road, Smethwick, but failed to find anything last month.
Midlands Police have now released a computer generated image of Phillip as a 38-year-old man in a desperate bid to solve the mystery.
The images were created by looking at pictures of Phillip Harris, any blood relatives pictures and any siblings he may have at the age of 38.
A foresic artist used by the National Crime agency would then use the information in these images to draw a jawline, features and and facial hair that may have grown or changed since the last photograph of the missing person.
The computer generated image (r) shows what Mr Harris would look like today, age 38
Detective Sergeant Andrew Padmore said: ‘The investigation into Phillip’s whereabouts remains very much open.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Researchers feed-in facial feature data into the system from a large database of individuals from different ages.
This teaches the computer software exactly how different features on the human face age, making it more accurate than previous system.
The data includes information about ageing in different races and genders.
The model can also take data from a missing person’s relatives to further improve its accuracy.
The technology then maps out the key features, such as the shape of the cheek, mouth and forehead, of a face at a certain age.
This information is fed to a computer algorithm which then creates new features for the face to produce photographic quality images of the face at different ages.
‘We have released these images, in the hope that someone may recognise him, or it will trigger a memory for someone to come forward with any information.
‘Any information, no matter how small it may seem, may really help our investigation, so we urge anyone to contact us.
‘Phillip’s family continue to miss him terribly and my team and I are committed to finding Phillip to solve the mystery of what has happened to him.
‘Today, International Missing Children’s Day, is a reminder of all the young children that have gone missing and our continued efforts to get answers for their families, as well as raising awareness for child safety.’
Detective Inspector Jim Church said: ‘Sadly, there has been no proof of life for Phillip in all these years and we need to explore all the information we have to see if we can find out what happened to him.
‘We have been in touch with Phillip’s family and made them aware of our investigations.
‘Even though it is almost 23 years ago, we are sure that someone holds the key to Phillip’s disappearance and we would urge anyone with information to contact us.’
Phillip’s family said in a statement: ‘We think about Phillip every day. We love him and miss him more than words can say.
‘If anyone has any information about what has happened to Phillip or where he might be, please let the police know.
‘Even though he has been missing for many years, we are still desperate to know where Phillip is so that we can have some closure.’
Information can be given via Live Chat on the West Midlands Police website, or by contacting Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Residents of the terraced houses along the street were rehomed for the duration of the search
Investigators have contacted Phillip’s family to alert them to the new search
Police have begun searching a property in the Smethwick area of Sandwell where Phillip is believed to have had a connection
To test the photo-aging system, researchers use a method called de-aging, in which they take a person’s picture and run the algorithm backwards to de-age them, in a Benjamin Button-like way. The result is then compared with an actual photograph of the individual taken at the young age
How are ‘aged’ computer generated photos made?
Computer generated images of missing persons often aim to ‘prick the conscience’ of people who know what happened to the missing person.
But how are the pictures created?
Police use specialist age-progression artists to generate the high-tech images.
They use different techniques, including drawing, but usually produce computer-generated images.
There is no specific age-progression software, but the artist uses existing computer packages to manipulate features.
They also look at photos of the missing person, their siblings and parents to see what facial features they may have in present day.
Age progression artist Ms Auriole Prince said: ‘Trying to show how this growth changes a face is like piecing together a puzzle,’ she says.
‘There’s an upside down triangle between the eyes, nose and the mouth. The relationship between these features is the most important in keeping the likeness.’
Ideally an artist will have an original portrait-style photograph of the person who is going to be age-progressed, along with other photos showing them at different angles and with varying expressions.
They also use photographs of other family members. As a rough guide, 70 to 75% of an age-progressed face can be extrapolated from pictures of the subject’s parents taken at the same age as the child, says Ms Prince. Pictures of siblings will also be helpful.
In terms of success in reproducing a likeness, Ms Prince stresses age progression is more about renewing publicity and moving on the public’s perception of a person, than creating a facsimile of what a person may look like.