Foren­sic artist aids high-pro­file case of miss­ing Chi­nese scholar

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA -

Po­lice foren­sic artist Lin Yuhui thought he had had his 15 min­utes of fame last year when he demon­strated his skills on a pop­u­lar TV show.

How­ever, Lin, 59, a po­lice of­fi­cer and foren­sic artist in Shan­dong prov­ince, gen­er­ated in­ter­est again this week when he pro­duced a sketch of the sus­pect in the dis­ap­pear­ance of vis­it­ing Chi­nese scholar Zhang Yingy­ing in the United States af­ter an un­of­fi­cial re­quest.

Lin said that as the fa­ther of a for­mer over­seas stu­dent, just like any other par­ent, he is con­cerned about the safety of chil­dren study­ing abroad.

He was called on June 17 by Liu Shi­quan, a vis­it­ing le­gal scholar in the US. Liu sent Lin the se­cu­rity video footage from where Zhang was last seen and asked him to try to sketch the sus­pect.

“I had no rea­son to refuse,” Lin said, though he had never drawn a for­eign sus­pect be­fore.

The process was dif­fi­cult be­cause the footage cap­tured by se­cu­rity cam­eras was dark, with the sus­pect’s face back­lit and partly hid­den by a car.

“The footage was ob­scure. I had to build up the im­age of the sus­pects face in my mind,” he said.

Lin started by draw­ing the sus­pect’s eyes. He does not make drafts, and said that when draw­ing, he feels as if his hand al­most moves au­to­mat­i­cally.

“I felt that he was quite stout with a short beard and square face,” he said.

Af­ter sev­eral days, de­spite the poor qual­ity of the footage, Lin had cre­ated two im­ages of the sus­pect, which were sent to po­lice author­i­ties in the US via Liu.

The por­traits drawn by Lin looked sim­i­lar to the im­age of the sus­pect ar­rested by US po­lice on June 30, ac­cord­ing to US lawyer Wang Zhi­dong, who has been giv­ing pro bono le­gal sup­port to the Zhang fam­ily.

Af­ter a photo of the sus­pect, Brendt Chris­tensen, and Lin’s work ap­peared on­line, many ne­ti­zens com­mented on the sim­i­lar­i­ties, but Lin said that US po­lice had de­tained the sus­pect be­fore his pic­tures ar­rived.

“The ar­rest was made based mainly on the phone records of the sus­pect,” he said. “My pic­ture may help them con­firm his iden­tity.”

Foren­sic por­traits are use­ful in track­ing down crim­i­nals, but it is only one of many crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion tech­niques, ac­cord­ing to Lin, who plans to re­tire next year af­ter work­ing as a foren­sic artist for 14 years.

“My grandpa taught me how to draw and I have en­joyed draw­ing since my child­hood,” he said.

When he was young, he was an ed­i­tor of a lo­cal po­lice mag­a­zine. He started to work at the provin­cial crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion bureau in 2004, which is when he learned about the work of foren­sic artists.

At that time, the bureau did not have a sketch artist, so Lin vol­un­teered to take on the role and was ap­proved. Lack­ing any pro­fes­sional train­ing, he re­sorted to sketch­ing peo­ple on the streets.

“A foren­sic por­trait is quite dif­fer­ent from a por­trait by an artist,” Lin said. “An artist can copy the im­age of a per­son or ex­ag­ger­ate it, while a foren­sic artist has to sketch the main fa­cial fea­tures of a sus­pect us­ing what­ever in­for­ma­tion is avail­able.”

As one of the best in China, Lin has been ad­mit­ted to the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, the world’s old­est and largest foren­sic as­so­ci­a­tion. He said he hopes to con­trib­ute to in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion in crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions in the fu­ture.

Sus­pect Brendt Chris­tensen (cen­ter) and two por­traits by Lin Yuhui

Lin Yuhui, po­lice foren­sic artist

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