Have you ever wondered how the police put together an image of a suspect based on a witness’ description?

Well, thanks to Thames Valley Police, the Oxford Mail is one step closer to understanding how it is done.

A spokesman for the force said: “Specialist software is used to produce ‘composite images’ or E-fit images for police forces in the United Kingdom and across the world.

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"The E-fit process creates a ‘facial composite’ image of a suspect, based on a witness’ description and an interview with a specially trained facial imaging officer.

“E-fits are carried out at a witness’ home or a police station using set questions and the software, and usually take one to two hours to complete.”

Before consideration is given to requesting a facial image, the officer working on the case must obtain a witness statement from the potential witness including the description of the suspect.

It is important that the witness is able to describe the suspect’s face in detail.

The officer on the case must also confirm the suspect is not known to either the witness, and that there is no CCTV recording of the suspect clearly showing their face.

Checks will also be made to ensure no photographs have been shown to the witness in relation to the suspect.

Oxford Mail: An example of an E-fit released by Thames Valley PoliceAn example of an E-fit released by Thames Valley Police (Image: Thames Valley Police)When a facial image officer considers that a image may be appropriate they will then record details of the witness.

In line with the Witness Charter, the officer in charge must then advice the witness that they will be contacted directly.

If it is decided that a facial image should be attempted, the facial image officer will complete a risk assessment of the witness before making arrangements to meet them.

The Oxford Mail approached Thames Valley Police for this information after an E-fit of a fedora-hatted suspect (below) went viral.

Oxford Mail: E-fit image released by policeE-fit image released by police (Image: TVP)

So comical was the computer-generated image issued by police of the wide-eyed man wearing the hat, that we collated a gallery of laughter-inducing E-fit images from our archives.

All The Lord of The Rings fans out there will enjoy this E-fit, which seems to resemble the mid stages of Smeagol's descent into Gollum.

Oxford Mail: E-fit of man who attempted robbery in BicesterE-fit of man who attempted robbery in Bicester

The next image appears to be having issues with a lop-sided beard, which could be perceived to stretch around the top of his head in one heck of a bad hair day.

Oxford Mail: E-fit released by policeE-fit released by police (Image: TVP)

This image wouldn't be out of place in an episode of Doctor Who. A sci-fi cyborg with a collar bone to die for.

Oxford Mail: Police E-fit Police E-fit (Image: Thames Valley Police)

We hope you enjoyed these E-fits as much as we did.


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This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Matthew.norman@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @OxMailMattN1