Belfast Telegraph

Facial-mapping could snare killer

By Staff Reporter

Intelligence agencies trying to identify the masked militant seen with James Foley in his last minutes may use a technique used to secure convictions of balaclava-wearing terrorists in Northern Ireland.

The facial-mapping technology which can identify suspects even if their faces are covered up is increasingly being used in the fight against terrorism.

Experts compare images of masked suspects with photographs of their faces uncovered.

They then map features from the disguised faces of those being investigated, comparing them to the dimensions and characteristics of those concealed. Two men have been successfully convicted after the PSNI used cutting-edge technology to identify them.

One – Tiernan Porter – was jailed last year for a paramilitary-style shooting in west Belfast. He was identified after police used facial mapping and social media to track him down.

Police recovered a firearm and were able to link it to the shooting. A mobile phone was then found to contain pictures of a masked man holding the gun. The serial number of the weapon was distinguishable from the pictures so facial mapping was then used to identify Porter.

Professor Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King's College London, said he thought the security services may already know the man's identity.

"The video provides enough clues to show who is responsible. The intelligence agencies probably have it narrowed down to two or three people," he said.

Experts are believed to have placed his accent as being from London or south-east England.

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