WHEN a serious crime is committed – from burglary to sexual assault – witnesses might only glance at the face of a suspect.
But that moment could be the difference between the culprit getting away Scot-free and the police securing a successful prosecution.
That is what makes e-fit creator Paul Menhinick, right, one of the most vital cogs in the Gloucestershire police machine. Using state-of-the-art technology, the 52- year-old produces computer-generated facial images of suspects based on eyewitness accounts.
Paul said: "Depending on the kind of information we have, e-fits can be critical in advancing the investigation. The efits may not always be a perfect replica of the person the police want to speak to but we are often dealing with an eyewitness account based on a split second.
"My job is to help the witness create an image which could jog the memory of someone who knows that person, or saw someone of that description near the scene."
If called upon, Paul visits crime witnesses within 72 hours – while the memory of the face is still fresh in the mind. He then sits them down in front of a computer screen and they piece together the information needed to build an accurate image.
What kind of face did the person have? Was he ruddy-cheeked? What was the colour of his hair? Did he have spectacles or any facial hair?
All these questions have to be answered as the image comes together. To illustrate how he works Paul made up efits of famous people for the Citizen to show how accurate the pictures can be.
Paul, who was on the force for 30 years, said: "It's a great job and something I find very rewarding. If the e-fits get more people to come forward with information then that can be a real asset to the inquiry."