DURBAN: A Port Shepstone policeman, whose artistic talents have brought new meaning to going beyond the call of duty, has been honoured for his hard work and dedication by the South African Police Service (SAPS).
Place a pencil in the hands of Sergeant Shaun Felix Marimuthu and the magic he creates plays a significant part in nabbing criminals.
Marimuthu is a facial identification artist and has worked on major cases in KwaZulu-Natal.
A recent case so touched the hearts of friends, relatives and colleagues that he was honoured for his artistic contribution at the SAPS Service Excellence Awards held at the Coastlands Hotel in uMhlanga on Friday.
The case was one of the first recorded in which a facial identity had to be drawn up from no available references.
It involved the abduction of a 3-year-old boy from Louisi- ana, near Port Shepstone, who was later discovered to have been killed for muti purposes.
“The family of the boy had absolutely nothing to identify him,” said Marimuthu. “Not even a picture that we could use as a reference.
“This became a challenge and meant I had to sit with the father and pull off random pictures of different parts of the face from the internet to try to match the boy’s features.
“When the first draft was done, I took it to the commu- nity to ask the neighbours to assist so we could tweak it further.”
When it was done, he took the sketch to the boy’s family who broke down in tears because they could not believe they were looking at a “picture” of their missing child.
“However before the picture I put together was officially sent out, we learnt that the little boy had been killed,” said Marimuthu.
“This shattered me and the family. I became emotionally attached to the little boy even though I had never met him. Trying to create an image of him made me feel I knew him personally.”
Marimuthu framed the picture of the boy and gave it to the family. “I felt I had to do this for the family because I had used my talents to create something they would be grateful for. It was the only image of their son that they would ever own.”
Marimuthu joined the SAPS 26 years ago and worked as a reservist for 10 years before becoming a facial identification artist. He has no art qualifications, but says he has been blessed with a God-given talent.
He has been roped into many other major cases in KwaZulu-Natal, including drawing the identikits of the Umzinto serial killer, Thoza- mile Taki, and the Tongaat sugar cane serial rapist who were arrested not long after their identikits were released.
He recalled the high-profile case of a criminal wanted from 1989 to 2011 but who could not be caught because nobody could identify him.
“The only image we had of him was an identity document photograph of when he was 16 years old.
“I used a scientific method of projection and art to reconstruct his face using the picture of when he was 16.
“He was 40 years or older when police were looking for him. I managed to match his facial identification and the suspect was arrested shortly after.
“He had been on the run for 22 years,” said Marimuthu.