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Met's e-fit designer set to retire after 15 years in the job

An officer whose artistic talents have helped solve some of the Met’s most serious crimes is set to retire at the end of March after 15 years with the force.

PC Tony Barnes transferred to the Met from Essex Police in 2006 and has been the force’s only e-fit operator since 2013.

He said he has pride in all the images he has created, even if some of the old ones look unrealistic by today’s standards.

“I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t laughed at some of the e-fits I have seen over the years,” said PC Barnes. “I bet you have as well."

Warwickshire Police were widely mocked in 2018 for producing the below e-fit which went viral:

"The truth is that every e-fit that you see in the press or on TV is not the vision of the police officer or police staff member," said PC Barnes. "It is what the witness has described to those officers. Sure the artistic skills of some of the composite artists may be lacking at times, but that image only appears for public consumption if the witness says there is a likeness to the suspect.”

Over the years he’s carried out interviews in every London borough and interviewed at least two thousand people from all walks of life.

PC Barnes told the Times that regardless of class, level of education and the type of crime involved. “In my experience ladies are better e-fit witnesses than men. They seem to pay more attention to faces,” he said.

“When men walk along the high street there’s this machismo thing where they think nothing can harm them. Women are more likely to be thinking about protecting themselves and pay more attention to what’s going on around them. That’s the way I see it. Certainly as e-fit witnesses they’re always much better at describing people.”

Of course not all e-fit images lead to an arrest but many have, including the conviction of Derry McCann who committed a rape in Victoria Park on the same day that he later got married. He was sentenced to life in prison.

PC Barnes said: "People sometimes ask whether e-fits are still needed today, given the extent of CCTV and other technology. And while it’s of course true that these things have diminished the need for e-fits in some ways, there are always criminals who lurk in the shadows and manage to evade any cameras. That’s where we come in and why I think there will always be a place for what we do.”

Four new officers have been given the national training accreditation in e-fit, “and are currently being taught about all things in the composite image world by a very strict teacher (me)”, said PC Barnes.

"As for me? I’m off to the countryside in a floppy hat and smock to paint until the sun goes down."

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