A SENIOR forensics and crime scene lecturer at Teesside University is launching a new digital business which will help the police to identify human remains.

Dr Tim Thompson, 34, has become accustomed to the grisly task of analysing skeletons and bone fragments to see whether they are linked to a recent crime, or are part of an archaeological find.

His expertise has taken him to Thailand, where he helped to identify victims of the tsunami in 2004, and he also assisted with war crimes investigations in Kosovo in the aftermath of the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s. Alongside high profile cases, Dr Thompson is regularly called upon by the region's police forces when unidentified bones have been unearthed.

"To most people, what I do probably seems like a rather strange job, but it is very rewarding," said Dr Thomspon. "Being asked to help identify bodies in mass graves in Kosovo is incredibly important work and outweighs the inherently unpleasant nature of what you are doing."

Noticing that his profession had failed to keep pace with the latest technology, Dr Thompson decided to set up his new business venture. Thanks to a grant from the Teesside University's Enterprise Development Fund and a fellowship from Middlesbrough-based Digital City, he has started, Anthronomics.

"In a lot of forensic anthropological work, we're still using pen and paper and stills photography," he explained. "My idea is to digitalise as much of the process as possible, developing appropriate protocols for scanning the bones into 3D models.

"Bones are actually very difficult to scan. You're dealing with holes and pores, lumps and ridges and a combination of organic and inorganic materials. It's not as easy as you might think.

"But my new company plans to work with experts at the University, including our own Teesside Manufacturing Centre, to create the scans.

"Using our new software, we hope to give much quicker information to people who aren't trained forensic anthropologists, about the sex, age and height of the body. This will be a great help in determining what the police might be dealing with, a recent murder victim or someone who died centuries ago.

"It will also aid teaching of biology, anthropology and forensic science."

Dr Thomspon has worked at the University for four years. He intends to run his spin-out company alongside his day job as senior lecturer in crime scene science and digital forensics.

Anthronomics is based in one of the University's business incubation units and will have its first scans available by the end of the summer.

He added: "If this proves to be successful I hope to be taking on staff and growing the business in the near future."