3D-printed skull helps jury reach murder verdict

An eight-week trial that led to the conviction of five men for murder used a 3D-printed skull of the victim as evidence in court.

Portsmouth University

This 3D-printed skull supported the pathologist’s testimony and allowed the jury to visualise trauma to the victim, 31-year-old Frazer Brabant. 

The skull was 3D printed by a team at Portsmouth University, who worked in partnership with Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Constabulary’s Imaging Unit. The Imaging Unit created a digital model using data from a CT scan to show injuries sustained by the victim.

Dr Morgan Lowther, senior scientific officer from University’s School of Mechanical and Design Engineering, then worked on 3D printing the skull.

He said in a statement: “This was an unusual case because the victim had survived some very traumatic injuries and spent three months in hospital, before he sadly passed away. This meant that there were hospital quality X-ray scans of his injuries, which we could use to reconstruct the anatomy. 

“Using the digital model provided by the hospital scans, we could 3D print a physical copy. The exhibit was made from… PLA [polylactic acid], and by adding an internal scaffold, we made the anatomy stable enough to be handled and presented in court.”

Brabant was found lying in the front garden with serious head injuries on Gershwin Road, Basingstoke, on 31 October 2019. He was taken to hospital where he remained in a coma until 21 January 2020 when he died.

A post-mortem examination found he had been struck multiple times to the head and face by a heavy, sharp-edged object described as a machete or sword-type weapon. At least one of the blows caused catastrophic brain damage. 

Four men were found guilty of murder and received life sentences at Winchester Crown Court on 14 July, 2023. A fifth man was convicted of conspiracy to cause GBH with intent and sentenced to six years.


Dr Lowther said: “I attended the trial and saw the pathologist use the model to help guide the jury through the injuries sustained by the victim. He was able to demonstrate the order in which the blows were likely to have occurred, whether they’d come at the same angle, and whether they would have come from the same assailant or the same weapon.

“The jurors were allowed to handle the model and take it into the deliberation room. I think it was a valuable piece of evidence to help them understand the severity of the attack.”

The university said it has a long partnership with Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Constabulary, but this is the first time experts have successfully printed 3D evidence that has made it to trial. 

Investigating officer, detective sergeant Dan Hun, said: “This case was very complex and built over many years. It demonstrates how working in partnership can have a huge positive impact on justice and the lives of those we serve.

“This printing was pivotal to our case having been accepted into the court, and subsequently the jury’s deliberation room. This assisted us greatly in achieving justice for Frazer Brabant, his family and helped put offenders behind bars.”