A forensic examination determined the bones were those of a man, but all other tests were inconclusive.
The matter was referred to the State Crime Command’s Homicide Squad, which established Strike Force Gleam to investigate the remains and the circumstances surrounding the man’s death.
A forensic anthropologist was able to determine the man was about 175 centimetres tall and aged between 25 and 40 when he died.
With help from NSW Health Pathology, the bones underwent DNA phenotype testing to identify the man’s possible ancestry, as well as his hair and eye colour.
The results suggest the man was of Asian descent, with brown eyes and black hair.
A bone sample was sent to the University of Waikato, in New Zealand, to undergo bomb pulse carbon dating tests. This process can determine the age of bones by comparing the radiocarbon properties in the bones to the radiocarbon levels in the atmosphere at a particular time in history.
The tests revealed the man died some time between 1985 and 2005.
NSW Police have identified 565 men who are long-term missing persons, each of whom has been cross-checked against the man’s description.
Those cases were narrowed down to about 22 possible matches, with detectives now tasked with locating families to obtain DNA samples for comparison.
Homicide Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty said advancements in technology are crucial, but information from the community could be the key to unlocking this mystery.
“It has been a hugely collaborative effort with our partnering agencies to get us to this point, where we know the likely age, ethnicity and select details of this man’s physical description,” he said.
“We realise that we are casting a broad net in relation to identifying this man, but we would strongly encourage anyone who has a loved one that is missing that fits this description to contact police.”
NSW Health pathology executive director Michael Symonds said his team uses the DNA on skeletal remains to create an image of what the person would have looked like.
“This type of testing is helping investigators provide families of missing persons with answers that may not have been possible without these advanced forensic capabilities,” he said.
Investigations are continuing and anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333.
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Laura is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.