Dutch police have created a “deepfake” video to appeal for information over the 2003 murder of a teenage boy.
Authorities in Rotterdam have described it as a “world first” investigation using artificially manipulated footage.
The footage depicts 13-year-old Sedar Soares, a young footballer who was shot dead in 2003 while throwing snowballs with his friends in the car park of a Rotterdam metro station.
According to police, the teenager was killed “out of nowhere” and was “in the wrong place at the wrong time”. Investigators now believe an organised criminal fraud gang had been operating near the metro station and that Sedar was “a victim of underworld violence out of sheer bad luck”.
It is hoped that using a “deepfake” video to recreate the boy’s image will finally help solve the “cold case”.
Deepfake technology uses artificial intelligence (AI) to edit the picture and audio of clips to make it appear as though someone has said or done something they have not.
The digitally edited video — released nearly 20 years after his death — shows Sedar walking across a football pitch with a ball under his arm, surrounded by relatives, friends, and former schoolteachers.
The video concludes with Sedar addressing the camera and asking “Do you know more? Then speak now”.
Dutch police are appealing for new information about the criminal gang and say they had received a dozen tips after the video was first released on Sunday evening.
Spokeswoman Lillian van Duijvenbode said the authorities are working to verify the information but added that the response is “very positive”.
“How do you reach new witnesses or the perpetrator of a deadly shooting after almost 20 years? By touching their hearts,” said Daan Annegarn of the National Criminal Investigation Team.
“Never before had the police used a ‘deepfake’ of a victim to find the perpetrator, it is a world first,” he added.
“The use of the ‘deepfake’ is not just a lucky shot, we are convinced that it can touch hearts in the criminal environment.”
The video was produced in collaboration with Sedar Soares’ family, police said in a statement.
“It takes something big to track down the culprit, this is something big,” said Sedar’s sister Janet. “I think [information] is definitely going to come in. If this doesn’t get you, I don’t know what will.”
“It’s not going to bring Sedar back, but hopefully, it will bring answers,” she added.