Dragica Brayovic always knew she had an exceptional memory – she never forgets a face. But she never dreamed she would be the top super recogniser in Australia.
“It was my dad that noticed it when I was younger, maybe about 10 years old or a bit younger, he had always commented on me recognising people when we were out and about,” Dragica told investigative reporter Steve Pennells.
Super recognisers make up less than one per cent of the population, and possess the remarkable ability to remember faces – even those of complete strangers they pass on the street.
It’s a skill being used in the UK to fight crime, with Scotland Yard creating it’s own elite super recogniser squad.
The specialised group identifies criminals when even the most sophisticated technology fails.
Former chief inspector Mick Neville is the man behind the task force, and has helped the team rack up thousands of arrests.
"This is not a skill you can be taught, you’re either born with it or you’re not,” Mick said.
In the London riots of 2011, CCTV cameras captured an image of a criminal wearing a hoodie and a bandana across his face.
All that was visible were his eyes – but that’s all the information the super recogniser squad needed.
“From that split second he was identified, arrested, he admitted it and was sent to six years in jail,” Mick said.
Following the success of the team in the UK, Professor David White at the University of New South Wales devised a special test to find Australia’s top super recognisers.
“I create tests where they are so challenging that even these very best people don’t score 100 per cent,” Professor White said.
Four candidates participated in the test, but it was Dragica’s results of 87 per cent accuracy that stunned the research team.
“I’ve studied this for 10 years now and I don’t think I ever expected to see scores as high as Dragica scored on the test,” Professor White said.
Dragica, a naturopathy student who works in a health food store, now has an opportunity to make a drastic career change to the world of law enforcement.
“I’ve definitely thought about it,” she said.
“I think it is nice to be able to help people. And if it’s something that I have that many other people don’t have, I think it would be very cool to work in the field.”
If you’d like to test your skills as a Super Recogniser, take the test created by Dr David White, University of New South Wales.
Click here to take the test.
And our four Australian Super Recognisers have formed a group to explore opportunities with their facial recognition skills. You can find their Facebook page here.