An absolute must-read from The Sunday Telegraph - that's right, Murdoch's Sunday paper - of August 17:
Why I fear the severed heads are fakes by Duncan Lay
"The carefully pixelated pictures of a young Australian boy holding up a severed head have rightly enraged people this past week. Politicians have been lining up to condemn the boy's father, Aussie-born Khaled Sharrouf, and to promise 'action' - tough penalties, new laws, and anything they can think of to appease the justified community outrage. But here's the thing. I have the horrible feeling the heads in the Sharrouf pictures, including the one with his son, are fake. I think Sharrouf is an evil fantasist, rather than evil in reality, similar to that fantasist jihadist who was caught in The Philippines while claiming to be on the front line of the war.
"Why, you may well ask? I confess I don't have a series of freshly-cut heads in my cellar to compare them against. But I have been able to see the unpixelated images and they just don't look right. Take away the black boxes the papers have been adding and you'll see that:
1) There are no necks on them. They're just heads. So what, you may ask? But it is impossible to cut off heads that close to the skull without damaging the chin. Those heads are pristine, which is also highly unlikely. Not a trace of a wound anywhere, just a disembodied head.
2) If they had been cut off while alive, there would be variety of agonised expressions, probably cries of fear and pain. The faces of these 'heads' all look asleep. They are also plump and filled out and the mouth is closed and the chin firm. Gravity alone suggests the jaw would drop down and the mouth gape open, while the loss of blood and fluid would make the cheeks look hollow. The hair would also be in disarray. None of this is happening. It's all perfect.
3) The skin colour. Dead bodies are pale, due to blood draining down to whatever side it is lying on. Obviously it's far worse in something that has been cut off. Those heads are far too ruddy.
4) No oozing. Heads are full of liquid. Even hours later, holding one up like that would cause drippage - and yet there is nothing.
5) They're too light. The boy's forearms are showing little strain. Turn to our fishing page and you'll see kids having more difficulty holding up a 2kg fish than he's showing holding an adult head. And he's holding it by the hair. Unless he's the world's strongest kid, it seems unlikely.
6) Too much fun. Kids can't fake facial expressions and he thinks what he's doing is hilarious. But if it was a real head, dripping, stinking and bloody, I can't see him cuddling it.
7) All the Sharrouf 'head' pics are like this one. All of the ones showing him and 'heads' feature these perfect, disembodied heads with no necks and no bloody mess. There's even one of him holding a 'head' by the ear showing the neck 'wound'. It's still red. Dried blood would have been brown-black by then.
"Look, they could be real. I have never seen a genuine severed head. But it feels wrong. My guess is he's using a store dummy head and photoshopping. He's trying to appeal to all the wannabes and disaffected youths out in the suburbs who think it's somehow cool and edgy, all those teenage boys filled with a mixture of rebellion and bravado.
"Now that doesn't take away the fact he's a twisted little scumbag who doesn't deserve to have kids and, if he ever lobs back in Australia, needs to be locked up and have the key thrown away. It doesn't change the fact he's seriously messed up his children. But my fear is, he now has everyone so whipped up into a frenzy that we'll rubber stamp whatever ASIO puts up. It's like a spy agency's dream. And while we must throw the book at the deluded freaks who think that killing people to create an Islamic state is great, we know that spy agencies never give up power once they have it. If we give them carte blanche now, based on a spoof, we could live to regret it. Let them explain how keeping metadata is going to stop the next generation of Sharroufs. Because if they can't keep track of these publicity-hungry nutjobs without it, we have a great deal to fear. Let's use our heads, not be used by a fake head."