Birmingham UFO Group Case Report
Author: Dave Hodrien
Last Updated: 16/06/2020
On the afternoon of 18th May 2014, Lee Jessup was in the garden of his house on Mill Lane, Govilon, Abergavenny playing with his pet dog. It was a bright, sunny and still day with hardly any cloud.
Aerial map of Mill Lane:
At 2.41pm Lee threw the ball for his dog to fetch and was looking to the North North East when he noticed a strange object in the sky. He estimated it to be about 2000 yards away from his location and at an altitude of about 2000 feet. The object appeared to be a dark grey metallic disc. It was hovering completely motionless and seemed to be silent. Lee estimates it was about 50-75 feet in diameter. There were no markings visible on the object.
Intrigued, Lee stared at the object trying to figure out what it could be. A minute later his wife Alicia got home from work. When she came out into the garden Lee pointed the object out to her but she didn’t have her glasses with her so could not see it. At this point Lee decided to head indoors a moment to get his compact camera. When he returned outside 30 seconds later the object was still present. He tried to take a zoomed photograph but the camera wouldn’t focus on it, so instead he took a wide shot. He then momentarily took his eyes off the UFO to manually zoom in on it on the camera screen and show Alicia.
When he looked back to the sky the object had vanished. It was a clear day so there was no clouds or other objects it could have moved behind, it was just gone. He and his wife continued to watch for it, but the object did not reappear.
Soon afterwards Lee got in touch with BBC Wales and sent them the photograph, but did not hear back from them. He told a number of people about the sighting. They either did not believe him, or thought it was probably something conventional, but had not seen the photograph so were basing these theories on description alone.
Below is the original photograph which Lee took from his garden. The UFO can be seen above the right edge of the building:
Obviously the object is quite small in terms of the whole photograph due to its distance. But luckily the photograph is of good quality so it is possible to zoom in and pick up detail. Here are zoomed, edge find and colour saturated views of the object:
As you can see, at first glance the object appears to be as Lee described - a flattened dark grey disc. The darker area around the middle of the object gives it the appearance of two plates placed face-to-face. This split into two distinct halves can be seen even clearly when the photograph is sharpened:
Another fascinating aspect is the pale aura or haze seen around the edges of the object, which can be most clearly seen on this zoomed high pass view of the image:
Confirmation of Authenticity
No matter how convincing the witness’s testimonial evidence and how compelling the photograph is, it is still important to confirm beyond reasonable doubt that the image is genuine and has not been manipulated in any way. The best way to do this is to obtain a copy of the RAW photograph file. Many modern digital cameras automatically store RAW images alongside the standard JPEG format. These are usually very large in size and in most cases would not be copied across from the camera by the standard software. RAW images cannot be modified using editing packages, so are a great way of immediately confirming if a photograph is genuine or not. Unfortunately as this photograph was taken over two years before the witness got in touch only the JPEG image exists.
The best way to determine whether or not a JPEG has been modified in any way is to analyse the metadata behind it. Most images shot on digital cameras or smartphones come with a wealth of hidden information which can be very revealing indeed if you know what to look for. I have performed extensive analysis of many images and consider myself to have a very reasonable knowledge of this.
Although some metadata tags can be seen simply by going to the Properties on the file in Windows this is quite minimal. In order to get a much more complete picture of the metadata it is necessary to utilise a tool or website specifically designed to extract it.
The following images show three metadata extractions laid out alongside one another. The first extraction on the left is of a control photograph shot on another Fujifilm camera. It is not exactly the same model as the one the witness used, but it is close enough in terms of the metadata which is generated. The second extraction is of the same control image after it has been modified in Paintshop Pro by adding a small black blob towards the top left. Most photo editing tools will affect the metadata in similar ways. The third extraction on the right is of the UFO photograph. On each image I have noted the significant tags/values in yellow, and under each image are details explaining the significance of these findings.
Basic Image Information
- Size of the image is usually greatly reduced on modification as the compression quality of the editing tool is better than that of the standard camera software. While it is impossible to say what size the UFO photograph should be, it is large enough to not be suspicious in any way.
- When the image is first photographed it will not have an embedded color profile. Once it is set the color profile is set, usually sRGB. The UFO photograph has no embedded color profile.
- Original Fujifilm camera images have a preview image tag. In the tool I utilise this leads to a preview image appearing directly under the Basic Image Information. This tag vanishes on modification, and so the preview image no longer appears. The UFO photograph displays a preview image.
- XMP tags are related to the editing software. They do not show up on original Fujifilm images, and only appear after the image has been modified. The UFO photograph has none of these tags.
- Y Cb Cr Sub Sampling tag only appears on modified Fujifilm images, it is missing on originals. The UFO photograph does not have this tag.
- On original Fujifilm images Software shows the name of the standard camera software. When the image is modified this changes to the name of the editing tool. The UFO photograph has the standard camera software listed.
- Original Fujifilm images have the tag Exif Image Size. This changes to Image Size once the image is modified. The UFO photograph has Exif Image Size tag and does not have Image Size tag.
- On original Fujifilm images the Maker Note Fuji Film tag exists. When the image is modified this tag vanishes. The UFO photograph has this tag.
- Many of the EXIF tags move position when images are modified. Comparing the UFO photograph with the two control images it can be seen that the order matches the original.
- Interoperability Index and Version appear on original Fujifilm images. On modified images these tags are missing. They are present on the UFO photograph.
- Print Image Matching is related to original Fujifilm images and vanishes when modifications are made. It is present on the UFO photograph.
- Thumbnail Image reduces in size on modification in the same way that file size does.
- MakerNotes tags are linked with the Fujifilm camera software. When the image is modified they vanish. Although they do not identically match between the control image and UFO photograph (due to camera model differences), they are present on both.
MakerNotes (2/2), PrintIM and FlashPix
- PrintIM tags are linked with the Fujifilm camera software, and vanish when the image is modified. They are present on the UFO photograph.
- The Fujifilm camera software creates a number of FlashPix tags. When the image is modified these tags disappear. They are present on the UFO photograph.
File and Composite
- File Size in the File tags is a replication of details shown in Basic Image Information, and is likely to reduce when the image is modified.
- Flash tag in Composite tags only appears after the image is modified, it does not exist in original Fujifilm images. This tag is missing from the UFO photograph.
- Preview Image Size exists in original Fujifilm images but vanishes once modified. It is present in the UFO photograph.
- Some of the File and Composite tags move position when images are modified. Comparing the UFO photograph with the two control images it can be seen that the order matches the original.
ICC Profile (1/2)
- ICC Profile tags are related to the editing software and so will only appear if the Fujifilm image is modified. The UFO photograph does not have these tags.
ICC Profile (2/2)
- Further ICC Profile tags which only appear in modified images and do not exist in the UFO photograph.
Many people would assume that the above information is enough evidence to conclusively prove that the UFO photograph has not been manipulated. Given the extent of the changes which occur this would be a reasonable assumption to make, however there is one issue with this. It is possible to manipulate metadata on images utilising either a custom-built tool, of which there are a number available online, or by using programming code. Obviously most witnesses will not even be aware of metadata. Even if they are aware of it, they may not be aware it can be modified.
If an individual has deliberately modified a photograph and they are aware that metadata changes and are knowledgeable enough to do so, the most probable thing they would do is completely remove the metadata from the image. If the metadata is not removed then they would need to change it back to how it looked prior to modification. The most likely way they would do this would be to utilise a pre-existing tool, as this would be a laborious process to do using programming code.
The most well-known, thorough and easily available tool which would be used for this process is Exif Tool. This has functionality to completely replace the metadata of a file with the metadata of another file. There is a chance that the photographer is aware of this tool and its functionality, and attempts to utilise it to make their modified image look like an original.
However there is an issue with this. There are certain tags which Exif Tool is unable to write back across to files. Sometimes this is because they are unusual tags related to the original camera software. Others can cause corruptions in the image if they are copied across and so do not copy across.
A number of these exceptions apply to the analysis work done on the UFO photograph above:
- FlashPix tags vanish when the Fujifilm image is modified, and cannot be written back across. These tags exist in the UFO photograph.
- Preview Image in Composite tags is directly related to the FlashPix tags as Composite tags are an amalgamation of information taken from other tags for convenience purposes. This tag exists in the UFO photograph, which also results in a preview image appearing directly under Basic File Information.
- Although it is possible to write missing PrintIM tags back into the image file, when this is done they move position and appear below MakerNotes instead of above. In the UFO photograph they are positioned above this section.
There is a slim chance that it may be possible to get round the above Exif Tool tag writing issues using raw programming code. However nobody has been able to conclusively confirm this to me at present, and it is stands to reason that if the highly renowned Exif Tool application has issues with this, then doing it with raw code would lead to similar issues.
Due to all of the above I believe that the metadata behind the Abergavenny UFO photograph confirms beyond reasonable doubt that it has not been manipulated in an editing tool.
Now that we have confirmed the object has not been added through manipulation we next need to look at what it could be. It is unfortunate that there is only one photograph of the object available, however the key witness explained why this was the case, and the explanation given is in no way suspicious. In most UFO sighting cases there are no photographs to examine at all.
Temporarily putting the testimonial evidence to one side, let’s examine the picture itself. Because of the appearance of the object most mundane explanations can be discounted. It is clear that it is not a normal aircraft or helicopter of any kind. Nor does it look like a bird caught in flight.
It would be possible for it to be some kind of large inflatable object, for example a novelty solar airship. It was a hot sunny day, which would be perfect weather to launch such a thing.
Could it be a small object, such as vegetation like a seed or leaf, or an insect crossing close to the camera lens at the moment the photograph was taken? While this is possibility there is not much evidence pointing towards this explanation. The saturated view of the object brings out a turquoise colour suggesting a blue tinge to the object. This could easily be down to the reflection of the blue sky in its surface.
None of the above explanations can confirm what is responsible for the pale outline around the object. While there is a very small chance that there just happens to be a small patch of cloud directly behind it this seems improbable, as the sky is mostly clear of cloud and the pale colouration clearly follows the edges of the object.
Now let’s look at the testimonial evidence. Via an initial sighting report form and then follow on E-Mail and phone conversations the key witness confirmed that the object was present in the sky for a minute and also that it vanished extremely fast when he and his partner looked away from it momentarily.
Firstly there were no indications that the witness was being untruthful about what was reported. He made no mention of gaining any money from the image either through myself or a newspaper. Nor was there any insistence on his name being shared with anyone. I was given no reason to doubt the story I was being told.
There are also particular aspects in the testimony which suggest it was legitimate. The witness informed me that to his naked eye he could not make out the central rim on the object, this was only visible on the photograph. If the story was fabricated there would be no reason to state this. Logically he would simply have stated that he saw exactly what the image appears to show.
Although his wife was involved in the incident, she did not physically see the object herself at any point. However I was still able to speak with her about it and gain additional confirmation on the claims of the key witness. If the story was not fabricated then why involve this second individual at all if they did not actually see it?
Assessing all of the evidence at the current point in time I feel that the most likely explanation was that this object really was an advanced craft of some kind which hovered at a distance for a period of time before suddenly leaving the area.
If this is the case, could it have been a secret military craft of some kind? As with most UFO sightings this is a slim possibility, however it seems illogical that the military would fly such a craft in a clear sky in full sight of civilians. It would also have had to perform an extremely fast flight manoeuvre to have vanished from sight in such a short space of time.
Could the pale colouration around the edges of the object be some kind of air distortion or energy field? We know that the photograph has not been manipulated in editing software so this cannot be attributed to a blended image. Photographs of objects, either distant or up close, do not have this anomaly, so this may well be a possibility.
It is interesting that it vanished precisely when Lee looked down at his camera to zoom in on the photograph he took. Was this just coincidence, or did the UFO have occupants who were aware that he was not looking at this moment and so decided to depart? We will never know for sure but this is an additional point worth considering.
Despite the distance of the object I feel that this is one of the most compelling UFO photographs yet received by the group. If any further analysis work is done which suggests otherwise it will be added to this report.
Copyright Dave Hodrien 2020