DAVID Halliwell and Rob Clark must be the only people in Dorset who smile at the idea of their company van being broken into.

And the reason they smile is because they like to imagine the look on the crim’s face when he discovers the lovely ‘Dingo’ - immersed in the water tank they use to keep her flesh moist. With all her entrails exposed. And her truly horrible grimace.

“It would be a bit of a shock,” grins Rob, who is not an apprentice serial killer but an ex Royal Marine, ex paramedic trainer and now joint owner of Lifecast in Ferndown, which produces realistic mannequins for medical training purposes.

“Dave was head of education for South West Ambulance service and when he left I took over his role and in 2013 we started the business,” says Rob.

One of their major bugbears had been what they believed to be the lack of realistic mannequins available for trainees to work on. “They never did what we wanted them to; be durable enough, go outside in the rain, that kind of thing, and when we asked around we found others felt the same,” says Dave.

They had observed that trainees often treated the existing mannequins badly; “Flinging them over their shoulder, dragging them, stuff you’d never do to a real human being,” says Rob.

Occasionally they used giant teddy bears in training where empathy was needed because: “Trainees were more likely to be empathetic towards them, talk to them kindly; they provoke that reaction,” says Rob.

Their lightbulb moment came when they had a realistic ‘concept’ baby made for training and observed people picking it up, rocking and patting it, as would happen with a real child.

“We realised that something more lifelike, that people could feel emotion about was needed,” says Dave. “The logic was that if people would hold its hand, talk to it and treat a mannequin properly, that’s how they would treat a person.”

After learning of a US-based company which makes realistic mannequins – involving flesh, teeth and innards, they decided to visit. “The material they make the skin from must be kept moist and so they keep them in baths,” says Dave, whipping out an image of serried tubs although, thankfully, you can’t see the bodies. “Even for us that was a bit weird,” admits Rob, casually moving a mannequin dog’s head – because they also supply realistic bodies for vets.

The mannequins have a circulation system, can be operated on, feel warm to the touch and move as a human body would. The innards are an exact replica, too, allowing students and trainees to understand the correct position of an appendix and where a diaphragm sits.

Their female prototype is based on Alice, the veterinary nurse daughter of Rob. “We 3-D scanned her and then produced a realistic mannequin based on her,” he says. Because they scan they are able to supply realistic mannequins for any ethnicity, including many for China, and have just supplied an Asian child mannequin for use at Wolverhampton University.

They hope their mannequins will help replace the use of human bodies in more training. “Students don’t like them and I think they don’t always smell very nice,” says Dave. Their mannequins can also be used to realistically prepare paramedics for highly distressing situations, such as a suicide by hanging, and they are very proud that ‘Alice’ is now being used in training by HEMS London (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service), probably Britain’s number one trauma team.

But uses for their mannequins are endless and not just in paramedic training. “We believe our baby was used as Prince Edward in The Crown for Netflix,” says Rob, proudly. Ironically, the same baby mannequin was viewed by the Queen herself, as she watched a simulated Caesarean during a royal visit to Hull recently. Their mannequins have also appeared in a fils with John Malkovich, as well as Grey’s Anatomy and CSI.

“We started out as educators and morphed into doing what we are doing now but we do believe it is improving outcomes for patients,” says Dave.

And, despite the seriousness purpose behind their mission, it will always have its funny side. “We do a lot of work abroad and always carry the baby mannequins in our hand luggage when we fly,” says Rob. “The looks we get when it goes through the X-ray machine are always worth seeing!”

* lifecastbodysim.com