We are sorry that you find yourself in these tragic circumstances and we offer you our condolences.
This booklet is designed to guide you through some of the practical arrangements which need to be made.
There are processes which have to be followed after a death, which are outlined in this booklet.
There is also a list of national organisations at the back of this booklet where you can find support.
Our commitment to you
Treat your loved one with dignity and respect.
Be empathetic, timely and professional, giving you information as soon as it is available.
Return your loved one’s belongings to you where possible and as soon as possible.
Explain both the investigative and inquest processes to you and support you through them. In some circumstances, a Family Liaison Officer may also provide you with support.
Find out about your loved one to establish relevant lines of inquiry and discuss any concerns you may have.
Conduct a thorough and professional investigation into what happened and establish whether anyone or any organisation may be to blame.
We are the police force responsible for policing Essex. We investigate fatalities within Essex on behalf of the Coroner.
Our guiding principles are to maintain respect for the dignity of the deceased and to respect the feelings of the family.
In England, all unexpected fatalities must be reported to the Coroner for the area where it occurred. An inquest will always be held except when a fatality is a result of natural causes. All Coroners operate to the same general principles, but the way each Coroner applies these principles may vary.
Non-suspicious - we believe there is nothing to suggest third party involvement.
Expected - where it is not suspicious, such as through illness.
Unexpected - investigated and not suspicious –where, although not expected police believe there was no third party involvement.
Unexpected – under investigation– where further investigation is required.
Suspicious – where we are investigating the possibility of there being another factor involved.
The officer dealing with your case may be able to tell you which criteria is being investigated. As the investigation progresses, it may be re-classified from one category to another.
Occasionally we need someone to make a formal identification.
This should be done by the next of kin. If you identify your loved one yourself, you may want to take someone with you. A partner or close friend may be able to do this for you if you wish, as long as the Coroner agrees. We may need to take a statement from you to say that you have made a formal identification.
Sometimes we need to take a further statement from you, though it isn’t always necessary. We will contact you if we need you to provide one. If so, you may want to ask us for copies for reference at the inquest. The statement is a history of your loved one’s life and includes some of the following:
Name, age and date of birth
Family make-up e.g. siblings or children
Childhood and schooling
Medical history and current illness or injury
When you last saw them
The person who takes this statement will be:
A police officer or trained member of police staff
A Family Liaison Officer (FLO) if one has been appointed
The Coroner’s Officer
We may need to examine personal items for DNA or fingerprints to help us with identifying your loved one. This is carried out by specially trained staff known as Scenes of Crime Officers (SOCOs).
The SOCO will want to attend the address of your loved one as soon as possible, often the next day. On occasion they may need to take an item of property away with them to examine.
Please avoid touching anything that your loved one may have recently handled until we tell you that we are happy for you to do so. As much as we would like to return an item to you, sometimes this isn’t possible due to them being damaged during the forensic processes. For the same reason, items may not be returned in the same condition as when you last saw them.
Property can normally only be returned with the permission of the Coroner and you may have to wait some time.
Your point of contact will discuss this with you.
If you want to see your loved one, we will do all we can to help. Please speak to the Coroner’s Officer or officer dealing with your case.
Following certain types of incidents, injuries can be very severe. We will talk this through with you and tell you what we know at that time. Hearing details of injuries is likely to be very distressing and if they are severe, you may need to think carefully about going to see them.
If you would like to visit the place where it happened we will do all we can to help you. This can take a few days to arrange as it may need to be planned in advance. It’s best to discuss it with the person dealing with your case.
After a fatality, the Coroner may request a medical examination in order to establish a formal cause of death. This Post Mortem examination, what else can it be called? can take the form of a visual or physical examination, a digital CT scan or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan. It is carried out by a pathologist or other suitably qualified medical consultant.
If you have any religious or cultural concerns or objections, please speak to the Coroner’s officer. We will help you to obtain the relevant contact details if needed.
It is common for samples to be taken at the post-mortem to check for things such as medication, other drugs or alcohol. It is not a reflection on your loved one, rather it is to establish if there could have been any other contributory factors.
The cause of death will appear as a brief entry on the interim and final death certificates.
You can ask for a copy of the post-mortem report. Please be aware that they are written in very graphic, clinical language and can be distressing to read.
These can include:
Family, friends, acquaintances and neighbours
Government agencies – e.g. DVLA/DWP
Your local council, GP, solicitor and funeral director may also be able to help.
The ‘Tell Us Once’ service allows you to report a death to many government organisations at once. When registering the death a registrar will explain the ‘Tell Us Once’ service. They will complete the ‘Tell Us Once’ service with you or give you a unique reference number so you can use the service yourself online or by phone. Information on this service can be found at:
There can be public interest after a fatality and sometimes local media will contact Essex Police for more information. We only release brief details of what happened, such as the time, date and where it happened. Once the next of kin have been informed, if asked, we may then release the gender and age of the person and the general area where they live.
We don’t give out the name of your loved one. However, once the inquest has been opened and adjourned their name becomes a matter of public record and the media can publish this.
Sometimes reporters will find out the address of your loved one and may visit their home to speak to you. It is your choice whether you speak to them or not.
t is worth bearing in mind that the media may use social media such as Facebook and Instagram to find out more about your loved one and can use this information in their reporting.
Coroner and Coroner’s Officer
In England and Wales, the local Coroner has to be notified of all unusual, unnatural, unexpected or suspicious deaths.
You may have contact with a Coroner’s Officer, they are employed directly by the Coroner, act on their behalf and report directly to them.
The role of a Coroner’s Officer is to help in the investigation into the circumstances of a fatality on behalf of the Coroner. If a death results in a criminal investigation, they will work alongside the police investigation team.
It may be that no further investigation is required. However, if it is an investigating officer will be appointed; they are sometimes known as the OIC. This not be the person who contacted you initially. We will tell you if there is any change.
Family Liaison Officers (FLOs) are not automatically appointed, however we may appoint one if the circumstances or the subsequent investigation make it necessary. Their role includes-
helping the investigating officer by gathering information and evidence which contributes to the investigation.
being a single point of contact for you within Essex Police.
providing support and information, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, ensuring information is given in a timely way. The inquest
In most cases, the Coroner will open an inquest within a few days of the death. It is often then adjourned to a later date which can be months or even years later.
An inquest is held to establish the following:
Where they died
When they died
The circumstances surrounding how they died
All inquests in England and Wales are held at a Coroner’s court. Inquests are not held to establish blame. They may be held in a courtroom; we can arrange for you to visit beforehand if it helps to prepare you. Occasionally, a jury will be present at the inquest.
There is no requirement for you to attend the opening of an inquest, but if you wish to attend you can. You can ask for copies of any statements that you make to the police in case you wish to refer to them at the time of the inquest.
Once the inquest has been opened and adjourned, the Coroner will issue the Coroner’s Certificate of the Fact of Death, often referred to as an interim death certificate. This allows you to make arrangements for the funeral. You will need to let the Coroner know what type of funeral you are arranging, for example burial or cremation.
You can also use this to tell organisations about the death and apply for probate.
Witnesses may be called to give evidence at the inquest. These can include:
Anyone else the Coroner thinks may help the inquest reach a conclusion
The Coroner will ask questions of witnesses. Anyone who is an interested person (such as a parent, spouse, partner or child of the person) can ask questions of a witness during the inquest. If there is a jury, they can also ask questions of witnesses.
It is also possible the Coroner may ask for your loved one’s injuries to be described during the inquest. If you do not wish to hear these details, tell the Coroner’s Officer and the inquest will normally be stopped to allow you to leave whilst this is done.
Once the inquest comes to an end, the Coroner, or jury, if one is present, will come to a conclusion. The conclusion can be one of several, including:
Open - the Coroner or jury is unable to come to a decision as to how the person died
Narrative - this is where the Coroner or jury writes a short factual statement outlining the circumstances of the death
The conclusion of the inquest will then be sent to the registry office to be registered by a registrar. The final death certificate will then be issued. If there were any notes or messages left by your loved one and they are addressed to you, you can ask to have them along with any personal effects that were kept for the inquest. The coroners officer will help you with this.
Inquests are held in public and journalists may be present. Whether or not you choose to speak to a journalist is a matter for you. If you do not wish to speak to them, tell them. The media are covered by a set of guidelines when reporting on any death or inquest. You can find further information on these guidelines by visiting the Samaritans web page, the information can be found at:
Samaritans' Media Guidelinehttps://www.samaritans.org/about-samaritans/media-guidelines/s
All bereavement is difficult to come to terms with, yet it is different for each of us. However, traumatic untimely death is a particularly shocking bereavement, where feelings of grief can be magnified.
Public Health England provide a booklet called ‘Help is at Hand.’ Although the contents focus on those bereaved by suicide, it includes practical and emotional guidance for anyone dealing with bereavement. If this is not provided to you at the same time as this booklet, you can find it at:
Essex Police will actively refer you to Essex Wellbeing service which is a local bereavement organisation. This is so that you can have immediate access to appropriate support. They provide support and can signpost you to financial aid or provide practical help like shopping in addition to bereavement support. We will tell you about this at your initial visit.
You can decline to allow us to refer you. We will only refer you if you give us permission to share your information with the Essex Wellbeing service. If you do not wish for us to refer you at our initial visit but change your mind at a later date you can self-refer yourself to the Essex Wellbeing service by following the link below.
If you are unhappy with the service that you have received please use our complaints form and we will be happy to look into this for you. Please include the following details.
Organisations have varying and changeable opening hours, for national cover 24 hours a day 7 days a week please contact the Samaritans by phoning 116 123 or visiting Samaritans.org.
The ataLoss.org is a signposting website for anyone bereaved and those supporting them.
The Hub of Hope is the UK’s leading mental health support database. It is free and provides links to local, peer, community, charity, private and NHS support and services that may be useful or of help to you or someone you care at this distressing time.
Offers advice and information on what to do when someone dies.
Child Bereavement UK support children and young people up to the age of 25 who are facing bereavement, and anyone impacted by the death of a child of any age.
The Compassionate Friends is an organisation of bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents dedicated to the support and care of other similarly bereaved family members who have suffered the death of a child or children of any age and from any cause.