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The basic purpose of an inquest in a police enquiry…

The basic purpose of an inquest in a police enquiry…
An inquest is held in a Coroners Court, the chair being the Coroner.
Coroner’s usually are Lawyers or Doctors with more than five years experience.
Liaison between the Coroner and the Police is usually via an appointed Coroners Officer  more often than not this is an ex or retired police officer.
An inquest is carried by a Coroner if the cause of death is:-
  • Violent
  • Unknown
  • Unnatural
  • In Police Custody
It is the Coroners duty to establish who the deceased was and how, when and where they died.
During murder investigations an inquest is very often opened and immediately closed until the outcome of a trial.
At the Court I (as the senior investigative officer SIO), would inform the Coroner verbally by taking the stand and informing him/her how, when and where the body(s) were discovered. That a post-mortem had been carried out and a cause of death established. I would also inform the Court whether or not someone was in custody or being sought in connection with the incident, or simply that a major investigation was underway under my direction.
When investigating suspicious deaths, which are subsequently solved due to the findings,  a post-mortem or subsequent toxicology report, the family of the bereaved need to be informed of all aspects. As a senior investigating officer I would sit with them and inform them of what had taken place to the best of my knowledge and and if no longer suspicious the Coroners Officer would take over.
At an inquest journalist have the right to attend along with members of the public. Journalist usually cover these with a brief report.
During an inquest, witnesses are chosen by the Coroner to give evidence – hence my involvement as the SIO in the case.
I would be called to the Court to give evidence and answer questions to clarify any issues raised, as would other witnesses.
What I became quickly aware of, that I did not know before, was that anyone having a ‘proper interest’ can also ask questions of the witnesses. i.e. A Parent, Child, Spouse, Partner or personal representatives of the deceased, which includes Solicitors.
The latter being particularly important where a compensation claim maybe apparent, such as in a case of a road traffic accident or injuries sustained at work.
It should be noted that they are restricted to questions only about the medical cause and the circumstances of the death.
Formal registration of  a death must be postponed if a Coroner has decided to investigate this may of course be a considerable time, as in the case of murder.
On conclusion of the Inquest the Coroner will send all relevant details to the ‘Registrar of Births and Deaths’, for the death to be registered.
An interim certificate of the death can be issued by the Coroner until such time as the Inquest has been concluded.
The certificate is acceptable in most cases for Banks and other Financial Institutions unless it is important for them to know the outcome of the Inquest, such as in cases of insurance settlement.
This certificate can also be used for benefit claims and National Insurance purposes.
Our fictional DI Dylan novels are written with the experience of a total of forty-seven years
in West Yorkshire Police Force. Our thoughts, feelings and sights are those of DI Dylan and Jen. To read more about us and our work please visit www.rcbridgestock.com

The basic purpose of a post-mortem examination in a police enquiry…

Bob Bridgestock attends a murder scene in his role as

Detective Superintendent Bridgestock in West Yorkshire Police

A mortuary was never a place on my ‘wish list’ to visit, but as a police investigator it was a very necessary part of my role. Some senior investigators choose to delegate this task – not me. It is my view it is essential that an SIO sees this procedure for first-hand knowledge of what he/she is dealing with, in terms of the evidence it will reveal.

We have all no doubt heard the word post-mortem or autopsy, as the procedure is sometimes known as in the various media. But what is it?

The Coroner is bound by law to carry out a post-mortem when a death is deemed to be suspicious, sudden or unnatural.The Coroner will also decide if an inquest is necessary. (See blog – ‘The purpose of an inquest’). 

 

Forensic Pathologists are the experts who perform the procedure to ascertain the cause of a death. Causation is a term readily used.They will have strong medical backgrounds. Studying the dead obviously isn’t for everyone – even doctors!

The post-mortem is of paramount importance to the investigator during homicide investigations and a catalyst in bringing the perpetrator(s) before the Court.

 

As a young police officer attending a post-mortem for the first time I was somewhat overwhelmed to see what took place – and the smell is something I will never forget as long as I live. However, during my thirty years experience as a police officer it was a place I would be required to visit on numerous occasions, even more so in my latter years as a Senior Investigating Officer taking charge of numerous murder investigations and suspicious deaths.

As a Detective Superintendent I have stood alongside many eminent pathologists as they have diligently carried out these procedures, which can take hours. On enquires into multiple deaths this can take days. Body tapings, samples of hair – cut and pulled, blood, urine samples, nail scrapings, swabs are all taken as a matter of course, but each case is dealt with in isolation as the location of the body for instance may dictate other samples required. i.e. soil, pollen, water etc.

Detective Supintendent Bridgestock at a press conference

Equipped with the knowledge of how, when, where and what caused a persons death is power to the ‘investigators elbow’. Understanding what type and size of weapon caused an injury, coupled with the angle of the attack is of paramount importance for the subsequent interviewing of a suspect. Knowing whether an injury was caused prior to, during or after the death of the victim is another valuable piece of information.

On occasions forensic pathologists are called to the ‘murder scene’ to examine the body in situ, before it is transferred to the mortuary. This is to assist in interpreting what is likely to have taken place. They may also be able to clarify if the location is also likely to be the ‘murder site’ or a ‘dump site – in their view.

When the pathologist does not attend the scene then the first time he or she sees the body is at the mortuary. In this case the senior investigating officer will narrate the identity, if known, of the victim and when, where, how it was found and in what circumstances.

Even when a murderer(s) are believed to have been meticulous in their planning, evidence you can be sure will be still be found.

Investigations are a transparent search for the truth, a post-mortem assists in proving someones innocence as well as guilt.

When a person is charged a second post-mortem is carried out by the deference to ensure the facts are as previously discovered.

 

All night without sleep and Detective Superintendent Bridgestock is infront of the world media.

Our DI Dylan fictional crime novels are written with the thoughts, feelings and sights in mind that Bob & I was privy to in our police careers.

Read more about us and our work @ www.rcbridgestock.com