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fgiani1

Good afternoon to everyone,

I posted this a while ago in a different category but only got superficial replies.

I thought I might have better luck at getting an in-depth answer  by posting in this section so here we go.

- - - 

I've been in correspondence about the following matter with both the NCA and local police departments in the London Metropolitan area. Since neither have been able to help me thus far, I thought I'd consult the community more directly.

I am a London-educated filmmaker currently working on what will be my next narrative endeavour. The piece is going to be set in the UK and centred around a suicide victim found dead in a Hotel room under no suspicious circumstances.
 
I am currently looking for an expert (perhaps a retired officer) who would be able and willing to provide me with insights on how police would operate in such scenario.
- What exactly would happen right after the presence of a body has been reported?
- How many officers would be dispatched for a single body?
- How long would the investigation protract? And how long would the scene have to remain uncontaminated for following the removal of the body?
- Would the officers be plain-clothed? What would the crime-scene cleaners be wearing, and what about the crime-scene photographer?
These are just a few examples of things I would ideally like to get clarification about. I watched several documentaries on the matter but mostly America-set and wanted to know what the process would entail according to UK legislation.
 
If you think you could personally help me with this or have someone in mind who you would recommend, please feel free to contact me in private to discuss things further: filippogiani29@gmail.com.
If not, any advice on how to find such a person  would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you very much for your time and patience, I wish you a lovely continuation of your day.
 
Best,
 
Filippo
 

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SD

1 uniformed cop gets sent out first to see what’s going on. Detective (probably Sgt) turns out (plain clothes) and makes sure nothings been overlooked. If nothing suspicious then the uniformed cop carries on with the rest.

house searched for any evidence that would assist the coroner during the inquest and body gets removed by funeral directors. They usually take about an hour where I am.

 I CSI photos just the bodycam or mobile phone camera the frontline cop has.

We’re not involved in any clean up.

from start to finish would be 3-4 hours depending and most of that is waiting around.

It’s not as dramatic as many people would think. There are also differences in procedure depending on where in the UK it happens.

 

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Mac7

It’s not as dramatic as many people would think.

 

 

That was going to be my opening line.

 

Once no suspicious circumstances have been established the police are there to act as coroners officers. As stated above it’s collating evidence for the coroner. All rather dull (for film)and procedural I’m afraid.

 

I’m surprised a DS would come out to a death with no suspicious circumstances. In my force it would be left to the attending officer to decide and if needs be declare no suspicious circumstances. If he/she was unsure then a response Sgt or Insp would attend. A D of some description would only attend when suspicion of foul play.

 

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SD
1 hour ago, Mac7 said:

 

That was going to be my opening line.

 

Once no suspicious circumstances have been established the police are there to act as coroners officers. As stated above it’s collating evidence for the coroner. All rather dull (for film)and procedural I’m afraid.

 

I’m surprised a DS would come out to a death with no suspicious circumstances. In my force it would be left to the attending officer to decide and if needs be declare no suspicious circumstances. If he/she was unsure then a response Sgt or Insp would attend. A D of some description would only attend when suspicion of foul play.

 

DS turns out to tick a box if I’m honest. The do the police equivalent of kicking a tire then drive back to the station via Starbucks 

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Indiana Jones

I'd do a Sudden Death form on my MDT. Update the guvnor by phone. As long as no sus circs, then the form is emailed to the Coroner's Officer. End of.

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SimonT

Our general unexpected deaths are attended by an officer, should be attended by a sergeant and sent to the coroner. 

For suicide it's attended by an officer who flags to supervisor who attends and flags to a Ds who attends and flags to coroner who attends, generally followed by scenes of crime. Who attends.

 

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Sierra Lima
On 12/01/2019 at 17:37, SimonT said:

Our general unexpected deaths are attended by an officer, should be attended by a sergeant and sent to the coroner. 

For suicide it's attended by an officer who flags to supervisor who attends and flags to a Ds who attends and flags to coroner who attends, generally followed by scenes of crime. Who attends.

 

The coroner attends???? 

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SD
1 hour ago, Sierra Lima said:

The coroner attends???? 

Started to do that in GMP now.

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SimonT
13 hours ago, Sierra Lima said:

The coroner attends???? 

Apologies, I believe I'm thinking of coroner's officer, rather than coroner themselves.

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ParochialYokal

Perhaps I am reading the scenario wrong but would a dead body in a hotel room get ‘chalked up’ as a suicide so quickly?

What are the circumstances? A stereotypical bottle of empty pills sitting next to a a half empty bottle of Scotch and a ‘suicide’ note? Or had the deceased done something more drastic, like slitting their wrists in the bath.

I would imagine that the scene would be preserved and all key lines of enquiry logged and pursued.

The OP has seemingly been corresponding with the NCA (whom are not well placed to answer) and the MET (whom might not have the next track record in investigating ‘suicides’). However, they might be better off to contacting a Coroner’s Court for further insight.

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Dr Techical

 

As this is a place Special Constables look at I feel that is important to draw attention to the following:

The importance of an attendance of a sudden death or apparent suicide should never be underestimated.

You may be the first officer on the scene of an unlawful killing.

All murders have a first attending officer.

The chances are you will not be.

But what if you are?

 

Police enter premises.

 

Police thoughts and actions reflecting these thoughts:

 

Am I the first to force entry or going into the place? Is this a burglary with a murder or death associated?

 

I am approaching the body, am I treading on murder scene forensics? So I approach in an unusual manner…one the potential offender would not have taken to and from the corpse…I go around the side of the room.

 

I see the body.

 

Is the person alive or likely to be alive? If so then let the ambulance crew get to the person, or if they are not there yet I will go and check.

 

If the body is decapitated (or decomposed ) then I will not go to it or poke it as it is obviously dead.

 

Is the body is ‘fresh’ I put on rubber gloves and poke a first aid trained finger onto the body. Is it cold, does it move and moan?

 

Is it a hanging? Maybe I should cut the body down if there is any chance of resuscitation? If I cut the rope I will preserve the knot. As later on someone can work out if the knot is one that a person could tie themselves - or maybe someone else tied the noose.

 

Is it a drugs overdose? Legal or illegal drugs or both? Paraphernalia to seize?

 

Is there anything that needs to be done NOW to preserve evidence?

 

I once found a dog eating the vomit of an overdose victim. I might need that vomit for analysis at a lab. Unlikely, but I am a scene preserver and I will preserve everything unless otherwise told. This was not a welcomed effort on my part later on.....but what if...it was important?

 

I once drew a chalk line around a man was was pinned to the floor after shooting a shotgun at a nightclub. The next day the Detective Sergeant asked who had drawn the body shape on the ground. I stepped froward all pleased with myself being a budding detective. He called me a ‘tit’ and wandered off. But at least I tried! This was in the 1990's when such criticism was acceptable.

 

And the reason? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Whitear

 

 

Police action:

 

Right, it is a dead body.

 

I am an evidence gatherer. I will preserve the scene.

 

I have a form to fill in to provide a pen picture of the scene. The pen picture goes on the form. Police work with forms!

 

So I will have a look around without touching stuff.

 

Is the heating on? This may affect body temperature / decomposition.

 

Are there livid - red bruising - parts (lividity)  to the body where blood pools under gravity showing where it has laid after death? I will describe this.

 

It most probably will not change in transit…but it might.

 

Is the telly on? What channel is it on? Maybe they always watched Dancing on Ice and put the telly on BBC 1……this may give a clue to time of death.

 

Is there a cup of tea on the table. Is it empty, if not is it still warm? A finger into the tea as opposed to touch the cup.

 

Are the lights on? If so death most probably happened in the hours of night.

 

Can you think of anything else? Look around you, a scene comes in 3d up down and around.

 

 

Police action:

 

OK it looks like a sudden death, maybe a suicide. But maybe it is a murder? Over reaction is so better than under reaction.

 

I do not want to be criticised later that I messed this up. I may worry about ‘the 9 O’clock Jury’ that takes place when the bosses arrive at work tomorrow and place my actions are under scrutiny. Or maybe the Coroner's Court look at my actions and question them.

 

So I am switched onto things that look odd.

 

For now though, I will have some more standard things to do.

 

First of all I need to confirm death. Even if the person is very obviously dead.

 

I need a doctor or a paramedic who has been trained to say ‘Yup, they are dead”, as they are trained to say so. Not me, as my training is basically putting a plaster on a cut finger.

 

Hopefully the paramedic arriving with the ambulance is trained as as ‘dead person identifier’. I get them to pronounce life extinct and record their name and the time this is done.

 

If the paramedics are not trained to pronounce death then I get a doctor to come.

 

I call control and ask for one. They have a call out list and usually it is a doctor (GP) from the local surgery who comes along, eventually! I get them to pronounce life extinct and record their name and the time this is done.

 

A sudden death of an old person lying on the bedroom floor is not odd or unusual. Maybe it is 'expected'.

 

i once went an old people's home where a man drowned in bath. But my colleague and I make a point of holding all the people around by the hand saying how sorry we were. We were actually feeling their sleeves of their dressing gowns to see if any were wet, have they held him down under water? They were all dry, but what would I have I done with a wet one?

 

A sudden death by suicide or looks odd requires a ‘second opinion’ police wise.

So on the radio I ask for duty CID to attend the scene.

Police action 2:

 

The detective (DC or Detective Constable, sometimes a DS or Detective Sergeant ) arrives.

The uniformed officer gives a brief outline of circumstances.

Crime Scene Investigators are considered. But are they needed? They are busy elsewhere.

CID are interested in murder / unlawful killing only.

Suicide in itself is not a crime.

If it is a simple suicide then we are merely gathering evidence to present to the coroner.

Would photographs of the scene help the coroner?

We do not take photographs for their own sake. We would be creating ‘artificial evidence’ that can be released to the family later on. By doing this, with no specific purpose, we would be creating something that would only cause more grief and upset.

We DO NOT take our own photos on mobile phones.

As the phone becomes part of the evidence chain and will have to be surrendered to the coroner. So I lose my phone for ages.

Also it is very dodgy as some may post the images on Facebook and get quite rightly, get sacked. Some idiot in the Metropolitan Police took pictures at a post mortem and did something like this.

 

Only once in 30 years did I use a separate Digital SLR to take my own photos. This was because the farmer who must have been worth over a million pounds lived in poverty in bare rooms piled high with empty bean tins and cobwebs. Words alone on the form could not convey the unsuspicious death was found at a scene of apparent poverty for such an affluent man.

 

 

Suspicious circumstances action:

 

OK it looks like a suicide.

But is there any chance someone helped with the suicide or someone murdered the person?

Let us err on the side of caution, so I have:

 

  1. Arrived.
  2. Looked at body in situ.
  3. Left the body alone unless there was any chance of reviving the person.
  4. Got a trained person to pronounce death / life extinct.
  5. Called in CID as it is a suicide / odd / child sudden death (cot death)

 

The detective constable (DC) now thinks:

This is just a person who has died naturally? Is this a simple suicide where someone topped himself/herself?

If so I am no longer interested and I am going.

The uniformed officer then remains at the scene whilst the DC goes to the pub.

 

The uniformed officer calls the undertakers.

 

BUT is it:

Murder?

Unlawful killing?

I am not sure here……

 

Let us treat it as suspicious.

On the radio Crime Scene Investigators are called (or Scenes Of Crime Officer - hereafter referred to as SOCO) as they were once known.

Do I just want photographs ? Then I will let a ‘technician’ come and take them.

Is it likely to be a murder / unlawful. Then a SOCO who is better trained will come.

Now everyone can get out of the room…..you are all potential contaminants of the scene. But I might need all of your shoes for shoe prints later / your DNA / your fingerprints from ambulance crew to eliminate you from the potential murder investigation.

The American police shows with lots of people at the scene makes me SHOUT at the TV!

Suspicious circumstances action:

 

The SOCO arrive

 

They will come in and have a look. Using a quality 35mm digital SLR they will take photographs.

 

Everyone else who was there in the first instance - gets out.

 

You do not have the American film version for a crime scene with everyone and his dog milling around the room. If you see this, SHOUT at the TV now!

If more forensic evidence collection is needed - certainly murder - then CSI will don overshoes and a white paper suit.

 

 

Suspicious circumstances action:

Now the SOCO has finished their work.

Any clothing - rope - shoes are placed into paper sacks to take away as evidence.

This is because if it is damp / has sweat on them they will go mouldy when stored if they are in plastic bags.

Anything else will go into a polythene bag that often has a sealing strip.

This will include the suicide note. That would be handled at the edges with gloves to avoid smudging any fingerprints on the paper.

It will be the uniformed officer or detective who usually seizes these things. Depends on who finds it.

The SOCO seize their own fingerprint ‘lifts’ or swabs they take from the scene.

 

Now the SOCO steps back and as milling and rummaging of grunts will not interfere with forensics,  we can now search the place for:

 

Medication legal - helps with post mortem

Drugs illegal - helps with post mortem

Name of next of kin from landline phone / phone book / paperwork

Letters that have a relevance to the suicide - bank statements - debt - etc.

 

 

Finalising the scene:

If the scene cannot be ‘cleared’ of forensic evidence now, then it may have to be guarded.

This would be done by uniformed officers, or if it is longer term than a few hours, then a private authorised firm will arrive. Authorised by a Detective Inspector usually as it is her/his budget being used.

Private firm employees, as the uniformed copper, just stand outside the door to prevent people going in.

If it is at 03:00hrs then this may take place to save money on overtime , preventing the need for SOCO being called in early to attend a scene that can be secured for ‘free’ for a few hours by on duty police.

Removing the body from the scene:

We are all now bored with the scene. as it has been exhausted of evidence.

All that is left of any interest is the dead body.

There are at least two crime scenes - the room and the body itself  (Maybe more depending on the environment - hallways - stairwells etc).

So the body is evidence

It will basically belong to the police for now - or actually the Coroner - but the police are acting as officer of the coroner at the moment.

We move from role as a Constable to an antique role as a ‘Coroner’s Officer’ without anyone noticing. I now act for the oldest legal process in my country.

So a wrist label is attached to the body.

On it is written the name of body if known / address found / police officer’s number. This is so it does get mixed up with any other dead person later on.

There are listed (approved) undertakers authorised to work on behalf of the coroner.

Basically they are reputable firms who have tendered for work.

A call is made from the scene by police for an undertaker to come, with the proviso it is a forensic collection if this looks like murder / unlawful.

Usually they will come within 2 hours.

Forensic collection means the undertakers make sure they do not collect my body with another corpse in the van, which would lead to potential cross contamination of forensic evidence. It also means at the mortuary the body is kept separate from others.

The sudden death form is filled in - usually by the officer who was first on scene.

The form is often carbonated and one copy accompanies the body, the other is kept by the officer. Administration takes place even at the most gruesome crime scene.

The undertaker arrives. They usually have a van like a Ford Transit for VW Transporter with no rear windows of blacked out windows. Some have “Private Ambulance’ on it.

The undertaker puts the body in a body bag & they are handed their copy of the form and takes the body away on a stretcher but more often a wheeled gurney. 

If it is a murder / suspicious body then the officer who the body ‘belongs to’ will follow the undertakers van in a police car, to provide continuity of evidence.

In other words ‘this body arriving at the mortuary is the one from the scene and it did not stop on the way to the mortuary when it could have been contaminated by someone taking it of the van and rolling it around on the grass in the local play park for a giggle’.

The scene

The room / flat / house is now finished with.

The police must ensure it is secure against burglars. So any broken windows or doors need to be boarded up.

The police will call on the radio for one of the approved workmen to come and do that.

We wait for them to come - a standard sudden death takes about 3 hours to sort out because we wait for the doctor - undertaker - boarder upper.

Any grim stuff at the scene is down to the family / landlord to sort out.

The body and the mortuary

The mortuary will be at a local large hospital.

The body will arrive round the back and offloaded.

There will be a police officer / police staff who is the Coroner’s Officer based there.

The Coroner’s Officer is an administrator who checks paperwork for the coroner.

He or she will receive the form that came with the body and order the body to be stored away (being mindful of forensics).

If the Coroner’s Officer is not there then a technician will do this. This is a mortuary attendant in American speak.

The police officer has effectively handed over the crime scene, in the form of a corpse, to the Coroner’s Officer or technician at the mortuary.

The police officer will also hand over his copy of the paperwork if it is all completed. Maybe next of kin details are not known yet? If so he/she keeps the form and will email it later on to the Coroner’s Officer once as many of the enquiries have been completed as possible.

The body now belongs to the Her Majesty’s Coroner.

The Coroner holds the oldest law position the UK. The job is to establish cause of death.

They do not go the scene of a crime when the investigation is being conducted. Unlike American TV with Quincy ME poking is nose in police business.

The Coroner may direct the police to cover certain aspects of the investigation later on but this is rare. They will eventually preside over a Coroner’s Court.

The body is now due for a post mortem. A medical examination conducted by a surgeon known as a pathologist.

The doctor who performs this role can do a ‘normal' one or a ‘forensics’ one.

The forensics one involves more than poking around to establish the heart gave out etc.

A forensics post mortem is conducted by a better qualified pathologist who will take photographs / gather body bits etc. They have the title of a Home Office Pathologist.

If this is a murder / unlawful death then a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) who is a detective of at least the rank of Detective Inspector, will be tasked to the investigation.

The SIO will often view the post mortem usually via video link, to an adjacent room. Here she or him will discuss over an intercom how the PM is going on with the pathologist and what needs to be concentrated on.

Identification of the body:

I need to know who the dead person was.

Does the reporting person (who called originally) know them?

On my form is a basic statement that states - at this time /place /date I saw a dead person I know as being …Fred Kruger…. I know this person as …a friend/ relative/etc

If I can capture this identification at the scene that is great. It sound callous but it saves doing it later. Let’s get on with it. All I need is 5 minutes and a signature.

If none can identify the body at the scene this will be done later at the mortuary.

The person making the identification is NOT taken behind the scenes with fridge doors and sliding gurneys.

They go to ‘the chapel of rest’. Which is often a very narrow room accessed through a side door, via a waiting room.

The body is laid out in a well dressed bed - not a coffin. The room is decorated with wall paper and has a decorated bench at one end upon which is a selected book of faith and religious emblem depending on the faith of the person laying at rest.

There is usually a window to the side which has a curtain to draw to one side for those who do not want to be in the room. Viewing can be dine from the waiting room.

There is a door to enter so one can enter and stand beside the body.

As this is done in the mortuary, the Coroner’s Officer does this bit.

They ask, “Do you know / recognise this person?”

Time is allowed for reflection and thought and then the viewer is taken back to the waiting room to sign a statement that they know the deceased.

The technicians are make up artists and will prepare the body for viewing. So in TV shows where a mashed body is exposed by the whipping off of a sheet on a metal tray is something that should induce SHOUTING at the TV.

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