Police Investigations

Police Investigations

When a death cannot be explained by the medical professionals, such as a doctor or ambulance officer who first attend the body, or if the person has died suddenly or unexpectedly, the medical professional in charge is required by law to call the police to investigate what happened and to determine how the person has died.

The police then report the death to the local coroner and act as agents for the coroner, which means they provide all findings back to the coroner in their final report. What happens when a coroner is called?

It is important for the police to investigate all sudden and unexpected deaths as their findings could help to prevent similar fatalities from happening in the future. This can be a very confusing and emotional process, because your loved one’s body may remain in the care of police and the coroner for several days, while investigations are underway and in order to perform an autopsy as part of understanding how and why your loved one died. During this time, a police representative will be the primary source of information for you and your family, to ensure you know what is happening and when you can expect your loved one to be returned to you.

What happens when someone commits suicide?

At the scene of the death

When the police are called, they will attend the scene as soon as they are able. It is important that bodies of deceased are not touched or tampered with, regardless of where they are found, so the police are able to gather as much evidence as possible. The police will most likely want to question those who found the body as well as those who attended the scene and the first responders. Once a scene assessment is complete, medical professionals will be called in by the police to remove the deceased’s body and take them to the nearest hospital, where they can be examined by the coroner.

If you are questioned, it can be very overwhelming, especially if you knew the deceased person. Questioning may take place at the scene or at a local police station and it can sometimes be difficult to remember details, such as specific times and the sequence of events. It is the role of police to support you through this process and it can also be a good idea to have your own support people with you at this time. The police will need to record your relationship with the deceased, and if relevant, everything you knew about the circumstances leading up to their death. It is important to take your time and answer honestly with as many details as you can remember.

The police may also need to examine personal items of the person who has died – including their mobile phone and/or computers, to help with their investigation. If there was a note left in the case of a suicide, the police are likely to take this to support their reporting, but you can request a copy of the note to be kept in the meantime and have the original note returned to you once the investigation is complete.

Support through the investigation

It is the role of police to ensure that family and whānau are kept notified throughout an investigation into a death, and are trained to support and guide you through the investigation.

A police officer will be assigned to support you or your whānau to help you through this process and will be able to answer any questions you may have. They will keep you informed throughout the investigation and will be able to help put you or your whānau in touch with any support services you might need. Find grief and support services near you.

Answering questions can be incredibly overwhelming - take your time, and answer everything as honestly as you possibly can. It can also be a good idea to have support people with you.