Hello and welcome back to the Writing Crime series. It’s been a while since I wrote one of these posts. A couple of reasons, one was that I went on holiday and then I’ve not been too well. I might update you on my health in another post. But when I’m ill my writing is prioritised before the blog I’m afraid when I have limited energy reserves.
And to get us started back into the series I’ve opted for a short post. This was prompted by a couple of questions I was asked in my consulting service. (Details can be found HERE. )
The post is about the identification process of a body.
Early in this series we attended a crime scene with a murder victim. Once the scene has been processed with your victim in situ, they will be removed and taken to the mortuary. Attempts will be made to identify the person. It may be that your scene is somewhere where a witness there can tell you who the victim is but you will need a loved one to do the official identification.
You only need one person to do this. Your victim is in one room and your loved one is in a viewing room with a pane of glass between them so they can see. There are a pair of curtains up at the window and they aren’t opened until the loved one says they are ready to view the deceased. The reason it is done this way and not in the same room as is often shown on US crime shows is a forensic post-mortem needs to be carried out and there can be no opportunity for contamination of the body. At this point you are collecting evidence and have no idea who your killer is. Even if you think you have the killer in custody, you still don’t know the facts until you have all the facts and that includes your post-mortem evidence.
I was also asked if police are always 100% certain of the identity of the deceased before they do the ID procedure. Could an incorrect relative be asked to do a viewing? This is possible if a body fits the description of a missing person and has no ID on them and fingerprints bring nothing back. That’s why it’s always important to have an official ID procedure by a loved one of the deceased.
It’s a simple enough procedure, but due to the way it is depicted on the television, it can be confusing. I hope this has cleared it up.
Hopefully, this is the start of the Writing Crime series again.
You can find all other posts in this series HERE.
Rebecca Bradley is a retired UK police detective with over 15 years UK policing experience. Seven of those years were in uniform and the rest in a specialist investigative department where She handled multiple, serious and complex investigations. She is now a crime writer and offers a police procedural fact-checking service, available to all crime writers setting their work in England or Wales.
Please see THIS POST for further details.
Join my Writing Crime group. If you sign up to the group you will receive a police MG11 statement (a genuine statement paper – I found online) which I have written a statement on, using an incident that occurs at the end of my novella, Three Weeks Dead. So, it’s a genuine statement, authentically written by an ex-detective.
What else will you receive in this group?
Every month I will send you, either;
- Another document I have completed.
- A link to an online document I know will help you.
- Another police document that forms part of a police investigation.
All of these can be printed out and kept in a folder and your folder will grow with policing information that you, as writers, can use, or ignore, as you wish. It is fiction, but having the information means you can make an informed decision.
If you want to be a part of this group and to claim your first item (the completed statement) then go HERE.
Margot Kinberg says
Thanks for this, Rebecca. As always, this is a very helpful feature on your blog. Among other things, it’s such a strong reminder that, when it comes to police work, real life is not much like what you see on the screen…
Rebecca Bradley says
Yes, it’s not as dramatic if you see someone do a viewing through a screen as when they view a loved one up close and personal.