Coroners and inquests

When a body is found in a missing person’s investigation, and the police have some reason to consider it could be the person you are looking for, they are likely to update you. Each person’s situation may be slightly different when it comes to the steps that need to be taken, but the police should be clear with you what the next steps are.

What happens when a body is found?

Once a body is found and there has been a positive identification, the family will be contacted with the news. At this stage, it is important that you find out everything you need to know, and understand what will happen next. Ask the police clearly explain your options, what you should expect to find out, and when. If you are keen to make funeral arrangements and other practical plans, make that clear to the police straight away.

The Coroner

The Coroner’s officer should be in contact with relatives, and explain whether they need more information from you. They will arrange identification or viewings if it is appropriate. They should also tell you when funeral arrangements can be made, and when the body can be released. They are expected to do this as soon as possible, and should update you if there is a reason for a delay.

The Coroner’s role is to confirm and certify the death, confirm the identity of the person and explain how the person died.

You can find more information in this Guide to Coroner Services by the Ministry of Justice.

They will explain if they believe there needs to be a post-mortem examination, which is a medical examination to find out the cause of death. If the Coroner is not able to determine how the person died, or if they are concerned by how it happened, they may decide an Inquest is needed.


An Inquest takes place in an public court, and the Coroner will be trying to determine the facts of the death. It should normally take place within six months. Relatives may be asked to give evidence. This may be very difficult; you are allowed to ask for it to be a written statement, and to request support.

For more specialist information and advice, contact the charity Inquest. They provide expertise to bereaved people and professionals, in particular around state-related deaths. They do not offer specific advice about missing person investigations. However, they do have very comprehensive advice for families about Inquest and Coroner processes, as well as a toolkit.

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