What do the police do when a missing person is found deceased

Tragically a small number of people who go missing are not found alive. In these cases, when a body is found, it is vital that their families and loved ones get the answers that they need.

What will the police do?

Police officers will attend the scene. They should ensure that evidence is not lost and that witnesses can be identified and asked to provide information so that key lines of investigation can be followed up.

Confirming identity

They will need to identify the person as quickly as possible. How they do this can vary but may require taking DNA samples. Once they know who the person is, the police should then immediately contact the family.

In most cases, families should be given a family liaison officer or a similar point of contact who will support the family and explain what is happening and why.

Deciding whether a crime has happened

Once initial information about what has happened has been gathered, senior officers will then decide whether they need to investigate the death as a crime or make a full report to the coroner. If they do not think a crime has taken place and plan to close the investigation and pass it to the coroner, they will inform the family, usually via the liaison officer. The coroner will then collect their relevant evidence and review the death. 

They will also have to consider if the death and prior missing investigation should be reported to senior officers internally or the Independent Office of Police Conduct. This will depend on the circumstances of the case and the death.


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