Deaths under Investigation
What is an 'investigation'? How is it different from an inquest?
An 'investigation' is a new way a Coroner can handle a case that was introduced in reforms of the legislation in July 2013. Its aim is to gather the right amount of evidence to deal with the questions and concerns each case presents; neither too much nor too little.
Sometimes a death is reported to a Coroner and it seems probable that the person died due to natural causes. However, the initial post mortem has not revealed the cause of death and we are waiting for results of microscope work and blood analysis. Alternatively there may be some straightforward questions around the deceased's death that need answering.
These cases do not need a full process of an inquest. It would place unnecessary stress on the family and not be a good use of Coroners and Police resources. However, the Coroner has a duty to establish the cause of death and confirm that it was due to natural causes. In these circumstances, they will open an investigation. This allows us to release your relative's body while we gather the necessary evidence.
What will happen if an investigation is opened into my relative's death?
A Coroner's Officer will phone you to explain the results of the post mortem examination and let you know that an investigation has been opened.
Someone who knew the deceased well will need to identify the body to a Police Coroner's Officer. Depending on the circumstances of the death, they may need to view the body. However if they have seen the deceased both before and after death (for example in hospital), it may be possible to complete the identification process without this. We can then release the body to your funeral director.
You will not be able to register the death or obtain death certificates at this point. The Coroner's Office will give you paperwork to allow the funeral to go ahead. If you need proof of the death, we can issue interim death certificates. These are accepted by banks and almost all other organisations involved in the closure of an estate, with the exception of life insurance companies.
It will take between 4 and 12 weeks to carry out the investigation. An Officer will phone you as soon as we have the results. Then one of two things will happen. If it is confirmed that death was due to natural causes, we will close the case. You will then be able to register the death at the Register Office and obtain death certificates. If there are still outstanding questions, we will upgrade the investigation to an inquest. The rest of this section gives information on how the inquest procedure works.