When a body is found which we think is a missing person, we will report it to a coroner.

A coroner is a special judge who investigates deaths where the cause of death is unknown, unnatural or violent. Their job is to find out who died, and how, when, and where they died.

A coroner's investigation is different to a criminal investigation. A coroner does not find someone guilty or to blame for something. Sometimes a coroner might decide to hold an inquest, which finds out the facts in a court with witnesses.

If a coroner investigates the death of your loved one, people called coroner's officers will be the link between you and the coroner. They will ask you for information and answer your questions about the investigation.

The coroner has temporary legal control of the body while they are carrying out their investigation. They will let you or their next of kin have the body for burial or cremation as soon as possible.

Guide to coroner services for bereaved families

Post mortem

A post-mortem is a medical examination of a body in order to find out the cause of death.

Usually this involves operating on the body to carry out an internal examination. Sometimes (but not always) a scan can be carried out which does not physically damage the body. If you would prefer a scan, you will need to ask the coroner as soon as possible. You may need to pay for a scan.

The doctor who conducts the post-mortem will write a report for the coroner. You can ask the coroner’s office for a copy.

Sometimes samples of blood or tissue including organs will be kept after the body has been released, if extra tests are needed to determine the cause of death. You will be given options to decide what happens to the tissue that has been taken.

Please tell police officers or the coroner's officers if you have any cultural or religious needs. We want to make sure the needs of people from all different backgrounds are respected. Where possible, coroners officers will take religious needs into account whilst acting in accordance with the law.

Identifying a body

If we believe a body is the person you are looking for, you may be asked to formally identify the body.

Normally, you can also see the body if you would like to, even if formal identification is not required.

Places where you can see the body can vary, so sometimes you will see the person through a glass window rather than being in the same room.

You should ask the coroner’s office in advance if you want to touch your loved one’s body as this may not always be possible, for example, where evidence needs to be taken for use in a criminal case.

Sometimes, the coroner will suggest that you do not see the body if they feel that this may cause you distress. This will be explained to you sensitively so that you can decide whether you still want to see the body.