Thursday, August 31, 2006

I see dead people. Too often

A post to highlight some of the unsung work we do.

This happened several years ago, when I was still young in service. This case has been heard at coroners court and as such is already in the public domain, not that I'm planning on naming names.

I was on foot patrol when I heard the call- a believed suicide in a hotel. Being young and enthusiastic I made my way there. My sergeant was already on scene when I got there.
I was led to the room by the hotel manager. It was a fairly reasonable hotel, an upmarket Travelodge kind of place.

I can remember this clearly as it was the second deceased person I had encountered. The first was an old man who collapsed while making a cup of tea, and to whom we had turned up to within an hour of him dying.
This girl was different. She had, as it turned out, been dead for three days, in a hotel room with maximum heating on and no windows open. She was in an advanced state of decomposition. Combine that with the fact she had vomited several times due to the several dozen pills and two bottles of wine she had taken. The smell knocks you back, and I had to focus on stopping my stomach hurling itself up my throat.

We have to check the body for suspicious marks. It is not unknown for someone to fake the suicide of another, and we have to check for signs of bruising, stab or puncture wounds, that kind of thing. We have to check the whole body. Which means lifting up the body, no matter what state it's in. I've been to one where the skin on the arm has become detached from the arm as we've tried to heave the bloke over.

It turns out this is a genuine suicide. The girl took enough of this drug she had hoarded to kill herself 4 times over. (It was a pretty horrible way to go. With the projectile vomiting and smashed bottles in evidence, it was a violent and painful death.) She had written detailed letters to all her family, expressing exactly what she wanted to happen at her funeral etc.
She was in her mid twenties. She had made a rough collage of photos of all her family and put it next to her. It was, all in all, pretty friggin tragic.

I had to seize every single item in that room so the coroner can liase with the family of the girl to arrange collection of it. She had travelled nearly 70 miles to kill herself. I had over 100 items of property that took me 6 hours to book into the police stores.
I can remember clear as yesterday going through these items with her dad and partner (who unfortunately blamed each other for her suicide, which made things even more tense) a few days later. Dad was doing his best to stay in control and stay calm. However, he lost it completely when I got out, of all things, a furry hot water bottle that had a particular memory attached.

He was howling.

I could barely keep my emotions, my tears in check. What can I say to a father whose daughter has killed herself, when the daughter is barely a year older than me? So I just waited until he was in control again, and carried on slowly methodically going through all the items.

I went home that day, several hours late, utterly exhuasted