If the cause of death is NOT established at the time of the post-mortem examination
If the cause of death cannot be immediately established at the time of the post-mortem examination the Coroner will commence an Investigation which may or may not include an Inquest. In such cases the pathologist will retain samples for further examination (outlined above). Unless there is a reason to investigate the circumstances of the death at the outset the Investigation will be pending the outcome of the pathologist’s written post-mortem examination report.
Although funeral arrangements may proceed the death cannot be registered until the Investigation has concluded. In such cases you will receive a pack of information from the Coroner’s Office which contains, amongst other things, four Coroner’s Certificates of the Fact of Death otherwise known as “Interim Death Certificates” which allow you to deal with your relative’s personal affairs such as closing bank accounts and dealing with other correspondence about the deceased’s estate while the final death certificate is awaited. If you need more copies at any point just let us know. Some financial organisations do not always accept interim certificates so if they require further information they should put their request in writing to the Coroner.
Again we will need to know which funeral director will be looking after the arrangements in order for the Coroner to provide a Mortuary Release form which permits the funeral director to collect your relative and take them into their care at the earliest opportunity. The Coroner will also provide the paperwork either for cremation or burial to the funeral director.
You will receive a letter from the Coroner’s Officer asking that you bring any factual matters relevant to the circumstances of the death to the Coroner’s attention within 14 days. You are always welcome to contact us for this or any other reason.
The Coroner’s Officer will contact you as soon as the post-mortem examination results are available and explain the cause of death which is usually within 6 weeks.
If the death is one of natural causes and there is no other reason to open an Inquest (such as the person having died in custody) the Coroner will discontinue his involvement at this point. You will receive a “Notice of Discontinuance” in the post confirming the Coroner’s position and advising you to call the Registrars on 0191 5205553 to make an appointment to register the death and obtain the final death certificate. Paperwork will be sent to the Registrars from the Coroner’s Officer to inform them of the cause of death.
If, however, the cause of death is found to be unnatural or there is a reason to do so there must always be an Inquest hearing (please see section on understanding the Inquest process for further information).