View Full Version : Police visit to bereaved relatives

06-11-2012, 06:09 PM
Hello all. In Act 3 of my WIP, my detective MC goes to visit the murder victim's (separated) wife at her home to interview her. I'd like to make the scene reasonably realistic so I have a few questions for anyone familiar with police procedure (particularly UK). General opinions on the realism of the scenario would also be appreciated.

1) The plot reason for visiting her at her home rather than calling her into the police station is so the detective can pick up some clues that help solve the murder. In the story I'm handwaving this as them being sympathetic to her loss and it being less formal and intimidating than dragging her down to the station. Would you buy this? Does this really happen?

2) Would my MC ask the usual "where were you at this time" kind of questions or does that only happen on TV? Obviously if it's expected by readers I might have to include it even if it doesn't happen in real life (reality is unrealistic and all that).

3) Are there any other "form" kind of questions that have to be asked, such as asking the wife if she will need victim support counselling etc.?

ETA: This scene is a day after the murder occurs - I'm assuming that a uniformed officer would have been sent to inform her of her husband's demise so I don't have to go through that here. Is this a mistake?

Thanks all!

06-11-2012, 07:17 PM
CID will come to your house on routine enquiries, yes. I had them round once when a teenage girl in our road was attacked. They tell you what happened and when and ask if you saw/heard anything. I imagine the questions for the ex-wife would include when she last saw the victim and if he had any enemies. Her whereabouts at the time of the murder would be of interest to them, if only for the purposes of eliminating her as a suspect.

06-11-2012, 08:19 PM
I can't speak for the UK, but some aspects of homicide investigations are essentially universal.

Notification of a death (to the next of kin) is typically done in the recipient's home (or designated personal space). The tone is sympathetic and professional. At any point, the notification can evolve into an interview if warranted.

If the person notified is a potential suspect, being in that personal place can provide observant investigators with a literal window into a suspect's lifestyle.

FWIW, if the murder is a mystery (unknown perp), everyone is a suspect - especially the spouse/significant other - until cleared by a corroborated alibi.

Interview questions would certainly cover the suspect's whereabouts and actions at pertinent times, elements of the relationship with the decedent, insights regarding known or suspected threats, and any other line of questioning that may be relative to the investigation.

Interviews are generally cordial; interrogations are not. When cooperation becomes withheld during an interview, the exchange can harden into an interrogation (characteristics of which will vary by jurisdiction and statute).

You'll need to do some research in the specific jurisdiction where you set your story.

06-11-2012, 09:37 PM
You say it's the UK, but bear in mind that England and Wales have one legal system and Scotland a substantially different one, and it's different again in NI. So it will depend where in the UK.

06-11-2012, 09:51 PM
Southern England - Bath, to be precise (so it would be Avon & Somerset Police).

Thanks for the responses so far - gives me a little comfort that I'm not completely in the wrong ballpark.

06-11-2012, 10:38 PM
I had to research some of this for my own novel, although in that the MC is picked up at the airport by the police on somewhat spurious grounds that they then use to hold him while they question him about more nefarious stuff.

If, during questioning, the detective finds s/he has reasonable grounds to suspect the wife of the murder, s/he's obliged to caution her. S/he will then probably want to continue questioning the wife at the station, under caution, and with the tape running. The interview is known as a PACE interview, in that it's conducted under the rules of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (as amended). If the wife refuses to go voluntarily, she can be arrested.

She has the right to have a solicitor present during questioning and to have someone informed if she's detained.

There's some useful (if sparse) stuff on the government site: (http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/CrimeJusticeAndTheLaw/index.htm)http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/CrimeJusticeAndTheLaw/index.htm

In the cop shows on the tv, they often don't caution suspects. In fact they frequently let them ramble on with full-blown confessions. That's fine for tv. IRL there would be all sorts of problems getting those confessions admitted as evidence.

06-11-2012, 10:51 PM
Thanks Buffysquirrel.

06-12-2012, 05:34 AM
This probably won't be very helpful to you (as I'm Canadian, and this wasn't a murder, but a suicide):

There were two people from victim services who accompanied the detective and my father to my apartment to tell me about my mom. They didn't say much, but were there if needed, I guess. They gave me a sheet of paper with information on victim services if I wanted someone to talk to in the near future. (I never called.)

06-12-2012, 07:44 AM
Thanks LJD - I'm grateful for the information, sorry about the circumstances under which you had to get it.