Last year a camera crew shadowed HM Coroner Alison Thompson and her team as they went about their work investigating unexplained deaths in west London.
Always fascinating and only occasionally gruesome, the series followed a handful of the 4000 cases that are investigated each year, from the arrival of the dead body at Uxbridge mortuary to the final inquest decision, sometimes many months later.
In all cases the staff involved, whether the mortuary assistants, pathologists, coroner’s officers, detectives investigating the possibility of foul play, or the coroner herself, treated people in death with the respect that sometimes it seemed they weren’t afforded in life.
‘Did they like dancing?’ Lenny, the deputy mortuary manager wondered. ‘What made them laugh?’ And as DC Steve Tucker put it when commenting on a final verdict of accidental death: ‘This death was important because this person’s life was important.’
It’s not often that you get a chance to see public servants portrayed well in the media: taking pride in their work, conducting themselves with professionalism and dignity – doing a difficult and demanding job that would leave most of us emotionally wrecked after only a day.
We don’t tend to talk about death in this country, but the friends and families of the deceased were given the opportunity to speak at length about their loss. All the interviews were handled with care and sensitivity by the programme makers. Well done Renegade Pictures. I didn’t manage to get through a single episode without reaching for the Kleenex.
God bless Auntie Beeb – as long as the BBC continues to commission programmes like this, you won’t hear me grumbling about the licence fee.
If you haven’t seen this series you really should, especially if you have an interest in crime fiction. All three programmes are available for viewers in the UK on iPlayer series catch-up until 28 February.
Expect to see coroner Alison Thompson appearing on the next series of Strictly – she admitted her lifetime’s ambition is to be an actress and a dancer.
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