You may be asked if you want your loved one's remains to be buried or cremated abroad. The repatriation of your loved one's body to the UK will trigger a UK Inquest. If your loved one is cremated or buried abroad this will not happen.
This can be a difficult choice if your loved one loved the country where they were murdered, lived there or has family there (so burial abroad is preferred) but you also want to get as much information as possible to help get justice and answers after your loved one's murder.
While cost may be a major consideration, it must be realised that failure to repatriate will almost certainly mean that there will be no further investigative work undertaken by UK authorities into the cause or manner of death. It is advisable to check whether repatriation costs can be reclaimed in full, or in part, under personal or travel Insurance policies. As a guide, repatriation costs are likely to be in the order of £4,000 from European countries rising to significantly more, when further afield. The most expensive areas are China, South America and Japan.
The process of repatriation of a body can be organised via most local funeral directors, although they will generally delegate the actual management of this process to a company specialising in this operation, and who will have detailed knowledge of the different requirements in different countries. This is a complex and costly process, perhaps requiring language translation, embalming, knowledge of local regulations, appropriate permissions, and careful organisation and handling.
Although around 5000 Britons die abroad each year, only around 100 of these will be the victims of murder or manslaughter. In these cases of violent death, it is common practice almost everywhere for vital organs to be removed for analysis, as part of the process of carrying out a post-mortem examination. When this has been done in a foreign country, it is particularly important to ensure that these organs are repatriated along with the body, so that a (perhaps) more detailed post mortem can be undertaken by UK authorities .
If your loved one has been murdered or died in suspicious circumstances, a Full Forensic Post Mortem should always be carried out after repatriation to the UK. Although it can be distressing to think about a post mortem being carried out on your loved one's body, it can be very helpful in gathering samples for a murder investigation. It can also help to tell you about how your loved one died. A post mortem report will be written (in English). This is the same Forensic Post Mortem examination that would be carried out if someone was murdered in the UK.
A Forensic Post Mortem differs from a non-forensic Hospital Post Mortem. A Forensic Post Mortem which is more thorough and helpful to gather evidence that could be used in a murder investigation, whereas a non-forensic Hospital Post Mortem gives less information about injuries and the cause of death.
You can request this Full Forensic Post Mortem, as the family/interested parties, if it does not take place automatically. You can also ask the Coroner's Officer or Coroner to check that a Forensic Post Mortem is taking place.
A Forensic Post Mortem would happen before your loved ones remains are released to the funeral directors. The post mortem investigation usually takes place at a hospital.
You can ask for a copy of the UK Post mortem report, either from your Coroner or Coroner's Officer, or for a copy to be sent to you, via your GP.
Reading a post mortem report yourself can be very distressing and shocking. The medical language can be difficult. In our opinion, it's best done with a friend for support. Your GP can also help go through the report with you, and explain medical terms.
In order to organise a repatriation, you are likely to need (at least) the following information:
- Full name of the deceased as per passport - important to have the copy of the deceased's British passport or location of the original passport
- Official home address
- Date and place of birth
- Complete father and mother names
- Marital status - married/divorced/widower/single
- If married - the full name of the wife/husband and marriage date and place
- If divorced - full name of the wife/husband and divorce date
- If widow/widower - the name of the late spouse and date of death
- Profession - (even if retired)
- The intended destination in UK and whether cremation or burial is to be carried out
- Whether there is any property, (villa/apartment), in ownership in country of death
- A copy of the Next-of-Kin passport, parents' names, professions and home address.
One of the companies specialising in this repatriation process is Rowland Brothers.
Other organisations who operate internationally in connection with repatriation are Steven Mears Group and Lilleywhite Funeral Services (this is not an exhaustive list, nor does it constitute any specific recommendation).
Detailed information about the practical and logistical aspects of dealing with a death abroad is available in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office's online guide: Consular support for those bereaved through murder or manslaughter abroad.
Contact us if you need more information about repatriation or if you need support requesting or understanding a Forensic Post Mortem.