Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Never Assume

Last man standing happens alot and very often the box of police officers is well ... just empty. Calls still come in to be dealt with regardless, the same target response times needing to be met. Some forces run a Class 1 and others an immediate response I grade for emergencies.

It's near the end of the early turn shift and I'm it as section Sgt. I take the call and ask for more details. It appears a suicide letter has been received in the post by the parent's of a man, who lives on a nearby estate. They call us and as an ambulance has been called it's an I grade in case police need to force entry. I'm literally just round the corner and am thinking nice easy job, knock on the door greet sender of the letter, make sure everything's OK and I'll still be off on time.

I pull into the estate and find the correct block. It's four stories high with no lift and it did cross my mind how nice it would be to find the flat on the ground floor. It never works out that way and I trudge up to the top floor and find the flat. You could tell the occupant must have issues because there are a series of padlocks and clasps on the door frame. Not entirely in line with fire regulations but the sound of the television on the other side of the door confirms my quick job theory.

I give it my finest police knock and stand back. There's no reply so it's likely the bloke is out. All the padlocks are locked so he could be out shopping having left the television on. Ever the professional I crouch down to look through the letterbox. It's a studio type flat and I look into the living room seeing a figure sat in an armchair in front of the TV. It looks like he's fallen asleep but the smell of gas has already hit my nose.

I jump up and force the door, padlocks and all, rushing in and grabbing something to smash the glass in the window. It's boiling hot inside and a look to the gas hob tells me why. There's a saucepan on the lit gas with burnt remnants of baked beans. The gas smell is due to the poor ventilation in the flat and the unburnt gas build up. I turn it off and open the windows, looking towards the figure in the chair. He's sat back, head lolling and feet out in front with a plate of beans on his lap as if he's just nodded off. He doesn't look dead but a quick knock shows me he's already in rigor mortis and beyond help. I call it in just as the paramedics arrive. They're carrying their medical bags and were probably hoping for the flat to be on the ground floor too. They are not needed and this appears a relatively straightforwards run of the mill suicide.

I have a look around and seize some medication containers putting them to one side to be bagged up later for the coroner. A late turn unit turns up offering to take over but I've got a responsibility to this dead man to see it through myself. The FME declares life extinct and I await the undertakers having spoken to the coroner's officer. The original informant his mother who lives miles away is going to get a personal death message visit from police sometime soon. Maybe she too expected everything would turn out OK. The undertakers arrive and were definitely hoping the flat was on the ground floor. They have to put the deceased into a body bag, not easy as he's stiff in a seated position and carry him down to the hearse. The estate caretaker sorts out the door so it's secure and I'm all done bar the paperwork.

A couple of days later I get a call from the control room. Can I ring the mother of the suicide victim she wants to speak to me. I didn't really give her any thought as I concentrated on dealing with her son, glad that it wasn't me doing the death message. There's no way out and I make the call trying to give her closure. No, I don't think he suffered, he looked very peaceful and had some baked beans as a last supper and must have been watching television before drifting out of this life. I don't know if it helped but it's something I dislike doing.

What prompts this story? One of my officer's lost a family member a few months back. He'd told me it was an unexpected sudden death. I've been worried about him and assumed he'd be OK but now he tells me that he received a letter in the post too.


Blue Eyes said...

Any suicide is pretty nasty for the family and friends but to receive a note by mail seems especially cruel.

Stressed Out Cop said...

Having that news is awful but the unknown thoughts on receiving that letter is just too hurtful to contemplate.

Hope the hols were relaxing .. could think of more chilled places to go!