Agony of telling a family tragic news

KNOCKING at a family's door to let them know their loved one has been killed in a crash never gets any easier.

Naomi Cassidy

KNOCKING at a family's door to let them know their loved one has been killed in a crash never gets any easier.

Pc Mel Savage, a family liaison officer at Suffolk Constabulary, says she would not be human if she didn't get affected by such tragic events in which she plays a vital role by being the link between the bereaved family and the police investigation.

A family liaison officer (FLO) is assigned to a family where there has been a collision and there is a possible prosecution over the death.

Pc Savage admitted that a FLO can become attached to the family as they are in regular contact with them throughout the investigation, right up until the end of a court case if there is one.

Despite being a sympathetic ear to people who are going through the toughest time in their lives, Pc Savage said that fundamentally her role is one of an investigator, who is there to relay information to the family.

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She said: “It is very hard, demanding work and very emotionally and physically stressful. The longest time I was with a family was three years. You build up a very strong bond with some families. Some do not want to know but others become friends and I exchange presents at Christmas with some of them.”

If Pc Savage is on duty when a fatality occurs, she tries to get to the scene as quickly as possible to gather any useful information which can be later passed onto the family. She also has the heartrending job of retrieving personal possessions of the victim to return to the family and on occasions, delivers the 'agony message' informing loved ones of a death.

She added: “If I have had to deliver an agony message, then I don't sleep that night. It does affect you but you cannot get overly emotional because you have to come back to the office to do your day job.

“For the first three days following a fatal collision, I'm with the family for as long as they need me. We are there to provide a service to the family. I am their direct link to the investigation.”

There are seven FLOs for the whole of Suffolk and generally officers have to balance three cases at a time, though this can vary depending on the number of accidents.

Unbelievable Pc Savage's role as a family liaison officer (FLO) is an additional job as does to her road's policing officer. She has been in the police force for 12 years and a FLO for the past five.

She added: “I enjoy my job. It does have its rewards because some families thank you for what you do for them.”

- Have you benefitted from the service of a FLO? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail