When is a missing person's case referred to the Coroner?
The police officer in charge of a missing person investigation must report the matter to the Coroner once they are satisfied that no further enquiries can be made as to whether a missing person is alive or deceased. This should occur as soon as the investigator is of the belief that the missing person is now deceased. This can be challenging for families of the missing person to accept, particularly when they may still be hopeful of a positive outcome.
If you are a family member, you should keep in contact with the investigating police, who can provide you with updates about the status of the investigation.
If you are unsure why a presumed death has been reported, you can ask the Coroner. For additional support, please contact the Families and Friends of Missing Persons Unit.
This unit has written a comprehensive guide to coronial services in NSW for families and friends of missing people which can be accessed through this link.
What are the procedures for referral of a case to the Coroner?
Missing persons cases are reported to the Coroner by investigating police officers in the form of a 'P79B Police Report of Suspected Death', which outlines the factual background of the missing persons case.
You are entitled to discuss this document and the decision to proceed with a report to the Coroner with your investigating police officer at the Local Area Command where you initially made the missing persons report.
Can you request that a matter be referred, or not, to the Coroner's Court?
If you are a family member of a missing person, you can ask the police on behalf of your family to have the matter reported to the Coroner. Alternatively, the police may approach your family when they believe there is enough evidence of a suspected death.
If the police do not refer the matter to the Coroner, your family can make an application to the Coroner. However, the police are required to formally report the suspected death and then investigate the death on behalf of the Coroner.
Is the missing persons investigation closed if the Coroner finds a presumption of death?
Yes, unless further new evidence becomes available.
If the Coroner makes an 'open' finding, what happens to the investigation?
Unless further new evidence becomes available or police make a decision to investigate further, the matter normally remains idle.
Can I get a death certificate for a missing person?
Yes, if the Coroner makes a finding of death, those eligible may apply for a death certificate from the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. You are not legally required to apply for a death certificate but may find that a death certificate is needed to assist in managing a missing person's financial affairs following a coronial finding. The fact sheet titled 'Applying for a death certificate for a missing person in NSW' provides more information on this process.
Where can you get support or assistance?
The Families and Friends of Missing Persons Unit offers a wide range of counselling and therapeutic support to people who currently live in NSW and have had someone go missing, or where the missing person was last seen in NSW.