First Person Interview – Simon Chawner

Recent years have seen the increase of suicides in the UK, with over 5000 cases in 2007 alone, it makes you wonder who is picking up the pieces, Simon Chawner, a Police Officer in the Criminal investigations Department of the North Staffordshire Police, talks about the first time he was faced with a dead body

As far as I was aware, this particular incident was not going to be any different than the other 100 missing person calls we usually get within a day, it’s usually the case that an over excited neighbour reports a person missing, when in fact they have just gone on their jollies.

It was a chilly, but sunny mid autumn day when I arrived on scene, the first thing I noticed was how pleasant the surroundings were; this wasn’t the kind of place you would imagine coming across a dead body. On closer inspection, there were a number of things that began to raise alarm bells. Uncut grass; post sticking out of the letterbox and closed curtains, even though it was midday on a sunny autumn day.

I remember the change in atmosphere as the front door was broken and we crossed the threshold. The smell was overwhelming, the difference between the clean autumn air and the thick stench was remarkable. I turned to go back outside and remember the brightness from outside stinging my eyes.

As we went from the hallway to the rear of the house searching for the body, the smell subsided a little and brightness crept in through the open blinds in the kitchen. I felt relieved to have a break, but also realised that this meant we weren’t getting any closer to finding the body. I took three deep breaths of clean air before retracing my steps to the hallway. Having not been fruitful in our searches downstairs, we decided to search the upstairs of the house. I hadn’t been this scared to go upstairs since being sent to bed without dinner as a child. Each step seemed to creak, each sound more eerie and frightening than the last.

After searching all but one rooms in the house, I began to hope that there wasn’t a dead body in here, that the usual inhabitants of this house had actually gone on holiday, and the smell was a burst drain pipe.

As the door to the final room was opened, I remember being knocked back once again by an overwhelming smell. I sprinted to the toilet and threw up uncontrollably. I remember drawing breath through my nose afterwards and still being able to smell it, almost taste it. I regained my composure, and approached the room with what I later began referring to as a swinger in. A “swinger” is what we call hanging victims, I think people use humour as a means of blocking the image from their mind. As I approached the door, my legs began to tremble and felt like they were going to collapse. The body looked surprisingly clean, the only injuries were to the neck where the rope had chafed. As my colleagues investigated the scene, gathering information, I stood alone, unable to think of anything other than what a waste of life this was.


About whalley05

21 year old journalism student at Leeds Metropolitan University
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