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Nottinghamshire Police team that finds answers for grieving families lands ‘integrity’ award

A policing team that works tirelessly and meticulously to find answers for grieving families has won an award for acting with ‘utmost integrity’.

Despite three national lockdowns that significantly reduced the volume of traffic on our roads, Nottinghamshire Police dealt with 54 fatal collisions between the start of 2020 and the end of 2021, sadly resulting in 56 deaths.

Each one of those was a mum, dad, son, daughter, partner or friend and the force’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit had a major part to play in ensuring their families and friends got the answers they needed to make sense of their tragic loss.

Such investigations are carried out by the force’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit. Together, the team ensures every task is completed and that no phone call from a relative goes unanswered.

Every piece of evidence is checked to ensure it is correct and the team were recognised for their dedication and professionalism at Nottinghamshire Police’s recent Force Awards ceremony.

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Held at the force’s headquarters in Arnold, the Serious Collision Investigation Unit won the award for Utmost Integrity, having been nominated by traffic management officer Heidi Duffy MBE.

Heidi said the team – comprising of forensic collision investigators, police officers, staff investigators, vehicle examiners and the officer manager Diane Palmer – deserved to be recognised for the work that they do.

“When a loved one dies in a road traffic collision, it rips the heart out of families and leaves an empty chair at the Christmas table,” said Heidi.

“Despite lockdowns, in 2020 we had 21 fatal collisions in Nottinghamshire, sadly resulting in 22 deaths. And in 2021, that increased to 33 fatal collisions with 34 deaths.

“Dealing with raw human emotion is difficult at the best of times – but in a pandemic when each day brings its own anxiety, it’s near on impossible.

“Yet, this team did just that. They turned out to road crashes in the early hours in all weathers at all times, including 11.55pm on Christmas Eve.

“They witnessed unthinkable scenes of human destruction and then worked together to establish the facts and answer the questions that distraught family and friends asked.

“They adapted to ‘virtual’ inquests, statements by phone and interviews of suspects remotely but they never lost focus of what they set out to achieve, finding the facts to help a family understand why their loved one failed to make it home that day.

“They were determined that a pandemic would not stop them in delivering that outcome. That’s why I nominated them for the award.”

The police are the lead agency for collision investigation, and have the primary duty to investigate and establish the circumstances that have led to road deaths and life changing injuries.

Forensic collision investigators and forensic vehicle investigators attend the scene, using complex scene examination tools in all weathers and times of the day – more often the night – to piece together the information regarding the vehicle movements both pre and post collision.

Police officer and staff investigators also attend and commence the investigation.

Often this involves the ‘knock on the door’ to tell a relative that their loved one is not coming home and delivering the devastating news that will change lives forever.

“The integrity of the investigation is 100 per cent,” said Superintendent Claire Rukas. “The Coroner or criminal trial demands nothing less and the family deserve the truth of why their loved one will be missing from the rest of their life going forward.

“Finding answers for families is rewarding, but the human toll in terms of the nature of what they’re dealing with shouldn’t be underestimated, so it’s wonderful the team has received this award.”

A television documentary highlighting some of the winners at this year’s Force Awards was broadcast earlier this month (12 March).

Highlights include the dramatic moment officers finally brought justice to the door of a criminal after more than a decade on the run, the terrifying moment officers put their own lives on the line to save a man covered in petrol, and a look at some of the people with one of the most difficult jobs you can imagine – investigating some of the most serious and devastating collisions on our roads.

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