Ex-police officer's life in death: from Hillsborough to tsunami horror

By Antony Clay | 02/02/2018

Ex-police officer's life in death: from Hillsborough to tsunami horror
Richard Venables

A FORMER police officer’s experience whilst on duty at the Hillsborough tragedy prompted him to head into a career dealing with deaths in large-scale incidents.

Richard Venables has received the Queen’s Police Medal for his work developing Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) procedures — and said that South Yorkshire Police was at the forefront after pledging to learn lessons from the football stadium horror.

His book, A Life In Death, tells how he developed the skills necessary to reduce the trauma endured by victims’ loved ones.

Richard’s DVI work aimed to create an organised way of identifying the dead to avoid errors.

His book has been a bestseller on Amazon and gained him the People’s Book Prize last year.

The Rotherham copper stepped down from police duties in 2006 after 30 years’ service, during which he trained 4,000 officers to tackle major incidents.

His “baptism of fire” was being called to help after a plane crash at Dunkeswick, North Yorkshire, in 1995 in which 12 people were killed.

This was followed in February 2001 by the Great Heck train crash when a high speed train and a freight train collided after a car landed on the tracks near Selby. Ten died and scores were injured.

A call to deal with tsunami victims in Thailand proved a major challenge, due to the scale of the Boxing Day 2004 horror which killed thousands.

Richard said that people at his public lectures were fascinated by his story, adding: “I get lots of comments because mainly it’s a journey into an area of policing that people don’t want to talk about.

“I get all sorts of comments. 

“They all say I am not the sort of guy they pictured. 

“It’s about educating people about the process of what goes on.”

Richard’s book was published May 2016 and won plaudits for its mix of autobiography and scientific explanation.

See this week’s Advertiser for a more in-depth feature on Richard, his work and his book.

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