A Life in Death (R. Venables)

About the Author

Richard ‘Dick’ Venables QPM is a retired police officer and former Detective Inspector for South Yorkshire Police.  He has experience of being involved in a number of mass fatality incidents within the UK and more notably with the identification of the UK victims of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.  In response to this disaster he helped to establish the UKDVI team, to provide a co-ordinated response to future mass fatality incidents.  Following his retirement in 2006 Venables was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in recognition of his services.

Book review by Paul Hunter

This book is a must-read for anyone with an interest in Disaster Victim Identification (DVI).  Venables provides an excellent insight and genuine account of his experiences in DVI, based upon a number of different incident deployments.

Following his promotion to Detective Inspector, Venables was given the task of developing a new method of response to mass fatality incidents – something that would turn out to be his raison d’être.  Shaped by his experience of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, he provides an insight into his involvement in a number of mass fatality incidents, such as the Selby rail disaster, the Morecambe Bay cockle picking deaths, the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami and the 7/7 London bombing – including how DVI processes have developed based upon lessons learned from these events.

Venables focuses on the disaster response to the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami throughout the book.  He manages to place the reader at the scene through his immersive descriptions of the associated challenges of the DVI process and the real-life sights and smells experienced within a disaster mortuary.  The harsh realities of DVI are revealed, including both the physical and psychological difficulties involved with deployment.  Venables highlights the sometimes overlooked, but vitally important issue of staff welfare and describes his own personal feelings in a very honest and heartwarming manner.

The book is an absorbing account of one man’s contribution to DVI and following its publication in 2016, went on to win the People’s Book Prize the following year – a highly recommended read!

A Life in Death is available to purchase in both paperback and Kindle editions via the Amazon website