Victim Support | Coping with homicide
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Coping with homicide


Being a relative or friend of a homicide victim, or a witness of a homicide, is a traumatic event. You may be experiencing a range of emotional and physical reactions.  Victim Support is here to help you.

Please call us on 0800 842 846 and ask to speak with a Service co-ordinator who will assist you.

Here are some suggestions that might help you cope better with what you’re experiencing: Coping with trauma and When you are grieving. You may have some practical questions about the first days and weeks after a homicide. Below are some frequently asked questions, followed by our Homicide Support Group newsletters

You may also want to read our Crisis and Trauma Fact Sheet.

How to cope with the media attention after a homicide?

Unlike other sudden death when victims can grieve privately, homicide victims have little choice but to share their loss publicly.  Read more on Coping with Media Attention after a Homicide (pdf document |480kb)

When can we see the body of our loved one?

It can be difficult to accept, but the body may have to remain at the scene for some time until a full forensic investigation takes place. It’s important that all relevant evidence is collected to improve the chances of an arrest and conviction. When all the forensic evidence has been gathered, the body will be taken by a funeral director to the mortuary (located at the hospital). This is organised by the Police and there is no cost to you. When the body is released, the family /  whānau may ask to view it. This can be organised through the funeral director and the Police. You may need to be prepared for a shock, especially where the victim has severe injuries or disfigurement.

You need to be prepared for the fact that:

  • the deceased will look different
  • facial features are likely to have changed due to the loss of muscle tone after death
  • skin colour is likely to have changed, particularly in younger people
  • the body will be very cold to the touch.

Can we stay with the body of our loved one?

Yes. When the body has been released by the coroner you may have your loved one taken to a location of your choice where you can be with them if you wish.

Can we see the place where our loved one was found?

Yes, but only after the Police has completed gathering forensic evidence and the site is no longer a crime scene.

What is a post-mortem?

A post-mortem (also known as an autopsy) is the examination of a body after death. Post-mortems are carried out by pathologists. These are doctors who specialise in the diagnosis and identification of the cause of death. Forensic evidence will be gathered (such as hair and DNA samples) which may help the Police identify a suspect.

Do I have a choice about whether a post-mortem takes place?

No. A post-mortem must be carried out for every homicide.

How long will the post-mortem take?

Every effort is made to conduct the post-mortem quickly, and in most cases the coroner will authorise the release of the body after one day. In some cases where a more detailed examination is required it can take up to three days. Mortuary staff are mindful and sensitive to cultural issues arising from post-mortems, but there may be delays for practical reasons, such as the need to wait for bruising to appear which can take up to 12 hours.

You can find information on how Victim Support can help and support you through the coronial process here.

Who will keep us informed about what is happening?

The Police will appoint an Officer in Charge (OC) of the case. This person will keep you informed as the investigation progresses. You can also ask for support from a Victim Support worker who can help you with any questions and provide you with information.

When can we go back to our home?

If the family home is the scene of crime, family members may not be allowed to enter their home. This is so the Police can conduct the investigation and search for forensic information that will assist them in identifying a suspect. The Police will assist family members/survivors to safe accommodation, relocating them either to the home of relatives or friends, or to a local motel. Police will meet all expenses involved.

Can we clean the house and have it blessed?

If the family home is the scene of crime, Victim Support will organise (and pay) for the house to be professionally cleaned. This will take place once all of the forensic evidence is gathered. If you wish to, you may have the house spiritually cleansed or blessed. There are a number of ways this can be arranged. A Victim Support worker can advise you.

What will happen with items that were taken away by the Police?

The Police will return all items to you once all the forensic investigations are complete. However, in some cases items may need to be kept as evidence during the trial. These items will be returned to you (or destroyed at your request) after the hearing.

Can we get financial help?

There are a number of grants available to assist survivors of homicide such as the ACC Funeral Grant and the ACC Survivors Grant.

Victims of homicide are also eligible for financial assistance for costs related to the incident under the Victim Financial Assistance Scheme administered by Victim Support. More information about the scheme is available here.

Your support worker can talk you through the financial assistance to you.

When will there be a trial?

A trial will take place once the Police has identified a suspect and made an arrest, and the investigation is complete. This can take anywhere between months and (in some cases) years.

Where can I learn about others who have experienced homicide?

The Taken Trust provides a forum for people bereaved by homicide to share a public tribute to a loved one they have lost through murder/homicide at

Taken provides a place for all those affected by homicide to come together, remember and celebrate the loved one that was taken. It is another extension of providing victim support. It also provides a place for people on those outer ripples to show their support for the families grieving and unite together as a community to work towards a better society. Taken helps provide awareness of the horrendous personal and ongoing cost of homicide in New Zealand to support positive change.

Victim Support are here to help:

You can download a brochure of our services and support to help you here:
Here for you: for families & whānau after a homicide

Other helpful resources:
Ministry of Justice – For people affected by homicide
Coroners Court – When someone dies suddenly

Connections – Winter 2018

You can read Connections, our newsletter for family and friends impacted by homicide, here.

In this edition, in conjunction with Skylight, we talk about helping children impacted, and some of the resources available. We also discover equine therapy and meet Patricia from our homicide team.

Connections – Winter 2019

You can read Connections, our newsletter for family and friends impacted by homicide, here.

In this edition, we talk about advice for dealing with the media. We also hear from a victim affected by homicide and their own experiences in dealing with the media, and we meet Karen from our team.

Connections – Spring 2019

You can read Connections, our newsletter for family and friends impacted by homicide, here.

In this edition, we talk about the Parole Board and meet the newest member of our Homicide Service Specialist team.