A family liaison officer for Lincolnshire Police who has worked on around 60 murder cases in the East Midlands region said she lights a candle every year for a nine-year-old Lincoln child, one of many incidents that has stayed close to her heart.
Lorraine Speight, 53, worked in uniform on the streets of Lincolnshire before moving to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) as a detective.
She has been part of the force’s Major Crime Unit, working as a detective and a family liaison officer (FLO) for around 10 years, which includes cases of murder, attempted murder and kidnap.
It’s been an incredibly busy year for Lincolnshire Police. In July, the Major Crime Unit were dealing with seven active Lincolnshire investigations at once.
Lorraine, like her fellow family liaison officers, is involved with victims’ families all the way through, including with post-mortems and the “upsetting minefield” of the court case, so she can be with them for up to a year and some stay in touch after.
She said they meet some of the nicest people in the world, who are “suddenly thrust into this big nightmare and are absolutely lost”.
When a nine-year-old child was killed by a family member in Lincoln around seven years ago, Lorraine was the family liaison officer for the family and said that incident “will stay with me forever”.
She said: “When it comes to his anniversary, this little boy loved lights and candles, and every year I light a candle.
“That one will stay with me forever. There’s several that will stay with me forever, it was just so sad. I got to know the mum. The mum had another child and her strength throughout was amazing.
“There have been a lot of tears and it makes you very grateful for your children. I can’t speak for others as they will have their own coping mechanisms, but I will go to my mum and dad’s, I don’t discuss the case, and we’ll just have a cup of tea and talk stupid things, normally about my dog.
“My husband is very supportive, I don’t tell him the details, but he knows when it’s hard.
“I will go and sit in a quiet place and have a few tears, then hopefully I’m strong enough for the next day to pick up what the family need me to pick up.
“And that lady wanted to show me a video of her little boy and I couldn’t help it, I cried all the way through the video, but actually she needed somebody to be human.”
She added: “We’re painted as these people that as soon as you leave the office, it’s gone — no it’s not gone at all, you take it with you. You’re always constantly thinking about it.
“You’re also thinking about what’s next. Because bear in mind, sometimes they can’t go and see their loved one until after the post-mortem, so you’ve got to arrange that to go and see them.
“You don’t turn off, there isn’t an off switch when you leave our office.”
The mother-of-two is currently working with a family in Lincoln and is seeing them once a fortnight and making contact weekly, while she is also involved in the recent Boston murder investigation following the disappearance of Ilona Golabek.
She was also one of the inquiry officers for a few days in the early days of the Roberts Buncis investigation and said the other officers did a “sterling job”.
Lorraine told The Lincolnite how difficult it can be not to get emotionally attached, especially in cases involving children.
She said: “You can be professional in front of the family, and you can be stone faced in front of the family all you like, but I have got into a car and I have sobbed my eyes out.
“We try not to cry in front of the family. It’s not our place, it’s not about us, its about the family. But we have been to the mortuary to see children with family members.
“Myself and another family liaison officer who was with me took it in turns to step out because we had a few tears, the family don’t want to see that. But that said, some families do want to see that. They don’t want to see you as a robot, they want to see that you’re human.
“I’ve had family members show me videos of their loved ones, because they want to show me this person when they were alive. That’s difficult not to take home.
“I personally went into it because I wanted to help, it is one of the most rewarding roles.”
Lorraine was one of three family liaison officers, along with Beth Wimot and Christopher Dixon, who were commended for their care and professionalism for their work on the investigation of the double murders of Elizabeth Edwards and her 13-year-old daughter Katie in Spalding.
They were murdered by Elizabeth’s daughter Kim and her boyfriend Lucas Markham, who were both 14 at the time. The couple, who are believed to be Britain’s youngest double murderers, were jailed for life back in November 2016.
Lorraine was the family liaison for the oldest daughter who lives further away and made several trips to see her. She also got to know the family and met up with Elizabeth’s partner. She said she helped him during the court process and it was “so difficult to watch him go through it.”
She said: “It is still a case I think about now, because they were such a lovely group of people that were just lost by it all.
“You can only do your best, you can’t wave a magic wand, you can’t take their pain away. To watch people going through that pain, you would not be human if you didn’t feel something about them.”
Explaining her role as a family liaison officer, Lorraine said: “Your main role is evidence gathering. However, there is not one family liaison officer that I know that wouldn’t be supporting the family.”
“We will be allocated to a family, normally in our role, the family of a murder victim, and that is your role on that enquiry, especially at the start of it, you’re pretty much with them 24/7 for the first few days.
“Your role actually is part of an investigator, you are the in between the senior investigating officer who’s in charge of the overall murder, and you are the one that’s in between him and the family.”
“Anything he wants to know from that family, you get that information from them, sometimes you get it just having a chat. Sometimes you will take them, you will interview them, and do video interviews and things like that.
“You also are responsible nine times out of 10 for identifying the victim. So you will take the family to the mortuary and you will identify the victim. The mortuary isn’t a place for families to say goodbyes.
“Unfortunately, in our job, when it’s a murder investigation, sometimes they don’t get their family member back for six to eight weeks. So it’s the only place to say goodbye because of obviously how things go with time.
“So by the time they get their loved one back, sometimes you can’t have an open coffin or anything like that. So we also do that side of it, we take the identification for the coroner, and for the senior investigator to make sure it’s the right person, if that’s feasible.”
Lorraine said that her phone is on 24 hours a day and families she is supporting can contact her for anything.
Her husband and grown up children, who are now 26 and 29, can tell when she is having a difficult day and continue to be a great support to her.
She said: “It’s our role to explain to them what’s going to happen. Some families can’t take that in, the grief and the nightmare that they’ve been forced into, so they can ring me at two o’clock in the morning because they’re not sleeping. And they’ll say, ‘I remember you said this earlier. Can I just ask you…?'”
Lorraine and her colleagues in the Major Crime Unit are also trained in disaster victim identification for incidents, such as a train wreck, and her colleague was the family liaison officer for a Lincolnshire family affected by the Tunisia shootings.