England Coroner’s Officer Paul Beecroft: I See Dead People

Paul Beecroft: Extract from an English Notebook

I never envisaged being a Cop. It never crossed my mind that one day I would patrol the streets of my home town as an Officer in the Thames Valley Police. I left school a few months after turning 15. My future was already mapped out and five months later I joined the Royal Navy. This was December 1966.

I left in 1974 having seen a lot of the world including the United States where I spent a memorable July 4th on Virginia Beach with the U.S.Navy. I had specialised in Communications. I was able to read Morse code, use a Signal Lamp and also jam missiles, something there was very little use for in civilian life.

A friend suggested working in the Radio/Control Room with the local Police. I applied and for the next two years I answered 999 emergency calls and dispatched Police Officers to incidents on the radio. As time passed I suppose I grew restless and wanted to be at the other end of the radio. I applied to become a Cop and within two weeks I was wearing a Uniform again. After 10 weeks at Training School I returned to the same Police Station and went on patrol. The town I worked is Reading (pronounced Redding) and is in the County of Berkshire, although the correct title is Royal Berkshire due to Windsor Castle one of the Queens residence. The Thames Valley Police incorporates this county and also Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Reading is a large busy town some 40 miles from London and famous for Biscuits and Beer. If there are any watchers of the series ‘Life on Mars’ this was the time I joined.

My years at Reading were spent on Foot Patrol, Area car, Instant Response Car and also as a Police Motorcyclist. Incidents in Reading were numerous. Every conceivable crime would happen in this town and dull, quiet moments did not occur often. During my years there a number of villains did not want to come quietly and like many Officers received injuries from black eyes through to broken ribs. Crimes with guns were not common place in the 70/80’s but on one occasion I did end up with one being pointed at me before the offender made off.


After 8 years I moved to a rural location and a much smaller Police Station. Only 6 Officers and one Sgt. The area was large but the population reflected the Police strength. We covered a number of villages and we bordered with Henley on Thames where the annual regatta is held and known to many people worldwide.

It was while I was here that my private life crossed over into my Police life. My interest is birds and in particular birds of prey. I am a Falconer and together with my wife we have run a rescue service for birds of prey. In the U.K. we have nothing like the USFWS and wildlife crime falls primarily to the Police to deal with. The illegal trade in wildlife is second only to drugs and firearms and the U.K. has its share. During the late 80’s and early 90’s numerous thefts of birds of prey both from the wild and captivity were being stolen. Birds such as Peregrines, Goshawks and even Golden Eagles were being stolen. I started the first National Theft Register for birds of prey stolen from captivity. There was more than I could have imagined and I was successful in getting some back and prosecuting the persons concerned. Birds stolen from the wild and passed off as captive bred was not easy to prove, but the turning point for LE was about to change when DNA Fingerprinting was used on the alleged offspring against the parent birds. Much has now changed because of this and now very few birds are stolen in comparison to 15-20 years ago. I have used DNA fingerprinting many times. Like other crimes it knows no borders and I have travelled all over, England, Wales, Scotland and even Germany during investigations.


Strangely enough it was dealing with this type of crime that caused me more problems than at any other time. I received many threats. I have had Funeral Directors turn up at my house, infra red cameras installed by the Police in my garden to help protect my own birds against theft following threats and even a determined set up for a cash pay off to drop a case. People involved in wildlife crime can be quite threatening. I can recall one time, having just finished interviewing a suspect. I switched off the recording facilities and he said to me, “I know where you live”. He then reeled off my address. For sometime to come after that I carried a Police radio 24/7.

Although dealing with a lot of wildlife crime I still remained primarily a Patrol Officer using both Motorcycle and (Panda) Car.


In 1997 I took a break from the streets, returned to Reading Police Station and operated the CCTV cameras in the town centre. I spent a year there before returning to the streets. This was short lived as I had a minor operation in Hospital which went slightly wrong. I ended up with an infection and a trapped nerve and out of action for 3 months. On return to work I went back to operating the CCTV again.

I had only been there some three months when I was asked to go to the Coroners Office to help out there. Coroners Office!!!!! You have to be joking I said. They weren’t though and although I argued it you cannot argue too long against senior Police Officers. I therefore agreed to help out for three months. It was not what I thought it was. Although sad at times it was a busy and a thoroughly investigative role. Murders, suicides, accidents of many descriptions all had to be investigated and an Inquest held. Strangely it was a very rewarding job. The three months turned into 3 ½ years and I actually came out under protest. We were short of Police Officers and I had to return to main line policing and the Coroners Office was civilianised, something that was going to be a great advantage in the near future.

I went back to Reading Police Station and joined The Street Crimes Unit dealing primarily with street robberies i.e. muggings.

Early 2005 I was in a position to be able to retire and pick up a full pension. I could have stayed longer and probably would have but as luck would have it a position became available in the Coroners Office. I applied for it and was fortunate enough to be selected. I resigned from the Police and the rest is history as they say.

My area is West Berkshire. I am still employed by Thames Valley Police and I work in a Police Station. I work very closely with the Officers and in fact, I probably spend more time with Detectives (C.I.D.) than I ever did as a Uniform Cop.


Although now a retired Cop, it really doesn’t feel that I ever left.

Paul Beecroft
Ex Cop, now Coroners Officer, England
“I see dead people”

11 replies
  1. Max1
    Max1 says:

    Hi Paul,

    I hope you remember me, my name is Alison, I used to live at the Royal Oak not far from you. Your good self, Alex, and Lizanne helped me to raise and train my beautiful barn owl Max. I actually took on a female barn owl for you once, she had been part of one of your raids. The last time I saw you and your wife you were over at Alex’s bird sanctuary with baby snowy owls running around your feet lol. Sadly, my beautiful boy went to heaven a couple of days ago, he was almost 18yrs old, I am devastated at losing my special little man.

    The reason I’m contacting you (you are hard to find) is that I now have an empty aviary (sob sob). I was thinking about the possibility of taking on another bird, maybe a rescue/unwanted/ bird any thing really. It’s seems a waste to have the aviary sit there empty, eerie too. I’m not in any hurry, but was wondering if you ever get a bird that needs some love or just somewhere to stay then please let me know. I still live locally, and do want another bird, even if its only temporary.

    Look forward to hearing from you.


  2. Falcocop
    Falcocop says:


    I have always loved birds in general but it wasn’t until around the mid 70’s when I rescued a small Falcon. I trained it in the Falconry way. In those days it was a bit hit and miss as I really didn’t know what I was doing but I must have done something right. After that there was simply no going back and I was hooked. I have been flying them and rescuing wild disabled ones ever since.

    Best wishes


  3. Sarah Grimm
    Sarah Grimm says:

    very interesting. Did you always love birds of prey or was it something that you became interested in as an adult?

  4. Falcocop
    Falcocop says:


    I joined in 1976, most Officers would normally patrol on their own. I did what is known as Foot Patrol to start off with and would walk around the Town Centre in the middle of the night knowing that when I stopped people it was most unlikely that I would be assaulted. As we went into the 80’s slowly but surely it started to change. We had riots at Football Matches. When the violence wasn’t aimed at the ‘fans’ on the opposing side it was aimed at us, The Police. We then had riots in the town, some of it racist and during winter blackouts one year we had mass theft from shops by well organised gangs. Unemployment became a problem and youths would being sniffing glue, taking drugs and drunkeness crept in and lots of problems as you can imagine came in. I have been to NYC three times so far. It is by far safer to walk in the city there than it is here. It is very easy for some people to jump on the band wagon and blame the Americans but that is simply not right. We are each responsible for our own problems.

    I rambled there didn’t I.


  5. SZ
    SZ says:

    Sorry to hear how crime has become worse. I went to Europe in the 80s and 90s. Never had a bad time.

    Do you think gun and gang violence came over from US with those “cop” shows ? I know America has its influences. Although I was more influenced by Europe.

  6. Falcocop
    Falcocop says:


    There is sometimes a lot of truth when we realise that we tend to know more about other places than the town/county that we actually live in. Windsor Castle is only about 10 miles away from me. I think I first went in as a tourist some 10 years ago because a friend from the U.S. was visiting. Thank you for the website quote at least I got that right.


    Thank you. “Bobby” is not used very often now. Coppers is still in use from time to time but Cop is now widely used which really stems from the numerous U.S. Cop Shows that we have here.

    Gun violence and knife crime is high here. Currently going through bad times with gang related crime which includes drive by shootings which never used to occur. The average Cop on the street does not carry a gun. Baton and CS Gas are though as you would expect. However, armed officers are not normally too far away if an incident occurs and in cerain places such as Airports most officers are now fully armed.


  7. SZ
    SZ says:

    Good morning, or evening !

    Love the post. I literally just saw a story about an Australian island removing feral cats to save the native seabirds. Sadly it completely backfired big time. I foster rescues and ferals.

    So do we not call you “Bobby” any more ? I expected more of a difference in terms. Never heard Lee discuss driving a “Panda” !

    England seemed to be ahead of us on gun violence. Is it true police do not all carry guns ?

  8. Joyce Tremel
    Joyce Tremel says:

    This is pitiful–I live in Pennsylvania and had to look it up because I didn’t know in which county Reading was located. Paul is right–it’s Berks County.

    From the Berks County website:
    “Berks County was named for Berkshire, England, home of William Penn’s family. Likewise, Reading was named after the main town in Berkshire, England.”

  9. Falcocop
    Falcocop says:

    Hello Joyce,

    I think you have to be nasty to commit this sort of crime and if you do it with animals involved then being nasty comes as second nature. When you speak to a victim of this type of crime they are more often than not devestated. Having a burglary at your house is bad enough but when a Pet of any description is stolen it simply does not compare to a stolen TV.

    Differences? I am not sure that there is a great deal of differences between us if you look at the big picture overall. Cops either side of the pond serve the public the best way possible by arresting the villians, convicting them and locking them up and help with many other things. We no doubt have differnt ways of going about it and many laws will be slightly different but personally I do not think we have great differences. i have worked (normally by phone/email) with U.S. cops before. We seem to use the same terms, speak the same language and have the same sense of humour.

    There must have been, at some point, a connection with your Reading in PA. I think, if memory serves me right it is in Berks County? I am in Berkshire as you probably know and that is more commonly known as Berks.

    Best wishes


  10. Joyce Tremel
    Joyce Tremel says:

    Paul, what a fascinating story!

    It’s interesting that the criminals involved in the wildlife thefts seemed nastier than those involved in other criminal pursuits.

    What do believe are the main differences between law enforcement in the US and law enforcement in the UK?

    Btw, we have a city named Reading in Pennsylvania. It’s also pronounced “Redding.”

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