You always hear about "homicide investigations" or "murder investigations". But what if the investigators aren't sure it's a murder?

I don't believe "autopsy" fits, because the investigators know how the deceased died. What if they are just trying to analyze the events leading up to the death, and decide whether foul play was involved?

  • 1
    well, given the role of the coroner i'd probably call it a coronation – Unrelated Nov 8 '15 at 4:38
  • @Unrelated ba-dum-tss – Jeff Caros Nov 8 '15 at 4:39
  • On a more serious note, I'd edit your question to actually ask a question. Without your title I wouldn't know what you are asking. Even with the title it is rather terse. Consider asking more straightforwardly in the question itself. – Unrelated Nov 8 '15 at 5:12
  • Informally, the investigations you mention are called fatality investigations and death investigations. – JEL Nov 8 '15 at 5:24
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    It's an inquest. – Hot Licks Nov 8 '15 at 7:09

There is, as far as I know, no special term for the investigation of a death by police. It's just called an ' investigation', whether it is known to be murder or not.

You might be thinking of the term inquest, which is a formal investigation by a coroner (or other official) into the cause of death - not just the medical causes (which, as you know, are investigated in an autopsy), but whether it was accidental, natural or homicide etc. It's not conducted by the police but the police present evidence.


They usually use "possible" or "potential" before "murder/homocide investigation" if they are not sure about cause of a death.

Also, you can say "the police are investigating a possible murder/homocide case".

  • +1 Right, if they didn’t think foul play was a possibility, they wouldn’t investigate at all. – Jim Nov 8 '15 at 6:13
  • @Jim Yes, there are only 3 causes of death, natural death, suicide, or homocide. After "possible" cause is determined, they either conduct a "homocide investigation" or drop a case for the other two. – user140086 Nov 8 '15 at 6:19
  • What about accidental? – Jim Nov 8 '15 at 6:29
  • @Jim They will conduct "homocide investigation" until they prove it is accidental. I meant "3 causes" before deciding whether to pursue "homocide investigation". Sorry it was a bit misleading. – user140086 Nov 8 '15 at 6:31

It's a forensic investigation, http://i.word.com/idictionary/forensic

typically conducted by a Medical Examiner,


who is a trained Forensic Pathologist.


It may or may not lead to a [Coroner's] Inquest (in some jurisdictions the Coroner can instigate an Inquest; in others, they can't).


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