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A Life in Death
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A Life in Death

By Richard Venables, Kris Hollington
Published by Thistle Publishing
ISBN 9781910670910
Category True Crime
Winter 2016


Detective Inspector Richard Venables (QPM, rtd.) has helped identify thousands of bodies all over the world, piecing together fragments from tsunamis, transport and other disasters to return the victims to their loved ones. In this book, he tells his extraordinary story, of how death came to be a key feature of his personal as well as professional life, as well as how he coped with the biggest challenge of his life: the 2004 Asian Tsunami, the deadliest event of its kind ever experienced by human civilization, claiming 230,000 lives.

Author's Biography

Richard Venables, QPM, joined South Yorkshire Police in 1976. He has been commended on six occasions within his service for carrying out complex investigations in addition to his work in mass fatality identification. Responsible until his retirement for operational support in the event of any mass fatality incident occurring in the UK, Richard has also acted as advisor to the Government Mass Fatalities programme. He is married with two children, two stepchildren and eleven grandchildren. 


“An invaluable insight into the actual workings of Disaster Victim Identification teams, which will pull at every human emotion. An incredible read." 
Detective Superintendent Graham Yip (rtd), Merseyside Police. 

“Although the subject matter - the police’s response in the face of tragedy - is tough, his story is both fascinating and uplifting, revealing how the human spirit never fails to shine through in the darkest of times.” 
Detective Chief Superintendent Rich Kerman (rtd) 

“It is a sincere reflection of the fate that can befall some unfortunate people but how those dealing with disasters can make such a tremendous difference by the way their loved ones are cared and treated with respect and dignity… Through his work Richard became a worldwide expert on DVI and is held in the highest esteem by those in the field.” 
DR N D Chapman DL, Coroner of Nottinghamshire (rtd) & President of BAHID (British Association of Human Identification)
Price £9.99

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Reader Comments

A brilliant read. I was unaware that the DVI people existed. An honest, eye-opening book where I realised that there are people who care about disaster victims and re-uniting their bodies to their families. It seems more than a job! Tears were in my eyes when I read about the unmarked graves for the unknown victims of the Tsunami.
Wonderful to be made aware of such a valuable book on such an extraordinary subject.
Excellent reading very informative. Liked it
A fantastic read could not put it down . What a amazing person he is to go through all that.
To combine the qualities of understanding and compassion with outstanding descriptive powers makes for a revealing and moving book. Excellently done with great humanity and exceptional professional skills.
A really nice fella and an amazing book.
Excellent insight into how police forensics have advanced . In particular in dealing with multiple deaths in major disasters at home and overseas .A fascinating and at times distressing read. Well done Richard Venables
A real page turner - total captivating
A Life in Death is an excellent read & deserves to win The People's Book Prize!
Excellent reading.
An excellent read a well deserving winner
Amazing book , the first book I have read in a long time, a very deserving person
Essential reading.
Fantastic Read
A truly amazing book would highly recommend Exceptional reading could not put this book down
A good read - gives a behind the scenes look at certain events from my lifetime, some closer to home than you would like to think. A potentially grizzly subject is dealt with in a human way without sensationalism which makes the book flow.
Brilliantly written by a very knowledgeable and valued author
I couldnt put the book down until I finished. It was very informative and emotional. It was extremely interesting and so different to any book I'd read. A great insight into a very sensitive and deeply emotional subject. Highly recommended.
Excellent read written by a master of his craft.
Great book, nice guy. Driven by what he witnessed as a serving police officer at Hillsborough on the day of the disaster and the indignities of the aftermath, he put his agony and trauma to good use, did some great work and wrote a compelling book.
Great book ,read it while at Phuket near the airport .
Excellent work.
Excellent read.
The authors expertise stands out on all the pages, balanced and measured it contains invaluable insights into this work. Highly recommended.
This is truly an amazing read, the first book I've read in less than 48 hours! Definitely worth reading. Brilliant!!
Great read.
Excellent book. Deserving winner. What a refreshing change to read a life story of someone who cares about others. Well done Mr Venables.
A fabulous book, and what an achievement for one man to realize how to set up this specialised unit. So much is detailed here with respect for the victims and dealing with the bereaved and grieving in the aftermath. Thank you Mr Venables for giving us an insight into another part of police work.
A marvellous story of a professional police officer who helped organise and investigate procedures for mass victim identification. It is an incredible achievement in a relatively short time. This is a excellent example of a person who although already recognised with a Queens Police Medal (QPM) actually deserves a much higher award in the Queens Honour List!
A fascinating read producing a completely unexpected rollercoaster of emotions. Highly recommended.
An excellent book and a must read for anyone thinking of joining a DVI team. Sergeant Kev Drewett South Yorkshire Police (rtd)
Recommend this book to any one well worth a read great value for the price
Very interesting and enlightening read.
A brilliant read.
Fantastic read, couldn't put it down!
Fantastic book
A realistic interesting read from an expert in his unique field
Such a shockingly great book and very informative.
Really terrific read. Jock
This book made me feel very humble. It brought home to me what some people have to deal with in their chosen vocations.By comparison every day frustrations and niggles pale into insignificance. A dramatic and eye opening account.
Excellent read, 100% recommended.
Looking forward to reading this book
This was a fascinating insight into the work of DVI officers attending disaster scenes and piecing together information in very difficult circumstances. Through it all optimism shone through and a determination to put families of the deceased first. Congratulations Richard Venables, not only for the book but for all the many fragments you have pieced together in your search for doing a job well done
Excellent book. Having been trained by and worked for Richard at a number of incidents discussed in this book it gives a valuable insight into work that most of the world walks away from but still considers invaluable when it affects them and their relatives
Met the author today and read part of the book after listening about his career. A really interesting read so far and can't wait to finish it!
The author is able to entertain and inform the reader, on subject matter that is very sad but needs to be understood in these troubled times. All in all a must read which the reader will find difficult to put down.
I attended a talk by the author, at Doncaster Public Library on Monday 13th February. The talk was excellent.
Excellent read. One of the best bios I have read. Told with professionalism and empathy, Richard is a true unsung hero.
a brilliant read
Wow! What an absolutely fascinating read. I had no idea how this world of work even attempted to get this type of job done. You have to be in awe of this guy and the many teams of incredible, dedicated, extra special people, in such a specialized area of work. It was an intensely interesting book which had my emotions tested. I wish Richard Venables good luck with the award and success in his future
I am looking forward to reading this book which has been recommended by so many people
A fascinating insight to the work of the DVI teams.
A most interesting and fascinating book.
Well written Well researched Well lived
Fantastic read, would recommend
Brilliant, simply brilliant!
An outstanding book for practitioners and non practitioner, full of facts and information; but above all an example of compassion and humanity from a man dedicated to providing the best possible outcomes from the worst possible events. Tim Miskell DI retired.
An insight into a fascinating career. Had no idea so much was involved and now I do, I am much impressed. Well written and a good read.
a compelling read
Deeply insightful, about an area of life for which one has no experience and written in such a powerful, non sensational way
This book is a fascinating insight into the world of disaster victim identification. It is a compelling read and the story is told with clarity, compassion and humanity. The principle that the victims and their families should be treated with the utmost respect is paramount.
An interesting book on a subject to which we give little thought.
A very genuine, not overwritten and interesting account of a real and difficult task
An awe-inspiring and humbling account of the authors dedication, in the most gruelling of circumstances, to bring answers and closure to the families of those lost in some of the worst events, natural and man-made, of modern times. Difficult to put down.
Very good read, extremely interesting
Fascinating book, and my favourite subject... although my choice is usually fiction!
Fantastic read once I started I did not want to put it down. Extremely interesting and very informative.
Very enlightening and true to life. Richard should be commended on the advances that he helped achieve within the investigation of major incidnts Worldwide.
Such a gripping read - this man has seen things that most of us would avoid with every atom in our bodies, but thank goodness there are people like Dick Venables. Brilliant how he treats the subject with sensitivity, whilst managing to graphically detail the events ... and there is even some humour. Love it!
At a time when we are so engrossed in this media-frenzied quick-to-blame culture it is genuinely heart-warming to read and learn of one person's devotion to ensuring that respect and dignity are upheld in the most demanding of circumstances. This is extremely well written and appropriately pitched. It provides an insight to an aspect of police work that I can honestly say can really be attributed to a band of 'un-sung heroes'. Well done on a truly excellent book.
Great read mate
Great read and told from the heart.
Adding some humour to tragedy make this a good way to spend time
Fantastic insight into the compassion and respect given to dead people.
Gripping. Highly recommended
Fascinating, haunting and spellbindingly real
So glad I read this book, fantastic, and I don't normally read books.
Superb book, struggled to put it down as Richard takes you right into the heart of each tragedy. Some gruesome tales in here but I'm so glad I read it. Certainly makes me thankful for everything I have. Nothing but praise for the way the book is written.
Great book. Everyone should read about this amazing author and his passion.
Great read couldn't put it down essential reading for all emergency services staff. .
It was an realistic read, bringing the true life of policing, when dealing with mass death's.
Harrowing but gripping read
I have been along for part of Dicks life, his account is honest, and tells it as it is, well done.
An addictive read on what is very much still a taboo subject.
A fascinating and gripping read into the world of DVI from one of the countries most leading experts! A must read for any fan of this genre! I could not put the book down as soon as I started reading it!!
This is a fascinating book which reveals a facet of policing that few members of the public would be aware of. It describes the very detailed work undertaken by Disaster Teams and the care and compassion they display. The author cleverly interweaves the impact on his own family life and inner feelings. A timely reminder of the work undertaken by public servants, much of it unseen.
A very interesting read.
A penetrating read into a rarely visited area of Policework by a dedicated Detective
A cracking read
Extremely compelling.
Brilliant read
Brilliant insight into a really difficult job
Absolutely enthralling.Looking into work that Richard and his team did.I couldn't put it down.Laughed and cried.Fantastic.
An exceptional man who has dealt with so much tragedy, and brought closure to so many grieving families. A fascinating insight into the man himself, his unique investigative skills, how he coped, and why he is held in such high regard. It was an honour to actually meet Richard by pure chance earlier this year. A must read for anyone interested in this genre. B. A. - RUC Officer (Retired)
An interesting very realistic read on this mostly gruelling topic
This is a fantastic book. Really interesting. It gives the public an opportunity to gain an appreciation of what happens during incidents involving mass fatalities and of the tireless efforts of those charged with returning victims to their families only. Although an emotive subject I'm sure this insight will provide some comfort to the many bereaved family members and friends of those who have died in major incidents. A must read...
Fabulous read. Highly recommended
Brilliant book. Told with honesty, compassion and empathy. Not only the story of a remarkable life, but informative about the process of identification following mass disasters.
Incredible read. Told with passion and humanity.
What a life! Not an 'A lister' surely more important to mankind. A true unsung hero and educating us about a process we never hear about. Top marks.
Incredible insight into the disaster victim identification process told with passion and humanity.
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