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Presumptive Death

Presumptive Death Cases – Coroner’s Act

When an American Citizen is presumed dead/missing and a body has not been located, procedures are as follows:

  • A police report must be filed immediately with the nearest police station where the person would have last been seen.  Witnesses if any, must provide statements to the police.
  • Proof of the deceased/missing person’s citizenship must be confirmed/provided to the police.  The U.S. Embassy can help identify whether or not the person in question is a U.S. citizen.
  • Notify the US Embassy, American Citizen Services section immediately at acsnassau@state.gov or by telephone at 1-242-322-1181 ext 4519 or 4406.

Once the police have concluded their investigation, a police report will be sent to the U.S. Embassy and the file will be forwarded to the Coroner for an inquest to be held. Once the U.S. Embassy receives the police report, a Statement of Facts can be drafted and given to the family to use in lieu of a death certificate.  The Statement of Facts will be based on what is in the police report.  It is not a legal document, it is simply a statement of the facts as they were presented to the U.S. Embassy at the time by the Royal Bahamas Police Force and, if the U.S. Coast Guard participated in a search and rescue, the statement of facts will include information regarding the results of their search.

Whenever a body cannot be found, depending upon the number of witnesses, there may be sufficient evidence to reasonably assume the individual has died.  In such a case, the Coroner may, and, whenever required by the Attorney-General shall, hold an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the supposed death, and for that purpose shall have the power and authority to summon witnesses and compel their attendance before the courts.  Upon the conclusion of an inquiry held by the Coroner.   A report will be prepared and forwarded to the Attorney-General of the Bahamas.

In almost all cases of presumptive death, there is a 7 year missing persons statute law for persons who remain missing for that period of time with no sighting.  Section 20 of the Coroner’s Act states:

  1. The Coroner to whom a death has been reported must decide whether or not to open and conduct an inquest into it;
  2. Where the Coroner after an inquiry determines that an inquest is unnecessary, the Coroner shall forthwith transmit to the Attorney-General a signed statement setting forth briefly the results of his inquiry and shall also transmit to the Registrar General a notice of the death and the Registrar General shall enter the death and particulars in the form and manner prescribed by the Birth and Deaths Registration Act, (Ch.188). Thus the issuance of a death certificate.

Note:  There is a tremendous backlog of such cases with the Coroner as The Bahamas had no designated Coroner for an extended period of time (almost three years.).  In addition,  the Coroner’s court has been under reconstruction and the court was closed for all of 2011.  In all cases that require an inquest, family members may be called upon to provide information and to attend the court hearing if they were witnesses to the facts, once a date has been fixed for the inquest.

The Coroner has extended an open invitation to contact the office directly at 1-242-502 4066 or via email at jweechgomez@yahoo.com.