The knock no-one wants

I’ve been cried on. I’ve been hugged. And I’ve had things thrown at me.

There is no standard way that someone reacts when you tell them their loved one has died.

My heart will be pounding as I go to knock on the door.

I know that I’m going to change a family’s life forever.

The words that I use are important – they will remember that moment for the rest of their lives.

I never say someone has been fatally injured – people will cling on to the word injured.

Instead I will say dead, died, or killed.

Some people will have a lot of questions. It can be hard for them to comprehend that that their mum, child, girlfriend, husband, is gone. Some people won’t believe it until they’ve seen the body.

I’m always very honest. I have to be, as information will come out in the inquest anyway.

I tell people that they can ask me anything they like, but they need to be prepared to hear the answer, you can never ‘un-hear’ it. I will never lie about how a body looks.

Incident involving young people are particularly tough; it’s unnatural for parents to have to bury their children.

A particularly difficult job was a road traffic collision around three years ago in which three teenagers were killed and one was left with life-changing brain injuries. The driver was due to turn 18 just two weeks after the accident. The teenage driver had the same birthday as my son, which really hit home with me.

Myself and another family liaison officer (FLO) supported all four families as well as providing support to people at their college.

After the inquest I got a text from his mum saying that there was no way she would have got through it without me. That meant the world to me.

It’s always a special feeling when a family says thank you.

They’re going through the most devastating time of their lives, and when they still find the time to thank me, I know I’ve done a good job.

The hardest job was telling the wife of PC Jon Henry, who was killed on duty on 11 June 2007, that he had died.

I was the only FLO on duty when the call came through.

I went to get his wife, Mary, from her place of work and had to tell her that he had been stabbed to death, without her having chance to say goodbye.

It felt like it took hours, but in reality it was probably only seconds.

You don’t expect to wave your loved one off to work, only for them never to return. That’s why I never leave my house on an argument, and I never go to bed on an argument. I always tell my loved ones that I love them when I say goodbye, just in case.

In the aftermath of Jon’s death, I was one number of FLOs assigned to his family. I strongly believe that FLOs are absolutely vital for helping people to cope with such tragic incidents.

My cousin was killed in a car crash before the FLO role existed.

What my family went through was horrendous, and I don’t want any family to go through what we had to, that’s why I’m a FLO. That’s why I’m passionate about the role of the FLO, and that’s why I do this job, despite how hard it is.


PC Sam Sparkes has been a police officer for 20 years. She has spent 10 years as a traffic officer, of which eight years have also been spent as a family liaison officer. She is also the family liaison officer co-ordinator for the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Hertfordshire Roads Policing Unit.

PC Jon Henry

35 thoughts on “The knock no-one wants

  1. Ange Poulton 12 June, 2015 / 4:02 pm

    We were in the sad position of being assigned an FLO last October, and he was the most amazing guy, sat and listened to us talk endlessly about our son who was killed on his motorbike. I don’t know whether the police did it on purpose but Matt our FLO was a biker too, and he just understood. He was so helpful, kind and caring, and we couldn’t praise his work enough. I know we were his job at the time, but he never made us feel like it was work to look after us.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Karl 12 June, 2015 / 5:47 pm

    One of the hardest jobs in the world, well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Muddy 12 June, 2015 / 6:18 pm

    What a brilliant Job you are doing out there. You leave your families on special days just to make sure we are ok, you loose you sleep to make sure we sleep in peace and trouble free. There are no words to describe you guys (police officers). THEY CALL US PEOPLE IN BLUE BUT THEY DONT UNDERSTAND WE HAVE A HEART JUST LIKE YOU.
    Good luck & we do appricate your hard work.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alan 12 June, 2015 / 6:23 pm

    I have just read Sam’s blog. This does not show the passion which Sam gives to the role. I have been lucky enough to hear Sam talk about the role in person. She is totally devoted to the job of FLO.


    I hope I never need your services, but I am also pleased they officers like you exist. Not a job I could do.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Steve Green 12 June, 2015 / 6:25 pm

    We had “the knock” when our 22 year old son was killed by a dangerous driver. The hardest news ever. We had a marvellous FLO from Cambs police. Our special thanks go to p.c.Freeland and to all FLOs who are doing the most difficult job in such a caring way.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. A Turner 12 June, 2015 / 6:28 pm

    Thank you for the difficult job you do

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Irene Craig 13 June, 2015 / 8:51 am

    Not a job many people would be able to do. I know of one recently that you may of had to do the same with. Thank you for all you do.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Paul 13 June, 2015 / 1:17 pm

    Yours is hardest role within Roads policing. As a fellow RPU officer I am eternally greatful to all the FLOw and the work you.

    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  9. wendy hooker 13 June, 2015 / 7:23 pm

    It was sad to read I will be sure never go bed on a argument my nan always said that I thinku r all brave having to do the job u do ddon’t know where this country be with out police well donex

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Margaret Chalmers 13 June, 2015 / 9:40 pm

    Total respect to all Officers, could never imagine how hard this job must be!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Andy goodfellow 14 June, 2015 / 2:02 am

    You do a very difficult job one that some could never do and I would personally like to thank you very much for your devotion thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  12. majoreasywalker 14 June, 2015 / 6:20 am

    FLO, must be one of the most difficult jobs in the police service to do. It takes courage, compassion and great self control. I take my hat off to you and all serving police officers.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ahmed Mughal Milton Keynes 14 June, 2015 / 8:27 am

    I have a lot of respect for our police. The job that to inform someone some had a fatal accident is daunting job.

    My salute you all bobbies sir and madam – you are also my protector when I have a problem in public or at home

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Tracey Snelling 14 June, 2015 / 10:45 am

    Beautifully written. Admire all that you do. So much respect. And would like to say thank you xx

    Liked by 1 person

  15. John 14 June, 2015 / 2:02 pm

    A heartwarming story one which could be told throughout the UK
    This WPC and all FLO’s deserve all the praise they receive for an outstanding job . Although retired from traffic division and the job I still keep in touch with my ex work mates
    What a pity that some of our politicians do not read this before they cut even more police from the front line

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Mel Young 14 June, 2015 / 7:47 pm

    Had dealings with Avon and someset flo 3 years ago, when my mum suddenly died, all I can say is they were so helpful, not pressuring or over fussing, just practical calm support, they did what was needed to inform me asap about incident to get me from Cornwall to bristol quickly. Great team and much appreciated

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Bob Abrahall 14 June, 2015 / 8:58 pm

    As a serving officer I had the knock in 1978 to say my 5 year old daughter had been drowned . I then knew just how others felt when I had to do the knock. Changed my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Steve Carmichael 14 June, 2015 / 11:10 pm

    As a roads policing / Traffic Officer fast approaching retirement I can honestly say that the role of FLO is going to be what I miss the most ! To see families at their lowest ebb when you deliver that most horrendous message come out of the other side is reward enough but to have them thank you for’ helping’ them is simply priceless !
    As others have already said on here, ours is not the knock anyone ever wants to hear but it is one that is given by an understanding, compassionate, fellow human being who just so happens to wear a uniform and we take on the role, which is voluntary, because we want to help make a difference.
    Keep up the good work guys n girls !

    Liked by 1 person

  19. lulija 16 June, 2015 / 10:02 am

    PC Sam Sparkes you are amazing and do a wonderful unsung job, as do all FLOs. Thank you to each and everyone one of you xxx

    This is why i never go to bed on an argument with my partner. We work different hours and he’s on the road a lot. I always, God forbid anything happened, want my last memories to be good ones xx

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Kieran McCausland 16 June, 2015 / 2:05 pm

    So many people are the first to criticise the police yet fail to realise just how difficult the job really is.
    I remember having to tell my wife that her father had died, God that was tough, trying to say the right words, in the end all I could do was to clumsily blurt it out !
    To do that awful task day in and day out, to support people through their darkest hours while remaining professional and compassionate at the same time, takes a very special person indeed! I can only salute you and your colleagues for undertaking such an emotionally draining task with professionalism and humanity – thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Paul Chopping 16 June, 2015 / 2:13 pm

    Met police accident investigator (retired) We had no training back in the early eighties, one aspect of the job senior officer found easy to delegate. I used to stand and stare at the front door for the courage to knock, thinking what to say and do. Probably the most difficult job in policing. FLO’s you have my utmost respect

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Joe price 16 June, 2015 / 2:48 pm

    Hi Bedfordshire police get a job police officer base at dunstable police station joe xx


  23. J Allen 16 June, 2015 / 8:21 pm

    We had the knock 20 years ago – not by an FLO but by a young Traffic Officer who was delivering his “first knock”. He was amazing, went beyond what was required back then and helped us through a devastating time. PC Wynette of Beds Police – thank you.


  24. Derek orchard 15 November, 2015 / 6:48 pm

    Sam . Having worked alongside you as a fire officer i can only give you my respect and admiration for what you have to do , some people say its a job but its more than than that , greatest respect cherry


  25. Kate -M- 9 December, 2017 / 6:27 pm

    I have just read your words on being an FLO. It has brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eyes.
    As a Mum of a serving Officer I know only too well the dangers they face and the abuse they receive. I just wish these people who have negative thoughts about Police Officers would understand they are Sons, Daughters, Dads, Mums, Brothers, Sisters. They have family and they are human beings protecting us the public. I say THANK YOU to you all for caring so much to do a job that means a lot to many people.


  26. Rita Davison 24 November, 2018 / 1:29 am

    An elderly cousin died as the result of a horrible RTA in another part of the country.and as one of only remaining family I have been appointed an officer to act as FLA as nobody was available at the time. He is a wonderful young man, keeps us fully updated as investigation goes on, showing kindness and sensitivity. Unusual circumstances meant we were not told of accident and death till two weeks later. The officer kept apologising for the delay and clearly felt bad but it was not his fault in any way. What a very difficult job these officers have to do.


  27. Carol Maycock 24 November, 2018 / 12:28 pm

    I don’t know how you cope but saying that I worked with children with the MET before I retired and you have to leave your feelings behind to be able to cope. I admire you a lot.


  28. Lynne 26 November, 2018 / 8:18 pm

    A difficult job xxx


  29. AlbWhite 1 May, 2019 / 7:07 pm

    I am sure you have a special place in the hearts of many people. A brave officer no doubt.


  30. Kate Murphy 25 June, 2019 / 12:31 pm

    Hi Sam, I have seen your posts a few times.
    I have total admiration for FLOs because they are not just Police Officers, they are the first point of call when there has been a death. It must be one of the hardest jobs in Policing
    You can see that the words in your blog come from the heart.
    I am the Mum of a serving Police Officer and I do worry when he is on duty, although he doesn’t live with me he has a fiancé who is also a Police Officer and they have a young child and I do worry because there is not the respect anymore, with numbers cut so drastically and many Officers single crewed. I have nothing but total respect and admiration for our Police Officers and the only thing I can say is:- THANK YOU ALL for putting on the uniform, making a difference and keeping us safe
    Thank you Sam


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