North East Connected

Charity offers a ‘guiding light’ to help families deal with inquests


A NORTH EAST charity has launched a new campaign aimed at helping grieving families through the “daunting” inquest process.

The Headlight Project helps those who have lost a loved one to suicide. It was launched by Catherine Devereux after her beloved husband, Russ, tragically took his own life in 2018.

Now, the Stockton-based charity has created a series of videos designed to inform people about the process and purpose of an inquest, which is staged following a sudden or unexplained death.

The charity’s project lead, Katie Devereux, said the prospect of attending an inquest following a tragic death often causes “significant stress and anxiety” which can hinder the grieving process.

As such, the Guiding Light campaign aims to act as a helping hand to set expectations – and to make the experience that bit easier.

“An inquest is something nobody ever expects or wants to be part of,” said Katie, who is also a Headlight Project counsellor.

“Families are understandably worried about what information will emerge and it can often trigger the raw initial grief felt in the immediate aftermath of that person’s death.

“The inquest itself is undoubtedly one of the main worries that is flagged by our clients. That’s why we were determined to create a well-informed resource that opens up the inquest process and helps people prepare for what they can and can’t expect.

Approximately one in three registered deaths are investigated by a coroner, although not all result in an inquest.

However, the latest Government data shows inquests are on the rise – with almost 33,000 more staged last year compared to the previous 12 months.

Additionally, the North East has the highest suicide rate in the UK, a grim title it has consistently held for many years.

As such, The Headlight Project was determined to use experts with first-hand experience of inquests for the Guiding Light series.

Both Alistair Smith, a solicitor for the local law firm Watson Woodhouse, and senior coroner for Teesside, Clare Bailey, were interviewed for the series – offering an insider perspective on just what exactly will happen on the day.

Having spent a decade overseeing inquests, Clare shares factual information on what an inquest is and how it operates, while Alistair explains what to expect for the families involved.

He was full of praise for the Guiding Light project, adding: “The Headlight Project is a fantastic charity helping those who have lost a loved one through suicide.

“We know of those who have received help and they have nothing but praise for all involved at the project.

“We are honoured to have been asked to assist in just a small way and look forward to working with them in the future.”

Launched with the aim of reducing the number of suicides in the area, the Headlight Project has gone on to win a series of awards for its services to the community and mental health.

Now Katie hopes that the video series can act as a companion to help people during their darkest hours.

“The idea to create this as a video was that, whenever anxiety crept in, it was there to watch and to help remove some of that stress,” said Katie.

“We would like to thank Clare and Alistair for their invaluable contribution to the series, and we hope that these videos can alleviate some worry and anxiety in relation to the inquest process so that people can focus on processing their grief.”

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