Dealing With The Dead

In 55 days, she and her 11-member team of Police officers and pathologists have attended to 165 deaths, 141 of whom died from COVID-19.
27 Aug 2021 18:27
Dealing With The Dead
Superintendent of Police Margaret Marshall at Qauia Settlement in Lami on August 26, 2021. Photo: Leon Lord

When it comes to service beyond the thin blue line, none quite compares to that of Superintendent of Police Margaret Marshall and her team of forensic specialists.

She is the team leader forensics handling COVID-19 deaths in the Lami, Suva and Nausori containment zones.

SP Marshall is the Deputy Director Forensic Science Services at the Fiji Police Force and has a long history with the force having joined at the youthful age of 17. She is now 53 years old.

Her attention to detail, understanding, compassion and patience on the frontline when it comes to dealing with grieving families has been praised by Commissioner of Police Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho.

In 55 days, she and her 11-member team of Police officers and pathologists have attended to 165 deaths, 141 of whom died from COVID-19.

A lot to handle. Certainly.

But as SP Marshall will tell us, the job is not for the faint-hearted.

Whether it be in the early hours of the morning or very late at night, SP Marshall and her team are always on call.

“Every death at home is reported to Police,” she said.

“We collect and document all the medical history that is presented to us and if it’s on tablets we collect all that. Unfortunately, most of the bodies that we had processed so far were never fully vaccinated.

“If there was a suspicious matter around it, I would call for a post-mortem.

“For everyone that we have attended to us do a swab test.”



She said one thing she has always ensured was to provide the family of the deceased with the answers.

“We know that people get emotional, they utter things out of the way, but we understand that because losing a loved one is not easy,” SP Marshall said.

“We prepare to be yelled at and chased out of the house. We know the situation and we understand.

“We have been fully vaccinated and we see how effective it has been on us.”



SP Marshall added that dealing with something like COVID-19 meant putting their lives on the line.

“I am a cancer survivor, I have always told my team that I should be the sickliest person, but I have handled 165 bodies in 55 days and I am still very well and healthy,” she said.

“I am thankful to my team, when I called each of them, no one was hesitant.

“Our biggest challenge was, what if we infected our own families?”

She added that the team were always looked after and would always go through team debrief with a psychiatrist at the end of operations.



Commissioner of Police Brigadier-General Qiliho said he was proud of what SP Marshall and her team were doing at the peak of things.

“I knew that when I was still studying in the UK, and I would call her up to encourage her and thank her for the work they were doing.

“It’s something that has put a lot of personal stress on them. I used to call them even in the middle of the night and they were still there working and she would have to pull herself out to chat with me and go back in.

“I commend Margaret and her team from the Forensic Unit for what they have been doing which a lot of people do not understand, the stress on their families, being away from their families for a long period of time and going into the isolation period as well. I take my hat off to her and the team.”



Two pathologists – Dr James Kalounivaki and Dr Sainiana Ratuki;

Full time female driver Sergeant Patricia Liga.

Police officers – Joeli Kalou, Isireli Raseisei, Asodha Kumar, Vodonakadavu Naqaravatu, Serupepeli Rovia, Tukana Mate, Gabrielle Nausu and Metthewsela Momolevu.




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