A coroner is a public officer responsible for identifying the cause of death when an individual dies unexpectedly or violently. Typically, a coroner investigates deaths when there is reason to suspect the death might not have been the result of natural causes.
The office of the coroner has existed since 1194. Early coroners played an important role for the government by investigating suspected suicides, because at the time, under English law, suicide was a crime and the punishment was forfeiture of the deceased property to the government, rather than passing it on as inheritance.
Over time, the role of the coroner evolved, with greater focus placed on the investigation of untimely deaths that might instead have been murders.