Each year, more than , missing person reports are made to the police in the UK alone.
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The loss can have a profound emotional effect on the families left behind, but their experiences are relatively little understood. Their cases remain open for a year of more — and some for much longer. In the meantime, their friends and relatives must live with the uncertainty and hope of finding what happended to their loved ones, sometimes for many years.
In interviews with 12 relatives of missing people, they described going through different stages of guilt, regret and anger.
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For example, Sandra Flintoft, mother of Craig, who went missing in February said:. When Craig first went missing I was so worried and sad.
Where had I gone so wrong, what had I done to let him down so much … what more could or should I have to help him sort himself out? I felt sorry for myself … I was distraught with worry … I was angry with him. I wondered why he did not care that I was so unhappy. The emotional impact is significant.
They often fluctuate between hope and hopelessness.
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But all the time deep down I knew, something was terribly wrong and it was terrifying. In cases where a person is missing for a prolonged period, this process is described as ambiguous loss. There is no resolution or closure to enable a person to move on. This is further intensified by the person holding on to hope of a happy reunion with their loved one or even simply learning what had happened and why the person went missing in the first place.
Relatives also spoke about differing views or thinking within a family as to whether the missing person is alive or dead.
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Families may also face legal and financial problems following a disappearance. If a missing person does turn up — be it alive or dead — their families then encounter a whole new range of emotions.
Call There is no need to wait 24 hours. You lose valuable time during those 24 hours. Provide a photo and include a full description of the missing person, including if they have any distinguishing marks, such as scars or tattoos.
However, missing people who do not fall under these categories will not receive as much attention. This is because people over the age of 18 legally do not have to return home. Since , the Missing Persons Clearinghouse, housed within the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, works behind the scenes to help investigators and families find the missing.
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The Clearinghouse provides investigative support services that can often mean the difference between a case being solved or going cold. Read more. In all cases, the local precinct where the case is reported will handle a case first. If the missing person is not found within a few weeks, the precinct will hand off the case to the Missing Persons Squad, which will continue working on the case.
On special category cases, police will devote as many resources as possible to the search. Police can also turn to media publications or their own social media platforms to ask for help. Other agencies can also help.
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