Missing persons

It is a traumatic experience when someone goes missing.  It is critical that you take immediate action, especially when the person could be in danger.

The definition of a missing person is:

  • Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established will be considered as missing until located and their well-being or otherwise confirmed

What to do if someone you know goes missing

Before calling the police, take the following steps to try to locate the missing person

  • Search their home or the place they were last seen, in case they are hiding or fallen and suffered injury. Remember that children can hide in small spaces
  • Look out for any notes or clues that may suggest where they may be.  Check diaries, social media or email messages
  • Check to see if they have left you a message on your phone voicemail or email
  • Contact family members, friends and the person’s place of work to verify that they are missing and not just somewhere unexpected.
  • Make a list of family/friends
  • Check places of significance to the person, i.e. parks where they may play, or gather with friends

How to report a missing person

You can report a missing person to us at any time.  You do not need to wait 24 hours before making a report.

Call us on 101, or 999 if the missing person is a child, or someone thought to be at serious risk or harm.

If there are reasons why speaking to us might be difficult for you, you can also report to Missing People on 116 000.

If you call us, we may ask you to provide the following about the missing person:

  • Full name and date of birth
  • A physical description, including what clothes and jewellery they were wearing (if known)
  • A recent photograph
  • When they were last seen and by whom
  • What their intentions were when last seen and whether they completed these (e.g. they left to go to work or visit a friend)
  • Contact details, mobile number, work address/number, social media accounts
  • Names, addresses and contact numbers of family members and their close friends
  • If the missing person is a child, provide contact details for the parents of their close friends
  • Any other relevant circumstances that may increase the risk to the person.  For example medical conditions and medication they may need or previous history of going missing, self-harming or being bullied

What happens once you have reported someone missing?

We will use the information that you supply to assess the level of risk that the person may be at while missing.  We will then consider all appropriate and necessary lines of enquiry. 

Typical lines of enquiry may include, for example:

  • Searching the home address of the missing person
  • Searching the area where they were last seen (if different to their home)
  • Checking with local hospitals
  • Checks mobile phones and computers used by the missing person
  • House to house enquiries
  • Reviewing CCTV footage
  • Co-ordinating media coverage to raise awareness and appeal for sightings
  • Specialist searches (for example, using helicopters, divers or dogs) for high risk cases in particular

If the missing person returns, please let us know.  We may wish to see them to confirm that they have returned and that are safe and well.

People with dementia or Alzheimers

The Herbert protocol is a national scheme which encourages carers and families to compile useful information which could be used in the event of a vulnerable person going missing.

The Herbert Protocol initiative is named after George Herbert, a war veteran of the Normandy landings, who lived with Dementia.

As a carer, family members or friend, you can complete the form in advance, recording all vital details, such as medication required, mobile numbers, places previously located, a photograph etc.  The form is kept in the home/care setting in a safe but prominent enough so the information can be easily accessed by police and other agencies.

This form could make a real difference. It could help reduce the amount of time a vulnerable person is missing, meaning the person can be returned to safety more quickly, potentially saving police officers valuable time.

You can download the form below

More help and support

Missing People
Missing People offer a wide range of confidential and specialist support for families of loved ones who are missing

Missing Persons Bureau

Lucie Blackman Trust
The Trust offers support to British nationals in crisis overseas

Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The FCO can offer support and assistance to British nationals abroad and can offer families advice and support if they have reported a person missing abroad

Related Documents & Further Reading

28 May 21 11:50 AM

Find your neighbourhood

Use my current location