What to do if someone goes missing?


It is a traumatic experience when a person goes missing. Fortunately, most people return or are found within 48 hours. However, sometimes this is not the case. 

When should I report a person missing?

You should report a missing person to the police if:

  • The person is a child
  • The person is a vulnerable adult 
  • The person has been detained (sectioned) under the Mental Health Act or are legally in the care of another person
  • You are concerned for the person’s safety

What you should do.

The police ask parents and carers, including staff acting in a parenting role in care homes, to undertake reasonable actions to try and establish the whereabouts of the individual.

This could include, but is not limited to;

  • Attempts to contact the child or adult.
  • Calling friends or family.
  • Visiting areas that the child or adult is known to frequent.
  • Visiting the place where the child or adult was known to be attending (i.e. a friend's house or party).
  • Checking to see if any items are missing from the home.
  • Checking social media.

Experience has shown that these initial enquiries yield additional information that helps narrow down any police search. In several cases it has resulted in the early return of the missing person and in some cases it has resulted in there being no additional police involvement as the misper is located before a full missing person search begins.

Please note: Some police procedure...

Children who are breaching parental discipline should not be dealt with by police unless there are other risks. For example, a child who is late home from a party should not be regarded as missing until the parent or carer has undertaken enquiries to locate the child. Once those enquiries have been completed, it may be appropriate to record the child as missing.

Parents or carers may need police support if they are very distressed, incapacitated or otherwise unable to undertake enquiries. In such circumstances, it may be appropriate to make a referral to the local authority so that the standard of care for the missing person can be reviewed.

Individuals whose whereabouts are known will not be considered as missing, but may require other police activity in order to ensure their welfare. The police will consult their local public protection procedures to ensure an appropriate safeguarding response is provided. This includes children in care who are deemed to be 'absent without authorisation'

How do I report a person missing?

You can report a person missing in the following ways:

  • Call 999, if the missing person is a vulnerable adult or a child, or you believe them to be in danger, or
  • Call 101
  • Go to your local police station

What happens when I report a person missing to the police?

We will ask you to provide as many details as possible to enable us to find the missing person quickly.
This could include:

  • Personal details: Name, date of birth
  • Appearance including any distinguishing marks
  • Contact details such as mobile phone number
  • Medical conditions and whether or not these require medication
  • Circumstances under which they went missing
  • Details of friends and relatives
  • Details of places they often visit

We will use this information to determine the level of risk the missing person is at and what the police response should be. The information you give us will also be put onto the Police National Computer and circulated to all police forces. Initial inquiries will be made to try to find the missing person. If they are not found the investigation is passed to a nominated officer who will deal with all further enquiries.

People missing abroad (from gov.uk site)

If someone goes missing abroad you should contact:

  • 101 - and we will contact the police force in the relevant country (through Interpol)
  • the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 020 7008 1500 (ask for ‘Consular Protection’)
  • You can also contact the charity Missing Abroad.

What do I do if I have information about a missing person?

If you see a missing person, contact the police immediately. If you want to remain anonymous, you can call or text Missing People on Freephone 116 000 or email 116000 to report a sighting.

Hiblio TV - 'Missing people' with Devon and Cornwall Police

To watch the broadcast that went out on the 25 September 2015 select the white triangle play symbol.


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