ArticlePDF Available

Missing Persons: Incidence, Issues and Impacts

Authors:

Abstract

ISBN 0642 24145 7 Each year, around 30,000 people are reported missing in Australia—one person every 18 minutes. The 30,000 people exceed the total number of victims, reported to police for homicide, sexual assault, and unarmed robbery combined. Nation-ally, the rate of missing people reported to the police is 1.55 per thousand, and it varies considerably around Australia with South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory have rates double the national average. Children and young people having rates three times those of adults. Fortunately, nearly all are found, and 86 per cent are located within one week. The social and economic impacts on families, friends, and the community as a whole are profound. It is estimated that each missing person costs the community about $2,360—in search costs, loss of earnings while family members look, and health and legal costs. For 30,000 people, this adds to over $70 million per year. Relatively little is known about the reasons people go missing, the character-istics of missing persons, and the impact of their disappearance on the commu-nity. In 1998, the National Missing Persons Unit (NMPU) at the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence commissioned an independent study to address this information gap and to identify service delivery needs for those affected by the phenomenon of missing persons. This paper summarises that report. Adam Graycar Director T he study was based on various sources of information. These included an analysis of missing person statistics provided by Australian police and by three non-government tracing organisations—the Salvation Army, Australian Red Cross, and International Social Service (Australia) over a three-year period. A detailed analysis was carried out on 505 missing person police reports, representing all missing persons reported to Australian police during a single week at the mid-point of the three-year period. A national survey of families and friends of 270 people reported missing to police was conducted, using an in-depth structured telephone interview. Consultations were held with over 90 organisations with an interest in missing person issues. The study also included an assessment of the economic and social costs of missing people in the Australian community.
No. 144
Missing Persons:
Incidence, Issues and
Impacts
Monika Henderson, Peter Henderson and Carol
Kiernan
A U S T R A L I A N I N S T I T U T E
O F C R I M I N O L O G Y
t r e n d s
&
i s s u e s
in crime and criminal justice
Australian Institute
of Criminology
GPO Box 2944
Canberra ACT 2601
Australia
Tel: 02 6260 9221
Fax: 02 6260 9201
For a complete list and the full text of the
papers in the Trends and Issues in
Crime and Criminal Justice series, visit
the AIC web site at:
http://www.aic.gov.au
January 2000
ISSN 0817-8542
ISBN 0642 24145 7
Each year, around 30,000 people are reported missing in Australia—one person
every 18 minutes. The 30,000 people exceed the total number of victims, reported
to police for homicide, sexual assault, and unarmed robbery combined. Nation-
ally, the rate of missing people reported to the police is 1.55 per thousand, and it
varies considerably around Australia with South Australia and the Australian
Capital Territory have rates double the national average. Children and young
people having rates three times those of adults.
Fortunately, nearly all are found, and 86 per cent are located within one
week. The social and economic impacts on families, friends, and the
community as a whole are profound.
It is estimated that each missing person costs the community about
$2,360—in search costs, loss of earnings while family members look, and health
and legal costs. For 30,000 people, this adds to over $70 million per year.
Relatively little is known about the reasons people go missing, the character-
istics of missing persons, and the impact of their disappearance on the commu-
nity. In 1998, the National Missing Persons Unit (NMPU) at the Australian
Bureau of Criminal Intelligence commissioned an independent study to address
this information gap and to identify service delivery needs for those affected by
the phenomenon of missing persons. This paper summarises that report.
Adam Graycar
Director
The study was based on various sources of information. These
included an analysis of missing person statistics provided by
Australian police and by three non-government tracing
organisations—the Salvation Army, Australian Red Cross, and
International Social Service (Australia) over a three-year period. A
detailed analysis was carried out on 505 missing person police
reports, representing all missing persons reported to Australian
police during a single week at the mid-point of the three-year
period. A national survey of families and friends of 270 people
reported missing to police was conducted, using an in-depth
structured telephone interview. Consultations were held with over
90 organisations with an interest in missing person issues. The study
also included an assessment of the economic and social costs of
missing people in the Australian community.
Incidence
Unfortunately, statistics on the incidence of missing persons
reported to police across Australia are not routinely compiled, and
there is no reliable national trend information available. The rate of
missing persons reported to police over the study period 1995-97
was constant at 1.55 per 1,000 people in the general population each
year, but varied between jurisdictions and according to age and
Australian Institute of Criminology
2
gender (see Table 1). In 1997,
children and young persons were
reported missing at a rate over
three times higher than adults.
Adult females showed lower
rates than adult males, while
female children and young
persons showed higher rates than
their male counterparts. In 1997,
the rates of missing persons in
South Australia and Australian
Capital Territory were well above
the national average, but this was
interpreted as a function of
different reporting practices in
those two jurisdictions (such as
taking reports by telephone)
rather than to real jurisdictional
differences in susceptibility of
people going missing.
Including missing persons
reported to the three non-govern-
ment tracing organisations, the
rate of missing persons is 1.61 per
1,000 people. In comparison, the
rate of road traffic accident
deaths in 1995 was 0.1 per 1,000
people and non-fatal road traffic
accidents requiring hospitalisa-
tion was 1.2 per 1,000 people. The
suicide rate was 0.1 per 1,000
people and other crimes, such as
robbery and sexual assault, were
reported to police at a rate of 0.9
per 1,000 people and 0.7 per 1,000
people respectively in 1995
(Australian Bureau of Statistics
figures, cited in Mukherjee and
Graycar 1997). The incidence of
missing persons is at least as high
as that of other issues that gener-
ate far more media attention and
public interest.
Characteristics of Missing People
Missing person reports to police
include a significant proportion
of people reported missing from
an institution of some kind, such
as a psychiatric or general hospi-
tal, supported accommodation
for the aged or intellectually
disabled, or youth supervised
care or detention facility (but
exclude escapes from prisons or
adult correctional facilities). A
national estimate of people going
missing from these non-correc-
tional institutions was calculated
from a one-week sample of all
missing person reports received
Table 1: Rates of Missing Persons Reported to Australian Police Services in 1997 (per 1,000 People)
by police over a one-week period
in 1996, and found to be 32 per
cent of all reported missing
person cases.
The remaining two-thirds of
missing people are generally
reported missing by families or
friends. The national survey
provided more detailed informa-
tion about the characteristics of
this group than was routinely
available in police reports (see
Table 2).
Compared to the general
population, people reported
missing to police were more
likely to be born in Australia and
less likely to be living in a rural
area, and adult missing persons
were somewhat more likely to be
unemployed.
Families or friends of the
missing persons attributed one or
more of a range of “special
needs” to the missing person in
46 per cent of cases in the survey.
Table 2: Socio-demographic Characteristics of Missing Persons Based on National Survey
Percentage
Gender Male 49
Female 51
Total 100
Age 10 and Under 5
11 to 17 62
18 to 25 13
26 to 40 8
41 to 60 8
Over 60 5
Total 101
Country of Birth Australia 86
Other English-speaking Country 10
Non-English-speaking Country 4
Total 100
Labour Force Status Currently Employed 19
Unemployed 11
Full-time Student 60
Not Employed—Other Reason 10
Total 100
Marital Status Never Married 87
Married or Defacto Relationship 9
Divorced or Separated 3
Widowed 1
Total 100
Where Living City or its Suburbs 78
Rural Town 15
Country 7
Total 100
Lived in Own Home (Alone or Shared) 18
Lived in Parental Home 66
Lived with other Non-spouse Relative 8
Other 8
Total 100
All Persons Adult Males Adult Females Male Children
and Young
Persons
Female Children
and Young
Persons
NSW 1.18 0.96 0.61 1.77 2.63
Vic 1.51 0.94 0.60 3.60 4.23
Qld 1.52 1.15 0.77 2.71 3.60
WA 1.67 1.17 0.94 3.47 3.65
SA 3.20 2.46 1.36 8.33 6.21
Tas 0.46 0.38 0.28 0.63 1.15
ACT 3.55 2.26 1.31 8.93 8.21
NT 1.04 0.83 0.60 1.69 1.82
Australia 1.55 1.14 0.73 3.15 3.62
3
Australian Institute of Criminology
The most common were some
form of physical health problem,
ranging from mild asthma to
insulin-dependent diabetes, and
mental health concerns,
particularly depression and
age-related disorders such as
Alzheimer’s disease.
Missing people often showed
a history of repeat incidents. In
the survey, 34 per cent of missing
persons had gone missing before
the episode under review. In
about one-third of those cases,
there was only one previous
incident, but others involved
regular occurrences, up to almost
monthly disappearances over a
four-year period. A higher
proportion (38%) of relevant
cases had gone missing within
the 18-24 months following the
incident that identified them for
inclusion in the survey. Half of all
cases (50%) had either gone
missing before or after the
incident, or both. In most cases,
these incidents were not reported
to police.
Percentage
Place Last Seen Own Home 54
Other Persons Home 6
School or Travel to/from School 14
A Public Place (including public transport) 9
Other 7
Not Known/Not Stated 10
Total 100
Time of Day Last Seen Morning (6-11am) 23
Afternoon (12-5pm) 18
Evening (6-11pm) 20
Night (midnight-5am) 2
Daytime (exact time not known) 10
Night-time (exact time not known) 3
Not Known/Not Stated 24
Total 100
Day of Week Last Seen Saturday or Sunday 20
Friday 20
Other Weekday 43
Not Known/Not Stated 17
Total 100
Relationship of Person Parent 72
Making Report Spouse 4
Other Relative 18
Other Person 3
Not Known/Not Stated 3
Total 100
Missing in Company Went Missing in Company with Another
Person 16
Total 16
Table 3: Circumstances of the Missing Person Incident Based on National Survey
Circumstances of the Missing
Person Incident
The national survey provided an
opportunity to explore the
circumstances surrounding the
incident for a representative
sample of people reported miss-
ing to police (but excluding those
reported missing from an
institution), see Table 3.
In the majority of cases, the
missing person was last seen at
home during the daytime hours,
with the most common day of
week being Friday.
Reason/Explanation for
Going Missing
The survey asked families and
friends why they believed, at the
time, the person went missing,
and what explanation was given
for the disappearance when the
missing person was located. The
responses were content analysed,
then grouped into four discrete
categories, and classed into a
miscellaneous “other” group, a
“non-specific” group where there
was not enough information to
discriminate between categories,
and “none given/not known”
group (see Table 4).
The most common reason
families and friends believed at
the time to be the reason for
going missing, and the most
common explanation given
afterwards, was conflict about
authority, rules, or independent
behaviour. At the time the person
went missing, there were often
fears about safety, but the expla-
nation given after being located
rarely supported those concerns,
and often fell into the “uninten-
tional” category.
Category Reason
Believed
(percentage)
Explanation
Given
(percentage)
Independence/Rebellion (for example, rebellion against parental
authority, wanting to be independent, responding to peer pressure,
conflict over family rules)
21 24
Safety Concerns (for example, suicide, abduction, accident, or non-
specific concerns over self-harm or harm by others) 19 1
Unintentional (for example, confusion over times/arrangements to
meet, wandering/lost because of dementia, forgetting to advise
others of a planned absence)
622
Escaping Adverse consequences (for example, to avoid adverse
consequences such as financial difficulties, threat of violence,
parental discipline for specific infraction)
11 12
Other 11 14
Non-specific 15 8
None Given/Not Known 17 19
Total 100 100
Table 4: Reasons Believed and Explanations Given for Persons Going Missing Based on Survey
Australian Institute of Criminology
4
Outcomes of Reported Missing
Person Incidents
The location rates for all people
reported missing to police, based
on annual statistics recorded by
police missing person units, were
uniformly high across the three-
year period 1995-97 and across
jurisdictions, falling above 95.5
per cent in all cases, and usually
above 99 per cent. Only two
people reported missing to police
over the one-week sample of
missing person reports in 1996
(excluding persons missing from
institutions) were still missing in
early 1998. In the survey, only
two people were still listed as
missing at the time of interview,
some 18-24 months later. This
calculates to a 99.4 per cent and
99.3 per cent location rate respec-
tively.
The missing person was
located quickly in the majority of
cases (usually within the first two
days), most commonly spending
the time while missing at a
friend’s home or with friends.
The missing person was generally
located because he or she
returned home, or made contact,
or was found by family and
friends rather than by police (see
Table 5).
Impacts on the Australian
Community
The survey asked a series of
structured questions to identify
the extent of impact in five
specific areas—health, work,
emotions, quality of life, and
relationships (including the
number of persons affected and
the extent of the impact), see
Table 6. The extent of impact was
rated by the interviewer based on
respondents’ responses to a
specific question on how severe
they considered the impact was
in each area. To receive a rating of
major impact, the respondent’s
assessment needed to be
supported by confirmatory
evidence. This included number
of days lost from work in the case
of employment impacts, or visits
to the doctor in the case of health
impacts. Concrete examples of
life changes were needed to
support a rating of major quality
of life impact (for example,
elderly grandparents taking up
permanent responsibility for a
handicapped grandchild after the
mother went missing, or
structured recreational activities
ceased for an extended period).
Major emotional impacts were
assessed on the basis of respon-
dents’ assessments only, and
relationship impacts were not
rated according to severity of
impact.
Survey respondents also
identified impacts in other areas.
These included direct financial
impacts, difficulties in maintain-
ing or disposing of property
belonging to the missing person,
and education impacts such as
extensive time off school and
poor examination performance.
Families and friends (and in
some cases the missing persons
themselves) suffer significant
health, work, quality of life,
Percentage
When Located On Same Day as Reported Missing 35
On Next Day After Report 27
2 Days to One Week After Report 24
8 to 31 Days After Report 7
Over 1 Month After Report 6
Not Located 1
Total 100
How Located Missing Person Returned/Made Contact 42
Located By Police 18
Located By Family/Friend Search Action 33
Other 6
Total 99
Where Located At Friends Home or With Friends 47
Other Home 10
Public Place (For Example, On Street, Beach, and Train) 20
Other (For Example, Refuge, Own Car, and Hotel) 19
Not Known/Not Stated 4
Total 100
Table 5: Circumstances of Location, Based on National Survey
emotional, relationship,
economic, and other impacts
associated with the missing
person incident. For every case of
a missing person, an average of at
least 12 other people are affected
in some way. Based on the annual
number of reported missing
person cases, a very conservative
estimate of the number of people
affected each year is over
one-third of a million. For some
of these people, the impact is
ongoing for years and even
decades.
The economic cost to the
Australian community was
estimated using a range of infor-
mation sources. Full details of the
methodology applied and the
sources used are provided in
Henderson and Henderson
(1998). Unit cost was calculated
per missing person incident by
apportioning estimated costs in
each category across the missing
person population, using the
national survey as a basis for
determining the distribution of
Table 6: Percentage of Survey Respondents Reporting Impact in Five Areas
Health Work Quality of
Life Emotional Relationship
ANY IMPACT
Percentage of Cases 37 49 94 99 58
Total Persons Affected 145 229 1647 3116 -
Average no. Persons Affected
Per Case 0.5 0.9 6.1 11.5 -
MAJOR IMPACT
Percentage of Cases 22 21 43 73 -
Total Persons Affected 77 92 364 668 -
Average no. Persons Affected
Per Case 0.3 0.3 1.3 2.5 -
5
Australian Institute of Criminology
cases in those instances where the
cost estimate was relevant to only
a proportion of cases (for exam-
ple, Australians missing overseas
or loss of earnings for days lost
off work). This is a conservative
calculation as various cost com-
ponents could not be reliably
estimated from the information
sources available.
Overall, the estimated eco-
nomic cost of locating missing
people and the associated imme-
diate health and employment-
related costs are estimated at a
minimum of $2,360 for every
missing person reported to police
(see Table 7). Using a similar basis
for calculating costs associated
with missing people reported to
the three non-government tracing
organisations, a figure of $1,851 is
spent on every case. Extrapolat-
ing the 1997 missing person
population (both police and
tracing organisation clients), an
estimate of over $72 million is
spent in the Australian commu-
nity (at 1997 dollars), without
taking into account the long-term
impact on families and friends of
the missing person. For example,
including an estimate of the cost
of lost lifetime earnings from
missed education by missing
persons reported to police adds
another $19 million.
Service Effectiveness
The national survey asked a
series of questions about satisfac-
tion with the services provided
by police and any other agencies
associated with locating the
missing person, as well as experi-
ences with services providing
support to the families and
friends of missing people.
Most people reported they
were satisfied with the service
provided by police at each of
three stages—initial reporting,
investigation, and outcome
advice/follow-up stage (83%,
73%, and 71% of relevant cases
respectively). Specific areas for
improvement most commonly
identified were perceived delays
before taking action (in particular,
there was a misconception that
police policy required a 24-hour
wait before a missing person
report could be made) and more
contact and feedback to families.
A sympathetic and understand-
ing approach at the time of taking
the initial report was the most
commonly identified positive
feature. Existing support services
were not used by a large propor-
tion of people, most often because
people “did not feel the need”,
but there was strong support for
the establishment of a specialised
missing person support service.
However, the sorts of services
people considered it should
provide varied and included
direct search assistance,
emotional and practical support,
information provision, and
support after the missing person
was located.
Areas of Need
Information from the national
survey, interviews with other
families and friends of missing
people, consultation with govern-
Table 7: Estimated Costs per Missing Person Incident Reported to Police (at 1997 dollars)
Estimated Cost
Per Case ($)
LOCATION COSTS
Police Location Costs 351.00
National Missing Person Unit Costs 6.49
Search Costs Directly Incurred by Families and Friends 128.15
Other Agency Search Costs in Assisting Police 401.05
Additional Costs of Australians Missing Overseas 2.11
Search Costs by Departments with Specific Client Responsibilities not costed
Costs of Inquiries into Agency Records not costed
Business and Community Contributions not costed
Costs of Return of the Missing Person When Located not costed
Media and Publicity Costs not costed
EMPLOYMENT RELATED COSTS
Loss of Earnings for Time Off Work or Business 272.05
Industry and Public Sector Costs of Lost Work Days 425.23
Productivity Loss Through Impaired Work Performance 13.20
Costs Associated with Loss or Change of Employment 44.02
Lifetime Earnings Lost Through Missed Education 654.33
Costs of Government Benefits and Revenue Loss not costed
Lost Opportunity Costs by Organisations Assisting with Searches not costed
HEALTH COSTS
Medical Services (Consultation, Hospitalisation, Prescriptions) 235.92
Costs of Counselling Services 16.87
Pain and Suffering not costed
Ongoing Health Vulnerability not costed
SUPPORT TO MISSING PERSON WHILE MISSING
Supported Accommodation and Services 25.00
Advisory and Other Services for Missing Persons not costed
Government Allowances and Benefits not costed
PREVENTION, ADVOCACY AND POLICY FUNCTIONS
Policy and Other Involvement by Non-core organisations not costed
Client Advice and Support from Non-core Agencies not costed
Specific Prevention Initiatives by non-core Agencies not costed
Sponsorship and Promotion Initiatives by Non-core Agencies not costed
OTHER DIRECT COSTS TO FAMILIES/FRIENDS
Legal Costs 160.70
Other Direct Costs 277.78
OTHER COSTS
Relationship and Quality of Life Impacts not costed
Crime Costs not costed
Fear of Crime Impacts from Media Coverage of Some Cases not costed
Generational Costs (for example, Impacts on Children of Missing
People) not costed
Australian Institute of Criminology
6
General Editor, Trends and Issues in
Crime and Criminal Justice series:
Dr Adam Graycar, Director
Australian Institute of Criminology
GPO Box 2944
Canberra ACT 2601 Australia
Note: Trends and Issues in Crime and
Criminal Justice are refereed papers.
ment and non-government
agencies and community groups,
and from national and interna-
tional research, point to a number
of areas for action. The need for
effective support services for
families and friends of missing
persons was the single issue
raised most consistently in the
survey and interviews. The type
of support identified varied from
acute emotional crisis support to
specialised support specific to the
needs of families and friends of
long-term missing cases. Two
issues in relation to police policy
and practice were commonly
raised as areas for improvement.
These were perceived delays in
taking action when the missing
person was first reported and
contact with families and friends
to provide feedback on what is
occurring after the report has
been made. Access to government
information to assist in tracing
missing people was also an
important issue, particularly in
tracing long-term missing cases.
Overall, families and friends
of missing persons were generally
satisfied with the services
provided in locating the missing
person. The most significant
unmet need was for both immedi-
ate and long-term support for
families. Priority areas identified
in the study to address that need
were the provision of information
and practical advice to assist
families and friends in searching,
specialised training in unresolved
grief counselling, and missing
person support needs for existing
agencies especially training in
missing person issues for
telephone counselling service
providers, promoting under-
standing of missing person issues
among special need support
groups, and establishment of
specialised self-help groups for
families of long-term missing
persons. These are priority areas
for the National Missing Persons
Unit (NMPU).
The Policy Response
The study concluded that a
national approach to missing
people is critical. The NMPU
provides a national coordination
function as well as support to
State and Territory police services
in locating long-term missing
person cases. Education and
public awareness strategies
provide a better level of under-
standing about missing person
issues in the community as well
as helping to locate specific cases.
Through the work of missing
person agencies and groups, the
particular needs of those people
affected by the phenomenon of
missing person are being
increasingly recognised and
addressed. However, there is still
a lot that needs to be done. For
example, little is known about
effective prevention strategies, in
both an Australian and an inter-
national context.
Although a number of inno-
vative prevention and “conse-
quence-minimisation” strategies
were identified through consulta-
tion with community and govern-
ment organisations, there is
generally little information
available about their operation or
effectiveness. There is a critical
need for monitoring, research,
and evaluation to determine what
works for whom and under what
circumstances in preventing
missing person incidents, and in
minimising the impacts and
consequences of someone going
missing. Fruitful areas to explore
include research on repeat
incidents, the links between
homelessness and missing
persons, and the effectiveness of
education and awareness raising
programs. Finding ways to
reduce, or preferably to avoid, the
social and economic costs associ-
ated with missing people needs
to be addressed by the commu-
nity, government, non-govern-
Monika Henderson
and Peter Henderson
are consultants at M.& P.
Henderson & Associates.
Carol Kiernan is the National
Coordinator of the National
Missing Persons Unit,
Australian Bureau of Criminal
Intelligence.
ment organisations, the business
sector, media, and missing per-
sons themselves.
References
Henderson, M. and Henderson, P.
1998, Missing People: Issues for the
Australian Community, Common-
wealth of Australia, Canberra,
also available at
www.missingpersons.info.au
Mukherjee, S. and Graycar, A. 1997,
Crime and Justice in Australia,
Hawkins Press, Sydney.
... Another study conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology revealed that it cost the Australian society on average $AU2,360 per missing person case in search costs and associated immediate loss of earnings, health and legal costs. Multiplying this by the number of missing persons cases a year -30,000, gives an estimate of over $AU70 million per year (Henderson, Henderson, & Kiernan 2000). Unlike previous studies, this research took into consideration families and friends of the missing persons and the costs that they incur. ...
... There are a lot of common reasons for people going missing. Examples can be rebellion against parental authority, wandering off because of dementia, forgetting to notify others of a planned absence and escaping financial difficulties (Henderson et al. 2000). It is important to understand the difference when analyzing the issue of MMIWG. ...
... The impact of the issue on this population is tremendous, but it is hidden from the spotlight and is therefore underestimated. Henderson (2000) suggests that for every case of a missing person, for example, an average of at least 12 other people are affected in one way or another. As for homicide, Holmes (2004) estimates that there are on average 10 people who are directly affected. ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
This study is a preliminary estimate of the cost of doing nothing to prevent many Indigenous women and girls from going missing and being murdered. It gives an insight into the emotional journeys of the families left behind. It also assesses the current financial cost of dealing with this tragedy based on calculations drawn from the literature and estimates of the number of MMIWG in Manitoba.
... Proposed typologies (Biehal et al., 2003;Bonny, Almond, & Woolnough, 2016;Henderson, Henderson, & Kiernan, 2000;Payne, 1995) comprising three to five main categories are all, at face value, parsimonious. Payne's (1995) five-category typology included runaways who made an impulsive decision to leave. ...
... Henderson et al. (2000) and Bonny et al. (2016) both posited an escape category covering similar ground; however, in the former case, escape could be from financial problems in addition to physical danger. Payne's (1995) takeaways were missing due to abduction, also categorised as forced (Biehal et al., 2003), and as safety concerns (Henderson et al., 2000). Fallaways (Payne, 1995) had simply lost contact with their family or social network; a similar group was labelled drifters (Biehal et al., 2003) and Henderson et al. (2000) identified an unintentional missing group comprising people who go missing due to dementia or other mental health concerns. ...
... Payne's (1995) takeaways were missing due to abduction, also categorised as forced (Biehal et al., 2003), and as safety concerns (Henderson et al., 2000). Fallaways (Payne, 1995) had simply lost contact with their family or social network; a similar group was labelled drifters (Biehal et al., 2003) and Henderson et al. (2000) identified an unintentional missing group comprising people who go missing due to dementia or other mental health concerns. Bonny et al.'s (2016) miscommunication category addressed unintentional absence from a different perspective; this group was characterised by people who had simply failed to let others know they were going away. ...
Article
Missing persons incidents incur considerable societal costs but research has overwhelmingly concentrated on missing children. Understanding of the phenomenon among adults is underdeveloped as a result. We conducted an evolutionary concept analysis of the ‘missing person’ in relation to adults. Evolutionary Concept Analysis provides a structured narrative review methodology which aims to clarify how a poorly defined phenomena have been discussed in the professional/academic literature in order to promote conceptual clarity and provide building blocks for future theoretical development. A systematic literature search identified k = 73 relevant papers from which surrogate terms for, and antecedents, consequences and attributes of the occurrence of adult missing persons were extracted and analysed. The core attributes of the adult missing person are: (i) actual or perceived unexpected or unwanted absence accompanied by an absence of information; and (ii) a potential adverse risk outcome as perceived by those left behind. The centrality of mental ill-health in actual adult missing persons cases is not reflected in theoretical development which largely comprises descriptive typologies of variable quality and questionable utility. There is a clear need to shift research emphasis towards clinical and psychological domains of inquiry in order to further advance the field of adult missing persons research.
... Using data from UK Charitable Organisations, Biehal et al. (2003) re-considered the disappearance as a "missing continuum" which ranged from intentional to unintentional absences and differentiated four types: "decided to leave," "drifted," "unintentionally absent," and "forced to leave." In Australia, Henderson, Henderson, and Kiernan (2000) used police data to identify three typologies: "those who leave to obtain independence or as a form of rebellion," "those that disappear due to adverse consequences," and "those that are lost involuntarily due to miscommunication or an accident." Similarly, in Spain, the National Centre of Missing Persons classifies cases into three groups based on law enforcement experience: "intentional," "unintentional," and "forced." ...
... In this theme, cases are classified as unintentional because they have arisen as a result of a miscommunication or an accident rather than a conscious decision (Henderson et al., 2000). This may encompass a situation in which the status of being a 'missing person' arises due to confusion over meeting at an expected time/on an expected day. ...
Article
The high number of missing person reports that occur globally each year highlights the need for research in this academically neglected field. This research focuses on establishing whether there are different scenarios or behavioural themes that consistently appear in missing person cases in Spain, which could assist the police investigation process. A representative sample of 341 missing person police reports was collated and up to 27 behaviours , which occur during the disappearance, have been codified, as well as circumstances surrounding the case. Through multidimensional scaling four behav-ioural themes have been identified: intentional-escape, intentional-dysfunctional, unintentional-accidental, and forced-criminal. These findings entail implications, both in terms of prevention and in the scope of police investigations. Specifically, this research is considered a key step in the development of: (a) a predictive risk assessment system for harmed or deceased outcomes, and (b) in-depth review of forced-criminal disappearances that concur with homicide. K E Y W O R D S behavioural themes, missing persons, multidimensional scaling, typology
... As an example, consider the incidence rate of persons reported as missing to the Australian police. This rate (1.55 per 1,000 yearly) is higher than the number of reports of sexual assault, homicide, and unarmed robbery combined (Henderson, Henderson, & Kiernan, 2000). Expanding the focus of research from disappearances due to war or state terrorism to other types of disappearances is of interest for at least two reasons. ...
Article
Full-text available
Objective The disappearance of a loved one is claimed to be the most stressful type of loss. The present review explores the empirical evidence relating to this claim. Specifically, it summarizes studies exploring the prevalence and correlates of psychological symptoms in relatives of missing persons, as well as studies comparing levels of psychopathology in relatives of the disappeared and the deceased. Method Two independent reviewers performed a systematic search in Psychinfo, Web of Science, and Medline, which resulted in 15 studies meeting predefined inclusion criteria. Eligible studies included quantitative peer-reviewed articles and dissertations that assessed psychopathology in relatives of missing person. Results All reviewed studies were focused on disappearances due to war or state terrorism. Prevalence rates of psychopathology were mainly described in terms of posttraumatic stress disorder and depression and varied considerably among the studies. Number of experienced traumatic events and kinship to the missing person were identified as correlates of psychopathology. Comparative studies showed that psychopathology levels did not differ between relatives of missing and deceased persons. Conclusions The small number of studies and the heterogeneity of the studies limits the understanding of psychopathology in those left behind. More knowledge about psychopathology post-disappearance could be gained by expanding the focus of research beyond disappearances due to war or state terrorism.
... 3 Furthermore, the majority of missing persons is found alive within a short time frame: 35 % on the same day and more than three quarters within the following 2 days. 5 The percentage of those found dead either due to foul play or suicide has been estimated to be between 0.3% 4 and 1%. [6][7] However, at present it remains difficult to accurately quantify the proportion of missing persons suffering harm whilst missing, as the outcomes of their disappearances are not routinely recorded by most police forces. ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
En España, cualquier tipo de desaparición con independencia de la motivación subyacente, es objeto de atención policial, por lo que se considera muy importante ayudar a las FCS a priorizar sus actuaciones sobre aquellos casos más graves: aquellas en las que la persona resulta lesionada o herida y, en la peor de las situaciones, fallecida. Para abordar estos retos, desde el Ministerio del Interior, se están llevando a cabo diferentes iniciativas. Una de éstas ha consistido en la contratación del Instituto de Ciencias Forenses y de la Seguridad (ICFS) de la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, como entidad académica y científica, para la recopilación de la documentación policial (atestados) de una muestra numerosa de casos reales, a nivel nacional, esclarecidos, y el posterior vaciado y análisis estadístico univariante, bivariante, y multivariante de los datos, en una iniciativa pionera hasta el momento en España.
Article
This discursive article explores the argument that, by gently tweaking core parameters of what it means to be a missing person—specifically relating to definition and risk—the role played by private organizations and entities in managing the problem of missing persons can be interrogated. The examination begins by inquiring into the extent to which police take ownership of missing persons as an issue, utilizing net-widening and pluralization concepts to investigate the limits of the police role. To inquire into the role of definitional widening, the case of lost children in commercial spaces is used, arguing that private providers are routinely responsibilized with managing lost child cases that would otherwise enter into missing person statistics. To explore tweaks to the definition of risk in relation to missing, the debtor tracing industry is explored. The final argument is made that further exploration of the periphery of ‘missingness’ ought to be undertaken.
Article
Full-text available
Objetivo O desaparecimento de uma criança pode ser caracterizado por uma perda ambígua em que a criança está ausente fisicamente mas presente psicologicamente. No contexto da literatura atual não é ainda claro como é que indivíduos e famílias se adaptam a este evento adverso, verificando-se um escasso investimento na investigação sobre este tema. Deste modo, realizou-se uma revisão sistemática com o objetivo de identificar as áreas sobre as quais incidem os estudos existentes sobre crianças desaparecidas, com maior foco na compreensão da sua vivência e impacto na família. Método No presente estudo realizou-se uma revisão sistemática dos estudos empíricos relacionados com a temática do desaparecimento de uma criança. Resultados Foram incluídos na revisão 37 estudos analisados a partir de uma análise qualitativa, surgindo quatro temáticas: programas de prevenção de rapto; características do desaparecimento; implicações no reconhecimento de pessoas desaparecidas; impacto psicossocial do desaparecimento. Conclusão A revisão permitiu concluir que a investigação sobre crianças desaparecidas é escassa e apresenta uma grande dispersão de temas. Verificou-se a necessidade de examinar as características e o impacto dos diversos tipos de desaparecimento. A intensidade deste fenómeno não normativo justifica a necessidade de investigações que possam informar práticas de prevenção e de intervenção empiricamente sustentadas.
Article
VSO is an international development charity that uses the skills of experienced professionals to work along side local colleagues. VSO sends trained and qualified education practitioners to share their experience in a diverse range of professionally challenging roles - working as in-service teacher trainers or as District Education Advisors - in some of the world’s poorest countries. This research examined how time spent on VSO aids the professional development and practice of teachers upon their return to the UK, and explored how the experience was perceived to impact on career prospects. The research design comprised two stages: firstly, 21 returned teachers participated in face-to-face in-depth interviews; and, secondly, an on-line survey of 87 returned teachers was conducted. The majority of participants in the study were female and trained for primary teaching, a quarter was ‘secondary-trained’, and the remainder were from specialist teaching roles or had Further / Higher education backgrounds. The quantity and quality of the information provided in the interviews and questionnaires paid testament to the high regard that the volunteers had for their placements and VSO.
Article
There is a limited amount of research in the area of missing persons, especially adults. The aim of this research is to expand on the understanding of missing people, by examining adults' behaviours while missing and determining if distinct behavioural themes exist. Based on previous literature it was hypothesised that three behavioural themes will be present; dysfunctional, escape, and unintentional. Thirty-six behaviours were coded from 362 missing person police reports and analysed using smallest space analysis (SSA). This produced a spatial representation of the behaviours, showing three distinct behavioural themes. Seventy percent of the adult missing person reports were classified under one dominant theme, 41% were 'unintentional', 18% were 'dysfunctional', and 11% were 'escape'. The relationship between a missing person's dominant behavioural theme and their assigned risk level and demographic characteristics were also analysed. A significant association was found between the age, occupational status, whether they had any mental health issues, and the risk level assigned to the missing person; and their dominant behavioural theme. The findings are the first step in the development of a standardised checklist for a missing person investigation. This has implications on how practitioners prioritise missing adults, and interventions to prevent individuals from going missing.
Missing People: Issues for the Australian Community, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, also available at www.missingpersons
  • M Henderson
  • P Henderson
Henderson, M. and Henderson, P. 1998, Missing People: Issues for the Australian Community, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, also available at www.missingpersons.info.au
Crime and Justice in Australia
  • S Mukherjee
  • A Graycar
Mukherjee, S. and Graycar, A. 1997, Crime and Justice in Australia, Hawkins Press, Sydney.