The circumstances surrounding a disappearance can differ greatly and so too can the role of the police in a missing persons investigation. There could be any number of reasons behind a disappearance which is why you should contact the police straight away if you are at all concerned about the safety and wellbeing of the person who has disappeared.
To do this, you can contact your local police station in person or by phone. You can report to your own local police station even if the missing person lives in another part of the UK. You can make a report to the police immediately – you do NOT have to wait until 24 hours after a disappearance. In an emergency you can contact 999.
Once you have made a report, what the police do will depend on the circumstances of the disappearance and how much they consider the missing person to be at risk. They will assess the level of risk by considering the missing person’s age, the circumstances of their disappearance, whether this is out of character, and whether they need medication or treatment.
The advice on this page should help you know what to expect, what questions to ask, and whether/how you should help in the search. If the police assess that the missing person is at risk, they may decide to:
- Search the missing person’s home or last known address and the area where the missing person was last seen
- Attempt to make contact with them by phone, if they have a mobile
- Conduct checks on their mobile phone or computer
- Conduct house to house enquiries
- Check local hospital admissions
- Review CCTV footage
- Conduct land and air searches, particularly in high risk cases
- Co-ordinate media coverage and issue a press release to the local media appealing for help from the public.
The police, or the family of a missing person, may contact Missing People to request help with publicising the missing person’s picture through our poster and media appeals. In order for the charity to publicise a case, the person has to be reported missing to the police and we will always need to talk to the police to check our involvement is appropriate before launching an appeal.
We have worked with the UK Missing Persons Bureau to develop some guidance on dealing with the police if someone has been reported missing. You can download these guidance sheets below:
When and how do I report someone missing? This guidance sheet outlines the first steps to take when you report someone missing.
What happens after you have reported someone missing? The guidance sheet will help you feel more prepared for the steps the police may take to find a missing person
Checklist for your meeting with the police This document is a handy checklist of questions that you should ask the police when you have reported someone missing.
Making a complaint to the police It’s important to be realistic about what the police can do, and consider whether making a formal complaint is appropriate. This sheet gives you information on how to make a complaint if you feel that is the right thing to do.
Dealing with the police: All guidance All of our guidance sheets in one place.
Whilst the information on this web page has been provided in good faith, it should not be taken as legal advice. For information tailored to your individual circumstances, please contact your police force, solicitor or an advisory organisation as appropriate to your query. Call us on 116 000 and we can help put you in touch with organisations who can help.