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FAQs

Bureau General

How do I report someone missing?

Contact your local police station. If you are extremely concerned for the person dial 999 and ask for the Police. People who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired can text 999 (although you must be registered to do so – see www.emergencysms.org.uk). Otherwise, dial 101 and inform them you would like to report someone as missing. Alternatively, you can go in person to your local police station. Some people think that you have to wait 24 hours before reporting someone missing - this is not true. You can make a report to the police as soon as you think that person could be missing. For more information see our factsheets such as 'A Reference Guide'.

How do I report a sighting of or information about a missing person?

Contact the police on the 24 hour, non-emergency 101 telephone number or contact the charity Missing People who will pass the information to police. Missing People can be contacted on 116 000 or email seensomeone@missingpeople.org.uk.

The 116 000 number operates across Europe and is staffed by nominated missing person charities in each country.

Alternatively you can contact the Bureau on 0800 234 6034 (or +44 (0)117 372 0154 if outside the UK) or email missingpersonsbureau@nca.x.gsi.gov.uk. The Bureau can provide advice on which police force to contact or pass the information on ourselves.

All of the aforementioned organisations will accept anonymous information. You can also contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or complete an anonymous form: https://secure.crimestoppers-uk.org/ams.form.anonymous.asp

Are there any other agencies that can help or support a family?

There are a number of organisations who can help and support a family who are searching for someone. The main point of contact for support to families is the charity Missing People who can be contacted on 116 000 or at www.missingpeople.org.uk. For more information on organisations that can provide assistance, please refer to our factsheets.

What can I do if I want to trace a friend/relative/natural parents?

The Bureau has produced a factsheet 'Lost Contact and Tracing Family' which may assist.

Links to organisations that may be able to assist can also be found here.

Case General

How is the Missing Persons Bureau informed of cases?

Police/coroners notify the Bureau of unidentified person cases in accordance with the 2009 Code of Practice, which states that the Bureau should be informed if the person is still unidentified within 48 hours of being found. If the police/coroner believe they have an identity this notification may be delayed until this is confirmed.

 

How quickly is a case entered on the website?

This will depend on the police/coroner who may wish to carry out their initial investigations before giving permission for the case to be entered on the website. Some cases will not be included at all – see ‘What cases are included?

Can anyone enter details on the website?

Only the Bureau will be able to add, amend or remove cases on the website although the notifying police force/coroner will retain ownership of the case information featured on the site.

Will cases always remain on the site?

Cases will be removed from the site following identification (or whilst identification is pending if requested). However where a case is successfully resolved, permission will be sought from the individual (if alive), the police force and the family of the individual to retain basic details of the case on the site.  The reason for this is to show the value of such publicity and provide reassurances to the families of missing individuals that work is on-going to identify these people.

 

Who has access to the information on the site?

The site is designed to enable interested individuals to obtain useful information about specific cases, and about the area of missing persons in general. It is not possible to prevent members of the public from copying information held on the site and reproducing it elsewhere. However, where concerns about the use of the information by a third party are raised to the Bureau, we will investigate the report and work with the third party to ensure the information is not used inappropriately.

It is intended in future that other websites may be able to draw a feed of the case information held on the site to promote the work of the Bureau and increase the scope of publicity. Any organisation or individual who wishes to do this will have to contact the Bureau to receive permission to do so and will be required to satisfy us that they will use the information responsibly.

Who is responsible for the case information?

The notifying police force/coroner will retain ownership of the case information featured on the site. The Bureau will manage the upload, amendment and removal of information on the police force/coroner’s behalf, but is not responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the information. Where inaccuracies or concerns are notified to the Bureau, contact will be made with the police force/coroner to confirm the remedial action to be taken. Cases may be temporarily removed from the site whilst this is being completed, and will be reinstated with the necessary amendments, if deemed appropriate.

 

What happens to the bodies if they are not identified?

If a body is not identified and there are no suspicious circumstances, the body is buried or cremated by the Local Authority in an unmarked grave. How long after the body is found depends on local practices in each area.

 

Case Searches

How do I do a search?

There are a number of search parameters you can use to restrict the number of cases that will be returned, or just click on 'search' to see all the cases listed. The search parameters that are most useful are gender, age when last seen and ethnic appearance. This information can be entered either into the fields on the home page or use the case search tab. There is an advanced search facility where you can enter the location last seen and/or distinguishing features.

 

How does the search on 'age' work?

When using 'Age' to search our records we create a possible range of ages based upon the age and date last seen values provided. For the lower end of this range we take the age provided and remove 5 years. For the upper end we add 5 years, plus the difference between the date last seen and the date found. This range allows us to ensure that any discrepancies in the identified age are accounted for.

 

Case Results

What cases are included?

All unidentified cases, including bodies, remains and alive individuals, found in the UK will be eligible for publicising on the website. However, cases within the categories outlined below will generally be excluded from inclusion unless specifically requested by the force/coroner involved: 

  • Babies (aged one year and under)
  • Murder investigations (or where this is suspected)
  • Partial remains where it is deemed there would be little value in publicity (e.g. single bones) 

Other cases may also be considered inappropriate for the website, although the intention is to publicise cases on the site unless there is a reason not to.

What images are shown?

Only sanitised images are included on the site. These include:

  • Photographs of the unidentified individual
  • Photographs of jewellery, clothing, possessions
  • Photographs or artistic renderings of tattoos
  • Artist impressions of how the person may have looked
  • Images of 3D representations of how the person may have looked

If I find an image distressing what can I do?

Emotional support can be obtained from our partners at Missing People. Additionally, please email the Bureau at missingpersonsbureau@nca.x.gsi.gov.uk and give details as to which image you find distressing and briefly why. Images can be very powerful in aiding identification, and therefore it is intended that images will be included if possible. However, where concerns are raised, images will be considered for removal from the site.

If I can't find someone on the website can I assume they are not dead?

The cases shown on the website are cases where an unidentified body or remains have been found (excluding those cases listed in ‘What cases are included’) and does not necessarily mean the person you are searching for is not deceased, as not all bodies of missing persons have been found.

Reporting A Name

How do I contact the Missing Persons Bureau to report a possible name?

The best way to contact the Bureau is by email at missingpersonsbureau@nca.x.gsi.gov.uk giving as much information as possible about the person you think it is such as date of birth, description, when and where they were last seen, if they have been reported missing and in which force. Alternatively, you can use the 'I know this person' reporting box which is shown next to each case. The Bureau will acknowledge your message within 5 working days via email.

 

Is my information confidential?

Any information provided to the Bureau as to the possible identity of the person has to be passed to the police/coroner for investigation, but your details will not be provided unless without that information the police/coroner cannot proceed with the investigation.

 

When I report a possible name what happens next?

The Bureau will review the available information to determine if the missing individual may be a match. Where this cannot be ruled out definitively by Bureau staff, details will be passed to the police force investigating the case to investigate further.

 

What information will I need to provide to help confirm who a person is?

It would be helpful to have as much information as you have available, such as the person's name, date of birth, when and where they were last seen, any distinguishing features such as scars or tattoos, their physical description when last seen, their lifestyle, places they liked to go to, would they have travelled abroad and any medical history such as operations or broken bones. A photograph would also be useful.

 

If I think the unidentified person is a relative will I need to provide a DNA sample?

This will depend on the case, you may be asked to provide a DNA sample. Further information about this process can be found in our guide Information on DNA for Families.

I am concerned about someone, but am not sure which, if any, of the cases are a match. What should I do?

Please contact the Bureau at missingpersonsbureau@nca.x.gsi.gov.uk providing as much detail as possible about the individual. If you have identified a number of cases you feel may be possible matches, please include the case references and we will review all of the suggested cases to see if any may be a match. You can also find out more about trying to trace individuals you may have lost contact with in our factsheet 'Lost contact'.

 

How quickly will I be notified that my suggested name is a match or not?

The Bureau will acknowledge your email giving us the name/s within 5 working days. It will take longer to confirm whether the individual is a match and no time limit can be given. It depends on what information is available, whether forensics have been obtained or are able to be obtained. The force will have operational commitments, other priorities and budget constraints which may have an impact on their capacity to review the case quickly.

 

Should I report a possible name to the local police force if it is an open missing enquiry?

If you believe you have a possible name for an unidentified person seen on the website then we ask that you inform the Bureau at missingpersonsbureau@nca.x.gsi.gov.uk who will contact the investigating police force for you.

Press

Why is this site needed?

Although many unidentified cases receive local or national publicity at the time they are found, this publicity may be short lived, and experience has shown that the families and friends of these people may not see or fail to recognise the significance of this initial publicity. There is therefore a need to continually publicise these unidentified cases in order to maximise the possibility of families/friends who have lost contact with people or who have reported them as missing seeing the details of the case and recognising that the individual may be their missing relative/friend. The website also provides members of the public with a means by which to suggest possible identifications in a clear and simple manner through communication with the Bureau, the details of which can be initially reviewed without additional burden on police forces.

When was the website established?

Has this been done before?

A similar UK website was previously maintained by the charity Missing People. However, due to a reduction in resources, this was removed in 2009.

In addition, British Transport Police (BTP) has already displayed images (forensic artists’ impressions) of 20 railway deaths as part of Operation Kharon, a joint initiative to obtain details of all outstanding unidentified people/remains. These images have been on BTP’s public facing internet site, as well as receiving significant media coverage of the cases following a press conference in August 2010.

There are currently three similar sites in the USA: The Doe Network, NamUs (US Department of Justice site) and a Colorado State website. Furthermore, European forces such as the Swiss and Belgian Police already have unidentified people/remains details shown on their websites in order to assist with identifying their cases.

How many unidentified persons are found each month?

How does the website help families?

How does the website help the police?

What cases are included?

All unidentified cases, including bodies, remains and alive individuals found in the UK will be eligible for publicising on the website. However, cases within the categories outlined below will generally be excluded from inclusion unless specifically requested by the force/Coroner involved:

  • Babies (aged one year and under)
  • Murder investigations (or where this is suspected)
  • Partial remains where it is deemed there would be little value in publicity (e.g. single bones)

Other cases may also be considered inappropriate for the website, although the intention is to publicise cases on the site unless there is a reason not to.

How do I contact the press office?

Contact the National Crime Agency press office on 020 7979 5835 or via email to pressoffice@nca.x.gsi.gov.uk. Please note that this email is not monitored outside of office hours.