Investigating Disappearances

Investigation of disappearances can be a complex process. It involves a number of actors, including the police, relatives and local communities. These actors need to work together to create a list of names that is as exhaustive as possible and that is centralized and collated.


If you know the missing person, check their social media accounts for clues. This can help police track down the person.

Identifying the missing person

If you know the person who went missing, you should contact family members and friends, and start checking places they’re known to frequent. This is the most important step in locating them. Also, you should check public and state records, such as driver’s license and address information. If the person has social media accounts, you should monitor them for clues. You can also check hospitals, emergency rooms, and clinics in the area. Ask for the person by name, and if they don’t have a record of him or her, inquire about unidentified patients with similar facial features.

It’s important to understand the context at the moment of disappearance. This can help investigators identify the missing person and determine their location or even their death. It’s also advisable to gather background information about the person, including their activities, relationships, and a detailed description of physical characteristics.

It’s also helpful to have a list of witnesses who may be able to help locate the missing person. This list can include co-workers, neighbors, and other people who know the missing person well. You can even request for a search of their home and other places they’re likely to visit. However, it’s important to respect the wishes of those contacted. This will avoid exposing them to further risk. This is especially true if the person is at a vulnerable stage of life, such as someone on life-saving medication.

Identifying the location of the missing person

The search for missing persons, in all contexts (routine casework, conflict/post-conflict, migration and OSV) is a dynamic process that involves two key factors: status and geo-temporal mobility. It requires a centralized collection of information that can be used to formulate lines of investigation, expand comparison criteria, create hypotheses about the location of the missing person and reconstruct networks (e.g. interactions with other individuals who disappeared) and the location of sites (mapping human remains).

It is important to contact people who have a connection to the missing person and who might know something about their whereabouts. This can include friends, acquaintances, family members and community members. It is also important to keep a log of names and contact information. This will help investigators follow up on potential leads.

A good place to start is to check social media. Make sure to look through all the pictures and activity feeds of the individual. This is a good way to find out what has been happening in the days leading up to their disappearance. If possible, check their contacts list and print out correspondence that might contain clues. You can also drive around the area and canvass the streets for signs or other evidence of their whereabouts. However, you should take care not to put yourself or others in danger.

Identifying the causes of the missing person

The overarching concept of ‘Search’ encompasses all sub-processes conducive to clarifying the fate and whereabouts of a missing person (living, dead, unidentified). It is applicable to single cases as well as to complex contexts.

Identifying the causes of the disappearance requires a thorough understanding of the situation at the time of disappearance and the identification of potential persons in relation to that specific event. It also involves a reconstruction of events since that moment and an attempt to find the possible place where the missing person may be located (alive or dead).

Forensic investigation into missing persons is usually carried out in conjunction with other agencies and departments. This includes medical services, psychiatry, social care and public safety departments. The risk assessment of missing people should be reviewed on a regular basis, especially for children and adults who are considered vulnerable.

It is important to consider all possible causes of harm to the missing person, as this will influence the methodological approach taken by investigators. For example, it is important to know whether the missing person has any underlying health or social problems, which could affect their decision to go missing. Similarly, it is important to keep records of all physical evidence that might lead to the identification of the missing person, including any sources of DNA (e.g. hairbrush, razor, medical tests such as blood or pap smear).

Identifying the risk of harm to the missing person

In cases where a person is missing, it can be extremely important to determine the risk of harm to them at the very early stages of an investigation. This is because the determination of risk can have profound consequences for the police’s response to a case. It may mean that a case is rated as ‘low risk’ and receives fewer resources, or that it is rated as ‘high risk’ and a large amount of resources are committed to the investigation. These resources are likely to divert attention away from other policing matters, potentially putting the missing person at risk of harm.

Identifying potential causes of harm is challenging, and the risk of harm to a missing person may be a result of a combination of factors. For instance, the fact that a person is female and Indigenous does not necessarily mean that they are at higher risk of disappearing. Moreover, risk factors that are independently predictive do not imply that they interact with one another (Kraemer et al., 2001).

There is a need to move beyond research designs that rely on regressing cases of missing persons on numerous candidate risk factor candidates. Instead, the emphasis should be on understanding the pathways through which these factors increase the likelihood of going missing. This will allow for better prevention and reduction efforts to be made.