How to find a missing person

Birmingham detectives

Trying to find a missing person in the UK can be a daunting and overwhelming thought. In addition to this, you are likely to be feeling additional stress, concern and anxiety regarding the person being missing, whether this be due to personal connection and being worried for their wellbeing, or a financial connection where you will lose or be unable to recoup money if the person does not resurface. 

People need to find people every day in the UK for a wide variety of reasons and with different levels of priority or urgency; it may be that a person has suddenly and uncharacteristically gone missing and you are significantly concerned for their wellbeing and safety; potentially you have lost touch with an old friend, ex-partner or family member and want to rekindle a past relationship; it could be that you need to contact family members to make them aware of information pertaining to a bereavement or legal matter; possibly you are owed money from the parent of your child, an absent tenant or evasive debtor and need to locate the person to address payment; you might be already in litigation and are an individual or legal firm that need to locate a person to serve legal documents to.

There are numerous options and activities that you can undertake to find a missing person in the UK, and that are appropriate to the level of urgency or concern, or the required timescales, behind this. Some of these you will be able to undertake yourself at no or little cost, and some will require the assistance and expertise of a   professional.

Firstly, if we are talking about a person who has been missing for a matter of hours or days in a manner that is unusual and uncharacteristic for them, and you are significantly concerned for their safety and wellbeing, you need to report this matter to the police and register them as a missing person. Whether you are concerned that this person may have been abducted, be unwell physically or mentally or be in any position that makes them vulnerable or unsafe it is essential that the police are made aware and can initiate a search on an urgent basis. You do not have to wait 24 hours to report a person missing to the police and can do so as soon as you are concerned or aware that they are missing.

If you have a significant relationship with a person whom you consider vulnerable in some way to harm from others or to not being able to keep themselves safe and you have ethical and legitimate reason for doing so (eg if you are a parent, partner of carer of a person and have their consent or are able to consent for them legally) you can act preventatively by placing a tracker app on their mobile phone or even vehicle (this would require their consent and would need to be undertaken by a professional) which then allows you to monitor their whereabouts when they have their phone or vehicle with them, or their last known whereabouts if they don’t. If you have been proactive in using such software, you can check in with this if a person is missing.

If you are concerned that someone has not come home, turned up at work, attended a planned meeting or event or not had contact with those known to them for an unusual amount of time you need to report them to the police. You can also start your own enquiries by calling around hospitals in the appropriate area to try to find out if they are unwell or had an accident; you can contact friends, colleagues and family members of the missing person to ascertain if they have had contact or know of the person’s whereabouts; you can contact the missing person’s workplace or a place they regularly attend such as a club, support group or day centre to find out if they have been seen recently. You can also, of course, attend the person’s residence to see if there are any indicators that they are there and that something has happened such as a fall, if their car is present at the address or if there are indicators that the person has not been home such as a build up of delivered mail or perhaps a bin not having been put out or brought in on the day of refuse collection.

You can try to find out about a person’s wellbeing, safety or location through online search and social media; check the person’s social media accounts such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram to see if they have been online recently which would indicate they are alive and well, or if they have posted any content that gives you insight into what state of mind they are in, where they might be, who they might be with and any plans they had for the day/week/month. You can also try to contact the person through social media or see who their family, friends and social media network are and get in touch with these people to gain further information and support with your search.

If you are concerned about a person’s whereabouts you can attend their home address and other areas or locations that you are aware they attend or might be and make enquiries with neighbours, local businesses and within the community to find out if anyone has seen the person. You can use recent photos to aid recognition and trigger people’s memories and you can also put up missing posters with contact details for anyone who has seen the person to be able to get in touch with you. 

There are websites and forums online that are set up to inform others that a person is missing and to record details and photos of that missing person to further extend awareness and support the search. Charities such as can share information about your missing person as well as provide you with support and advice as you try to find them or come to terms with how difficult this task may be. The police also have a website called where they place information about unsolved missing persons cases and people who are still unidentified so you can look on here to aid your search.

If the person has been missing or out of touch with you longer term or over many years, or if this is a person that you are not personally connected to and are seeking due to financial or business need, some of the above methods will still apply and prove useful in your search, but you may also need to start engaging more robust and comprehensive tactics.

You can undertake online searches into person and household records that are available within the public domain such as directory enquiries, censor information and electoral roll data to try to gain knowledge around the person’s current address or last known address, address history and members of their household.

You can engage the help and support of charities who are experienced in the finding of missing or absent persons such as Reunite, The Salvation Army and the British Red Cross; these agencies are able to assist with searches to find missing family members and loved ones not only in the UK but on a global basis and can also support with matters pertaining to separation caused by war or disaster as well as child custody or residency disputes. There are also charities set up to support with post adoption searches such as Adoption Search Reunion for adults seeking family members following historic care proceedings.

Finally, if your own search for a missing person has proved futile, or if you have an urgent need or legal deadline to find the absent individual within, you can employ the services of a private investigator or professional tracing agent; you can easily find and contact a company able to provide these services online. Professional private investigators and tracing agents are trained and experienced in the field of finding (even the most elusive!) missing people with minimal information and in a short space of time. They have access to information and resources that are not available within the public domain and can accurately and discreetly find a person far quicker than would be achieved through amateur means.

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