Missing persons: the processes and challenges of police investigation

Nicholas R. Fyfe (Lead / Corresponding author), Olivia Stevenson, Penny Woolnough

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    64 Citations (Scopus)
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    Responding to reports of missing persons represents one of the biggest demands on the resources of police organisations. In the UK, for example, it is estimated that over 300,000 missing persons incidents are recorded by the police each year which means that a person in the UK is recorded missing by the police approximately every two minutes. However, there is a complex web of behaviours that surround the phenomenon of missing persons which can make it difficult to establish whether someone's disappearance is ‘intentional’ or ‘unintentional’ or whether they might be at risk of harm from themselves or others. Drawing on a set of missing person case reconstructions and interviews with the officers involved with these cases, this paper provides insights into the different stages of the investigative process and some of the key influences which shape the trajectory of a missing person's investigation. In particular, it highlights the complex interplay between actions which are ‘ordered and conditioned’ by a procedural discourse around how missing persons investigations should be conducted, and the narratives that officers construct about how they approach investigations which are often shaped by a mix of police craft, ‘science’ and ‘reputational’ issues.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)409-425
    Number of pages17
    JournalPolicing and Society: an International Journal of Research
    Issue number4
    Early online date5 Feb 2014
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    • missing persons
    • investigation
    • policing


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