What happens when someone has been missing for more than a few days
Most missing people are found or return in the first few days.
If someone is missing for longer than a few days, some things about the police investigation might change.
Family Liaison Officers
Sometimes we will allocate a Family Liaison Officer (FLO) to a missing person case.
An FLO will:
- be a consistent point of contact
- give you support and information about the investigation
- help make sure we have all the information we need from you
Not every case gets a Family Liaison Officer. If you do not get an FLO, talk to us to find out how and how often you can expect to hear from us to discuss the investigation.
If we haven't already, we might collect fingerprints or items they can get a DNA sample from like a toothbrush or hairbrush.
This can help if we find an unidentified person that we think might be the person you are looking for.
To help preserve the missing person's DNA, you should leave their room and things alone. Do not wash or clean anything or touch their hairbrush or toothbrush until we have searched and collected evidence.
If we cannot get a DNA sample for the missing person, we might ask to collect a DNA sample from you and other family members.
DNA information from missing person cases is held on a database managed by the UK Missing Persons Unit. It will only be used to help identify the missing person and is not used for anything else. Once the missing person is found, the information will be deleted.
We might also ask for details of the missing person’s dentist or doctor, so we can ask for dental and other medical records. We might ask your permission if you are their next of kin.
The UK Missing Persons Unit
After three days (72 hours) the police working on a missing persons case have to tell the UK Missing Persons Unit about a case. The UK Missing Persons Unit is part of the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The UK Missing Persons Unit:
- carries out enquiries on behalf of local forces
- gives local forces specialist advice and support
- keeps a database of missing people and found people in the UK, which helps match people up when someone is found outside the boundaries of the local police force where they went missing
- manages the forensic databases of DNA profiles and fingerprints for missing people investigations
Local police can get help from the UK Missing Persons Unit sooner than three days if they want to, for example if they suspect a serious crime.
Local police can also get expert help from National Crime Agency’s Major Crime Investigative Support (MCIS).
Help and support
It can be very distressing when someone doesn't come back quickly. The charity Missing People can support you and help you cope.
LBT Global (formerly The Lucie Blackman Trust) helps people when someone has gone missing abroad.
Missing Persons Unit website
The UK Missing Persons Unit website has a database of unidentified people as well as more advice and support for families. Their website contains images that may be distressing.