Missing persons cases that never end

National Person Finder knows how distressing it can be to have a family member go missing. For two Dutch families there has been no resolution to the disappearance of men who went missing 44 years ago. The two men went out for a drink together in Deurne, Holland, forty-four years ago this week and were never seen again. While police always believed the men had been killed, they had no information on which to proceed, having discovered no sightings of either of the men or their car.

A recent reinvestigation by a Dutch missing persons bureau has resulted in the suggestion of a large reservoir in nearby Liessel which is now being dredged to see if the men’s vehicle may have been dumped there. A police spokesperson confirmed that ‘Missing persons cases don’t have a deadline.’ We can only agree – for the families left behind, the only resolution will be when their loved one is found, dead or alive.

Missing Brit sought in Hamburg

Liam Colgan of Inverness has been missing since 10 February where he was helping his brother Eammon celebrate his imminent marriage. Last seen that evening, new CCTV footage has shown Liam outside a building where on the steps and was helped up by a passer by who describes seeing Liam fail to succeed in entering the building and heading off towards the Michelwiese Park where the same witness helped him enter the park. His family are now asking for any further sightings or for people who were out and about in Hamburg night to check photographs they may have taken after 2am to see if Liam might be in the background. A body found in the River Elbe in late February has been confirmed as not being that of the missing British man.

Where alcohol is involved in a missing person’s case, it complicates matters greatly because people act very differently when drunk – this means that there are few predictors to their behaviour and any missing persons investigation has to be conducted on a completely open basis, rather than using information about the individuals usual behaviour, preferences and actions. In such situations, local police may be at a loss because they don’t have the resources to undertake the kind of inch-by-inch, minute-by-minute research that can reveal the movements of a person who has unexpectedly gone missing.

When missing people are ‘found’ and when they aren’t

It’s been a harrowing few months for Olivia Newton John after it was claimed that her missing ex partner Patrick McDermott had been discovered on a campsite in Mexico. McDermott, who went missing over 12 years ago, owed a substantial amount of child support payments when he disappeared on a fishing trip off the San Pedro coast. For a couple of months the story ran and ran, rehashing the disappearance of McDermott over the side of a fishing vessel although not one of the other 22 passengers saw him go overboard. Several high level pundits concluded that it was definitely McDermott who was shirtless in the grainy photographs and speculated about who the mystery woman was beside him and the paparazzi got into trying to doorstep Ms Newton John as she went on tour.

Then … Wes Stobbe, a Canadian publican, came forward to say that it was him in the long-distance photographs and that the woman he was ‘lounging beside’ was actually his wife Bridget. “Apparently if you make the photo fuzzy enough and grainy enough, it might be passable, but I don’t think I look like him,” Mr Stobbe told a Canadian radio station.

The point here is that a lot of unnecessary heartache and confusion has been created by an unconfirmed identification of a missing person. When National Person Finder undertakes a missing person case, our professional team ensure they have a lot more than a long-distance photograph on which to base an identification and certainly would never go public until they’d absolutely confirmed that they’d located a missing loved one.

The cost of finding a missing person

In a sad story, the only new development in the case of the missing RAF serviceman Corrie McKeague has been a Freedom of Information request into the cost of the investigation. So far, it’s an astonishing £2 million. Gunner McKeague went missing in September 2016 after a night out with friends in Bury St Edmunds. Since then police officers have spent 34,000 hours on the case. The bills are being paid out of the budget held by Norfolk and Suffolk’s joint Major Investigation team.

While the costs are stunningly high, it’s purely because the case has a security implication that the powers-that-be are willing to expend so much time and money. The parents of most young people who go missing in the UK would be lucky to get eight man-hours spent on the investigation because trying to find missing persons is often a low priority consideration for police services which know that a certain proportion of missing people will be working hard not to be found, while a small proportion will have been the victim of a crime.

This is where National Person Finder comes in – our cost-effective missing person services can provide peace of mind to the families and friends of a person who has disappeared and our rapid response to a missing person case means that we often resolve the problem long before it becomes an expensive cold case.

An international epidemic of missing persons

It might sound like a strange claim but disappearing has become commonplace. The strain this places on public services is immense – it’s the equivalent of a call to the emergency services every 90 seconds about a missing person.

For the families of those who go missing the pain is also immense and unending – in fact for many families the more time that passes, the more difficult they find their situation. Given that one in five of the people who go missing has a mental health issue, it’s not surprising that friends and families struggle so badly.

Some missing persons cases end rapidly and happily – Weston lifeboat crew was right in the middle of an ice-skating fundraiser when they were called out, along with two coastguard teams, to help the police locate a high-risk missing person. Within an hour that person had been found, largely thanks to the fact that an unusually large number of coastguards were in the right place at the right time. In other cases, decades can pass without news. In one of the saddest cases we’ve come across a woman who went missing 42 years ago in New York has been found living in sheltered accommodation in Massachusetts. Nobody knows what happened to Flora Stevens who went missing in 1975 after her husband dropped her off at a doctor’s appointment, but she was discovered after an online search revealed a woman called Flora Harris was using her social security number. Because Flora has dementia there is no way of discovering what prompted her disappearance and sadly, her husband passed away in 1985 without ever seeing her again.

Private detectives and missing persons

If the police receive a missing persons call every minute and a half, it’s hardly surprising they struggle to commit to every case. For many families, finding a private detective agency that has specialist experience in locating missing persons is the swiftest way to assure themselves that everything possible is being done to find their loved one. It’s more than a little astonishing that despite several cold case reviews, it was purely by accident that Flora Stevens was discovered. One of the first places that any reputable private detective will begin their work is in checking whether a person’s NI number, passport or other ID have been used. It doesn’t guarantee that a missing person has been found but it’s a fundamental first step that can be time-consuming which is why it takes a dedicated private investigator to explore every avenue so that leads can be narrowed down and so that a missing person can be reunited with their family.

National Person Finder and how to locate a missing person

What makes National Person Finder so special? It’s our unique focus on finding people who have gone missing – rather than on undertaking every kind of private detective work going. This is a vital consideration when you’re looking for somebody who has vanished, particularly if they have been missing for some time.

For example, when Ariane Lak disappeared, it took her family a considerable period of time to realise she was missing, simply because fifty-year-old Ariane, who suffers from schizoaffective disorder, had been in the process of moving from one hotel in Milan to another, and as a result there was little concern when she wasn’t in touch for a while. By the time they did discover the problem, the trail had gone cold. For Ariane Lak, the private detective who discovered her sleeping rough on the streets of Milan, was a timely intervention as it appears she may have been the victim of an assault in which she hit her head and which appears to have affected her memory.

Missing persons – how to re-start a cold case

In such cases, organisations like National Person Finder have to retrace the last known movements of the person who has gone missing but also take a complete case history of the individual to establish likely places for them to go and uncover patterns of behaviour that could put the private investigator back on the trail.

It’s rare for the police to have the resources to put into missing persons cases where there has been a long gap between the person’s disappearance and its reporting, but a dedicated firm of specialist investigators like National Person Finder is experienced in locating people whose disappearance has been complicated by a gap in time.

When finding a missing person isn’t the end of the story

Sometimes people don’t want to be found, and in many cases the work of NPF is over when we make our complete and confidential report to the client who has hired us to find a missing person. On other occasions it may be necessary to do more than establish a location – people who have stepped out of their lives often have complex problems that require more than just a report and our dedicated investigators are able to offer support and guidance to those whose family members or friends have gone missing.

So if you’re looking for a team of private investigators with truly specialist skills in finding missing persons and in helping their clients to work out the best next steps to take, look no further than National Person Finder, the UK’s foremost organisation for locating people who have gone missing.

When is a missing person not a missing person?

The answer is when they’re a case of mistaken or stolen identity.

While most of our cases at National Personal Finder involve families or friends trying to locate a missing person, we are increasingly being hired to investigate cases of stolen identity, especially where these cases involve ‘catfishing’ – the theft of an identity to entice other people to send money based on a fake romantic relationship.

A recent high profile case has brought some of the murky practices of catfishing into the public eye. When Matt Peacock, a male fashion model, began to receive phone calls from women claiming they had been dating him online, his only way of finding out what was going on was to hire a private detective agency to help him.

Often the first time that people know they’ve been catfished is when their online romance simply disappears. From being intimately involved with a man or women, often sending explicit photos and money for air tickets so their love interest can visit, they find themselves alone, with their lover’s online profile having disappeared and addresses and phone numbers leading nowhere. That’s when they contact us – to help them find the missing person they had learned to love.

Matt Peacock’s case led to the discovery that more than forty fake profiles had been set up on dating sites, using his photographs and false names. Some of the women had sent intimate photos and videos to their supposed romantic interest. In these cases, which are very distressing to the victims, the perpetrators aren’t actually breaking the law because – unlike classic catfishers – they aren’t trying to make money from the stolen identity.

Matt Peacock is now trying to force a change in the law so that people who steal the identities of others and use them to create fake online profiles from which they are not seeking to make a profit, will still be classed as criminals.

When someone goes missing, it can be a criminal matter

This is an unusual case, but we’ve had experience of several missing persons investigations where we’ve discovered that a missing girlfriend, often claiming to be from Eastern Europe or South East Asia, has conned an online boyfriend out of money for visas or airline tickets and not only that, but has replicated the scam hundreds of times across hundreds of platforms. It’s always a shock for their victims to discover that they have been defrauded by a skilled operator who may not even be of the same gender as their profile pictures, but at least they have a resolution to their concerns about their loved one suddenly going missing.

National Person Finder’s Guide to Grooming and Trafficking

This is not a subject that anybody wishes to consider, but recent news stories in the UK and the USA suggest that it’s high time that people were better educated about how these criminal activities work and what relationship they have to missing persons.

People Trafficking in the USA

Fifteen-year-old Sophie Reeder has gone missing from her home in Fort Lauderdale, Miami and private detectives involved in her case are increasingly convinced that she may have been the victim of human trafficking. Girls like Sophie, who is described as ‘very beautiful’ are considered to be at increasing risk from sophisticated grooming and trafficking activities undertaken by organised gangs.

Missing persons and grooming

Both boys and girls are at risk of grooming which can take place in person or online. Our experienced missing persons investigators know that key hotspots for grooming attempts are school gates, parks and playgrounds and transport hubs like bus stops and train stations where students gather. University bars are also a key location for this kind of attempt.

Grooming involves three elements

1. Isolating the young person
2. Building a bond with them (this can take the form of drink or drugs)
3. Establishing power over them – this can be done through coercion or blackmail, through leading the young person to believe they are in love with the groomer.

How does grooming work and is it different to trafficking?

Grooming and trafficking overlap and both can lead to missing persons cases. The first element, isolating a young person, may involve removing them from friends and family so that they cannot find the resources to say no to the groomer. The second point often results from the groomer/trafficker supplying the youngster with drink and drugs to reduce their inhibitions and create a dependence. Often the final stage of establishing power can take the form of creating an addiction or telling the youngster that he or she owes debt, for drugs or travel for example, that can only be paid off by sex work. Forms of sex work that are common and lead to people going missing include web-camming (have sex on camera for a paying audience) and – for girls – club and pole dancing.

When young people go missing

At National Person Finder we sometimes discover that a young person’s disappearance is linked to grooming or sex trafficking – in these cases, sensitive investigation is necessary because organised grooming and people trafficking involves people with large resources and a well-organised way of keeping young people moving so that they can rarely be identified or returned to their families.

Our skilled investigators have been instrumental in restoring missing youngsters to many families and are experienced in the complex process of discovering the whereabouts of missing young people and extracting them from difficult situations.

Who hires a private detective to investigate a missing persons case?

Missing teens – and how to help

One of the most common, and most distressing, incidents for a family is when a teenager goes missing. This rarely happens ‘out of the blue’ although it often feels that way at first. The truth is that many families are the last ones to know about underlying pressures that can cause a young person to feel the need to escape. This can particularly be the case when the pressures are happening inside the family such as when serious illness, job loss or broken relationships are already causing family unrest.

However, experienced private investigators such as those working for National Person Finder are able to retrace the steps, and the stresses experienced by missing teens and may – as a result – be able to discover which bolthole the young person has chosen.

Social media has become a key feature of missing persons cases with youngsters and while well-meaning parents can often try to discover the whereabouts of a missing child, their heavy-handed investigations can alert the teenager and cause them to disappear even more effectively. This is why an anonymous approach, supported by excellent investigative skills, can follow the trail without causing a young person to bolt again. Of course there is no guarantee that a youngster will return home, but effective private investigation can often open a channel of communication that eventually allows a teenager to come back to their family when they are ready.

Dutch detective helps investigate suspicious deaths

The Dutch government has seen a steady decline in the number of autopsies carried out in the Netherlands – in 2005, 617 post mortem investigations were carried out but by 2015 the number had fallen to 279. Dick Gosewehr, a former detective, is working with Leiden-based lawyer Sébas Diekstra and pathologist Frank de Groot, to offer a second opinion on suspicious deaths – and their service is absolutely free. According to the consortium, around 20-25 murders could be going undetected every year. The group has been involved in a number of high-profile ‘mysterious death’ cases including the death of an eighteen-year-old boy found dead beneath a bridge in Belgium and a young woman killed by a train. While both deaths were officially branded suicides, they have both been reclassified to explore the possibility that their deaths were the result of criminal action or actual murder.

Many hundreds of people in the UK every year find themselves unsatisfied with inquest results and feel they have nowhere else to turn – private investigator teams can give these families routes to explore that can help them discover relevant facts about the death of a loved one.

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How to find a missing person

A recent high profile fugitive case has given yet more evidence of why it’s important to consider funding your own missing person investigation. At National Person Finder we have often had the experience of ‘falling over’ a missing person and while they might emerge from a line of enquiry we’ve considered less than promising, it’s our job to pursue every route. The discovery of Viktoria Nasyrova is an example of a relentless private investigator who got his woman in the end.

However, the story is a brutal one, Nasyrova is wanted for murder, in Russsia, in 2014, but somehow she escaped and fled to America where she set up in business as a masseur. She was even arrested in New York in 2016 but because the police didn’t fingerprint her, she slipped through the net again. Finally she was arrested on suspicion of drugging and robbing men she met on dating sites. A private detective spent hours looking at photographs the woman he suspected was Nasyrova and was finally able to track her down after the daughter of her murder victim heard that Nasyrova had moved to the USA and was living in Brooklyn. By tracking down Facebook profiles he was able discover Nasyrova but then he had to find out her location. He did this by identifying a car featured in the photographs by the seat stitching, then putting out a surveillance team to find vehicles of that kind in the area she was rumoured to be living in. By staking out the vehicles he was able to find which one was hers, then inform the police who arrested her.

Nasyrova would have escaped justice and continued to commit crime if it hadn’t been for a truly dedicated private investigator who used every legal means at his disposal to fulfil his brief.

National Person Finder’s missing person investigations

It’s admittedly rare to have a international fugitive as a missing person – and incredibly rare to have a missing persons investigator hired to find a criminal rather than a missing family member or friend. But we have often been involved in cases where a parent was concerned about an estranged partner having access to a child, or where an injunction has been awarded but there is evidence to suggest that it’s being broken. In such circumstances absolute discretion is vital but using innovative investigative procedures is also necessary to ensure that information is available sooner rather than later so effective action can be taken.

How to Find a Missing Person

find-a-missing-personThere’s a private detective in the USA by the name of Troy Griffin who claims to be a psychic. His work involves using the paranormal to investigate, in particular, missing person’s cases. He claims to have worked on around a hundred cases to find a missing person.

Currently he’s been involved with case of a young woman Kelsie Schelling, who disappeared in 2013 at the age of 21, when she was was eight weeks pregnant. Four years later Kelsie’s mother has apparently hired Griffin to help find her daughter after he got in touch with her with a message from her missing daughter.

In his six years he claims to have had around an 18-20% success rate which he says is good given how few unsolved missing persons cases are ever resolved. However, according to ABC News who investigated his claims, Griffin has been unable to verify a single successful case and the local police in the area he claims that Kelsie’s body might be found are ‘unaware of his investigation’.

Many people consider this kind of approach to be ‘trading on the grief’ of those who have missing relatives or friends, and in several famous cases psychics have been proven to be completely wrong, most notably in the USA in 2004 when Sylvia Browne appeared on The Montel Williams Show and told the mother of a missing child, Amanda Berry, that her daughter was dead. Nine years later Amanda Berry was found alive.

At National Person Finder we have more reliable methods that this to find missing persons. Our team of skilled investigators is experienced in both on-the-ground investigation and the complex processes of computer detection that allow us to trace a missing person who has changed their identity. It’s painstaking work, for which the police rarely have time or resources but because it’s all we do, all day, every day, we have highly efficient systems that allow us to explore every avenue in a swift and cost effective fashion.

Dealing with the finances of people who go missing

One major headache, to accompany the heartache of a missing person, is finance. We hear form many families who tell us how difficult it is to resolve financial issues when somebody goes missing. However legislation before parliament this week might help. The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Bill is designed to create a guardianship that allows an individual to administer the financial affairs of a missing person, especially where that person has loans or mortgages. This could help families to continue with life in the absence of the missing person without loans falling into arrears or property becoming uninhabitable because nobody is authorised to make repairs.

We’re following the progress of the bill with interest, so that we can inform future clients of this possibility if it passes into law, because our job is to ensure that families and friends of missing persons are relieved of as many of their burdens as possible.