National Missing Persons Week 2023: Can you solve the case?

National Missing Persons Week - Can You Solve The Case? 30 July - 5 August 2023

The AFP is calling for Australians to put on their detective hats and assist forensic investigators unpick clues that could help crack some of the nation’s longest unsolved missing persons cases.

Launched today for National Missing Persons Week, which runs through 5 August, the Can you solve this case? campaign is focused on eight cases involving unidentified human remains.

While forensic experts continue to examine the remains, police hope the public can piece together other clues that could help match them with one of the more than 2500 long-term missing persons cases on file in Australia.

The AFP’s National Missing Persons Coordination Centre, working with state and territory law enforcement agencies, has created an online “investigative board” to provide amateur sleuths with a detailed detective’s overview of the cases.

Vital clues such as clothing and objects found at the scene of the human remains and craniofacial reconstructions can be viewed in 3D animation.

The craniofacial reconstruction highlights how the AFP uses cutting-edge technology to continue investigating old cases.

As part of its National DNA Program for Unidentified and Missing Persons (Program) capabilities, AFP forensic specialists are able to use new tools to estimate an unidentified individual’s year of birth and death, ancestral origin, hair and eye colour, facial appearance and genetic relatives.

The reconstruction used this year is from remains found in the Northern Territory with forensic testing conducted by the Program determining the remains belonged to an Aboriginal female who was older than 18, however, DNA testing has revealed no database links to relatives.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Hans Koenderink said community members were law enforcement’s most important partners and this campaign provided them an insider’s view of the AFP’s work and forensic capabilities.

“This campaign capitalises on the increasing popularity of the “true crime” genre and, challenges the community to delve into the case files just like our AFP forensic officers do everyday,” he said.

“The AFP and state and territory police forces are this year focusing on unidentified human remains cases – as they are not just case numbers but are unknown individuals who have names, families and stories that deserve to be told.

“For these loved ones, living with the uncertainty about the whereabouts and safety of a loved one can be a traumatic experience that can last for weeks, months or, sadly, years.

“In Australia, there are 750 unidentified human remains and 2500 long-term missing persons cases.

“The community plays a critical role in helping police with information that can help to solve a missing persons case.

The eight unidentified persons nominated by the AFP’s state and territory counterparts to be featured in this year’s campaign are located at Pyrmont (NSW), Leanyer (NT), the Stretton Wetlands (QLD), King’s Beach (SA), Mt Osmond (SA), Pardoe Beach (TAS), the Dandenong Ranges (VIC) and , Chidlow (WA).

In Australia, a missing person is defined as anyone who is reported missing to police, whose whereabouts are unknown, and where there are fears for the safety or concern for the welfare of that person. A long-term missing person is someone who has been missing for more than three months.

In 2022, there were over 55,000 missing persons reports made to police in Australia. This is nearly 150 missing reports per day.


National Missing Persons Week

Members of the community sharing their stories and support throughout NMPW 2023 are encouraged to use the hashtag #NMPW2023.

Media is encouraged to read the Counselling Framework for guidance when working with families of missing people.

Anyone with information relating to a missing person should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

About the NMPCC

The AFP’s National Missing Persons Coordination Centre plays an active role in coordinating national police efforts, and educating the Australian community to prevent the incidence and impact of missing persons in Australia.

The National Missing Persons Coordination Centre is a non-operational arm of the AFP, which put simply means the team is not involved in the investigations of missing persons. All investigations are undertaken by the relevant State and Territory police.

In support of NMPW, the AFP NMPCC coordinates an annual police campaign with State and Territory police, highlighting a different theme each year to raise awareness of the significant issues associated with missing persons and profile long-term missing persons to reduce the incidence and impact of missing persons in Australia.

The annual police campaign compliments other campaigns, events, initiatives and memorial services run by families with a missing loved one, advocacy networks, government and non-government organisations, and members of the public.

About the National DNA Program

In July 2020, the AFP National Missing Persons Coordination Centre was granted $3.594 million under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to launch the AFP National DNA Program for Unidentified and Missing Persons under the leadership of Associate Professor Jodie Ward.

The aim of this multifaceted, multidisciplinary and multiagency Program is to apply a suite of advanced forensic science techniques to unidentified human remains to assist Australian law enforcement restore their identity and reunite them with the families that have missed them for years.

So far, the National DNA Program for Unidentified and Missing Persons has assisted to resolve the identity of more than 10 unidentified human remains and link them to long-term missing persons.

The success of this nationally-coordinated Program has centred on working collaboratively with police, coronial and forensic agencies across Australia to resolve these cold cases, and importantly, families of missing loved ones who are integral to this DNA-led identification effort.

Media enquiries:
AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297

Connect with us:
Follow our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages to learn more about what the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre does and to follow the campaign.

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