National missing persons coordination centre

Practical matters

While an investigation is carried out, there are several tasks that may need to be taken care of on behalf of the missing person. The following checklist can be used as a guide.

Immediately

Preserving details

  • You may need to limit access to your home until police have collected possible evidence. Do not touch or remove items from your loved one’s room or your home during this time.
  • Keep aside items such as hairbrush, toothbrushes etc. as these may be required for forensic collection. Your case officer should inform you of any specific items that need to be set aside for this purpose.

Personal property

  • Where the missing person lives alone, arrange for someone to collect their mail and attend to the upkeep of their property.
  • If they have any pets, arrange for someone to take care of them.
  • Neighbours may need to be informed that police and/or media will be present in the area.

Inform the necessary people

  • The missing person’s employer, school, club or business associates should be notified.
  • Try and cancel any social engagements, business appointments or travel plans the missing person may have had scheduled.
  • Anyone with information that could be of assistance to the investigation should always be advised to contact the police.
  • Consider advising your own employer of the situation to discuss the possibility of time off work (if required). While some may not feel comfortable sharing personal information, your employer will be best placed to support you if you are open about your needs. A confidante or employee assistance service may also assist in the workplace.
  • If there are children in your family who are affected by the disappearance of a missing person, notify the children’s school. School counsellors may be a helpful resource in supporting children.

When practicable

Records

  • Your case officer may request that you contact the missing persons doctor and dentist to request medical records and x-rays. Have these sent to your case officer.

Finances

  • Payment of the missing person’s mortgage, rent, bills or other financial obligations should be arranged for the interim period.
  • Bank managers or financial advisers may need to be consulted if extra funds are required to help cover mortgage repayments, rent, bills or any unexpected travel or personal expenses.
  • Consider arranging for a close friend, colleague or relative to help the family keep track of bills or other commitments.
  • Vodafone has a procedure to assist family and friends of missing persons to manage their account in the event of their disappearance. Vodafone’s Missing Persons mobile tools article outlines to process for managing the account of a missing loved one.
  • Police and tracing agencies may monitor the missing person’s bank account during the investigation. It is important to inform them of any unusual activity or if you make any changes to accounts.

Privacy Issues

  • Many families and friends of missing persons disseminate their own posters or search information to ensure that the community is aware that someone is missing. It is advised that private telephone or mobile phone numbers should not be publicised. Your investigating officer can provide advice on the most appropriate number to provide.
  • Families of missing persons are often contacted by psychics and clairvoyants. While some may be genuinely trying to help, families and friends should not feel obliged to deal with them. It may be more appropriate for the psychic to be referred to the case officer.

Long term

When a relative or friend is missing for an extended period, managing the financial affairs of a missing person is an important consideration. Legal advice should to be sought about matters such as life insurance, superannuation, will, and trust funds. In some states there are specific processes through which the affairs of a missing person can be managed.

Many long term missing persons’ cases are also subject to a Coronial Process.

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Australian Federal Police