Around 250,000 people go missing in the UK each year. The Missing Blog aims to give a voice to all those affected by this issue.

Written by families and friends of missing people, supporters working to raise awareness of the cause, and volunteers and staff at the charity Missing People, we hope that this blog will offer a window into the issue of missing.

The charity Missing People is a lifeline when someone disappears. To find out more about Missing People and ways that you can support the charity visit www.missingpeople.org.uk.

Call or txt the charity Missing People for free on 116 000, 24/7 if you or anyone you know is affected by a disappearance.

Monday, 25 July 2016

If you were hooked on ‘Making a Murderer’ there’s a new series you must watch about a boy who has been missing for 20 years. Here’s why.




An age-progressed image of Damien



Damien before he went missing in 1996


By Val Nettles, mum of missing Damien

Where do I start?  My son Damien has been missing for 19 years.  We have had an upward battle throughout these years to keep his case active.  Our family struggled with the initial police view that Damien went off on his own for some unknown reason.  We never felt this was the case, even when they said “He’s gone off for a funny five minutes Mrs. Nettles, be back by tea-time”.  They didn’t think it was a problem, despite it being completely out of character.

Since then, for 19 years we have pushed, poked and prodded the police and the local population for action or answers.  We got little action but a lot of answers and the difficulty has been determining what was fact and what was fiction.

Fast forward to almost 20 years and he still isn’t home for tea.

The most important time in the case of a missing person is the first 48 hours.  It’s a fact.

Despite a major search in 2011 along with eight arrests on suspicion of murder, 14 years after he went missing, the case remained a missing person case.  It is a very odd place to be.  His case had become both a suspected murder, AND a missing person case.  Confusing.

The case was wound down in 2014 and though it is not closed, it is also not active.

Enter the BBC in 2015.  I was contacted last summer with the prospect of having Damien featured on in a new cutting edge program on the soon to be newly re-formatted BBC Three.  It was explained as an investigative journalism film. I felt I had nothing to lose.  So I entered into the world of the investigative journalistic team and put all my trust and faith in them.   I gave every waking minute, it seemed, to the team re-counting, re-hashing all the information.  They made me dig deep into my memory.  I thought I had it all right there in my head, but they pushed a little harder and sometimes I remembered something long forgotten in the murky mist of memory.  They were tough but at every turn, their concern was for us and Damien.  No promises were made to solve this puzzling case, but they hoped to dispel some of the gossip and theories surrounding it.  The Isle of Wight is a small place and everyone knows each other.  It is not the sort of place things like this happen. 

Many of Damien’s friends participated in the film and it was lovely to see them all.  It was hard too, since they had lives and families and futures but Damien does not.  His friend Alex wrote a particularly poignant song for Damien.  It is a song about their growing up.  One event in particular I recall vividly that he includes in the song and it is the day they crashed Alex’s mother’s car.  They were about 13 years old and decided to sit in the Volvo wagon parked outside the house on a hill.  Somehow, the car with the two boys in the front seat started to roll down the hill and I can see to this day Damien pull his long lanky leg quickly back into the car before he would have trapped it between the door and a lamppost.  The car continued with the boys inside to roll down the steep road.  Slowly, fortunately it rolled into a neighbour’s back garden.  Not fortunate for the neighbour’s shed, but the boys were unhurt. 

These memories are like photos or movies in my mind are all I have and I cling to them.  Like many other mothers of missing children, I mourn for my son while not understanding why and having no marker, no body, no finality.  I have been fully supported by the charity Missing People over the years who continue to care about my family and Damien.  Just knowing they are there when I need a friend is reassuring. 

To give you an idea of what the last 20 years have been like, here is an example of just one day in my life while Damien has been missing:

I began my day, waking at 5 a.m. again and thinking about Damien.  He was in my mind as I tossed and turned throughout the night.  I don’t sleep well anymore.  I ask myself the same old question “How did this happen?  Where could he be?  Did he die?  Did he cry for us? Was he afraid and lonely?  I think of all the worst possible scenario’s because I know nothing.  That is the hardest part “knowing nothing”.  I am always restless these days.  Tired.  So I get up, make coffee and begin my day.  I work out at the gym most days early.  I like that this time of the day, before other practical things need to be dealt with.  This is my time.  Time to think about Damien and time to answer emails or any information regarding the case. 

I received an email from another mother of a missing boy.  She needed to talk to someone who would understand.  She was having problems with her daughter.  She wss feeling worn down and has lost her direction.  She has lost herself in the darkness that has become her normalcy. 

I replied to her at length, drawing from my own experience and the perspective that I have come to recognise as my life.  I can hardly remember what it was like before.  I can only seem to recollect the loss that has been my life for so long.  I don’t recognize myself anymore.  I breathe; I get up every day.  I watch myself in the mirror and wonder why I am still functioning, such as it is?  I breathe; I have no choice.  Brush teeth, dry hair, put on makeup, get dressed.  I throw myself together everyday; I am passable in appearance.  I try to make some effort, but then I catch my face in the mirror and I ask myself “for what.”  “Why are you still functioning, your son is out there somewhere, probably in a shallow grave, here you are getting ready for work, but your son is out there somewhere, what are you doing?”  I look away.  I see all around me the preparations that I need to make to face the day and again, I wonder, “how do I keep going?”   Life is routine, day in, day out.  I work, my mind wonders constantly.  Perhaps I could have had a career, instead of this one?  My heart is back in on the Island where Damien disappeared.  My mind is there too; I flit from present to past.  What is this life?  I am buried too under the thoughts, fears, and memories.   The email from that mother reminded me who I am and what my life is about.  It brought me back to myself.  THAT is who I am.  I am the mother of a missing child. This daily routine is a gossamer veil.  No substance, it just faintly hides what lies beneath.  It covers my life as I breathe.  I go through the motions every day.  No one can see past the veil.  I have become adept living with it. 

‘Unsolved’ is available to download on BBC Iplayer.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p041fkdp
Buy ‘Someone Knows – A Song for Damien’ by Alex Roberts here. 100% of the proceeds will go to Missing People.

Unsolved: The Boy Who Disappeared

An age-progressed image of Damien
Damien before he went missing in 1996

If you were hooked on ‘Making a Murderer’ there’s a new series you must watch about a boy who has been missing for 20 years. Here’s why.

By Val Nettles, mum of missing Damien


Where do I start?  My son Damien has been missing for 19 years.  We have had an upward battle throughout these years to keep his case active.  Our family struggled with the initial police view that Damien went off on his own for some unknown reason.  We never felt this was the case, even when they said “He’s gone off for a funny five minutes Mrs. Nettles, be back by tea-time”.  They didn’t think it was a problem, despite it being completely out of character.

Since then, for 19 years we have pushed, poked and prodded the police and the local population for action or answers.  We got little action but a lot of answers and the difficulty has been determining what was fact and what was fiction.

Fast forward to almost 20 years and he still isn’t home for tea.

The most important time in the case of a missing person is the first 48 hours.  It’s a fact.

Despite a major search in 2011 along with eight arrests on suspicion of murder, 14 years after he went missing, the case remained a missing person case.  It is a very odd place to be.  His case had become both a suspected murder, AND a missing person case.  Confusing.

The case was wound down in 2014 and though it is not closed, it is also not active.

Enter the BBC in 2015.  I was contacted last summer with the prospect of having Damien featured on in a new cutting edge program on the soon to be newly re-formatted BBC Three.  It was explained as an investigative journalism film. I felt I had nothing to lose.  So I entered into the world of the investigative journalistic team and put all my trust and faith in them.   I gave every waking minute, it seemed, to the team re-counting, re-hashing all the information.  They made me dig deep into my memory.  I thought I had it all right there in my head, but they pushed a little harder and sometimes I remembered something long forgotten in the murky mist of memory.  They were tough but at every turn, their concern was for us and Damien.  No promises were made to solve this puzzling case, but they hoped to dispel some of the gossip and theories surrounding it.  The Isle of Wight is a small place and everyone knows each other.  It is not the sort of place things like this happen. 

Many of Damien’s friends participated in the film and it was lovely to see them all.  It was hard too, since they had lives and families and futures but Damien does not.  His friend Alex wrote a particularly poignant song for Damien.  It is a song about their growing up.  One event in particular I recall vividly that he includes in the song and it is the day they crashed Alex’s mother’s car.  They were about 13 years old and decided to sit in the Volvo wagon parked outside the house on a hill.  Somehow, the car with the two boys in the front seat started to roll down the hill and I can see to this day Damien pull his long lanky leg quickly back into the car before he would have trapped it between the door and a lamppost.  The car continued with the boys inside to roll down the steep road.  Slowly, fortunately it rolled into a neighbour’s back garden.  Not fortunate for the neighbour’s shed, but the boys were unhurt. 

These memories are like photos or movies in my mind are all I have and I cling to them.  Like many other mothers of missing children, I mourn for my son while not understanding why and having no marker, no body, no finality.  I have been fully supported by the charity Missing People over the years who continue to care about my family and Damien.  Just knowing they are there when I need a friend is reassuring. 

To give you an idea of what the last 20 years have been like, here is an example of just one day in my life while Damien has been missing:

I began my day, waking at 5 a.m. again and thinking about Damien.  He was in my mind as I tossed and turned throughout the night.  I don’t sleep well anymore.  I ask myself the same old question “How did this happen?  Where could he be?  Did he die?  Did he cry for us? Was he afraid and lonely?  I think of all the worst possible scenario’s because I know nothing.  That is the hardest part “knowing nothing”.  I am always restless these days.  Tired.  So I get up, make coffee and begin my day.  I work out at the gym most days early.  I like that this time of the day, before other practical things need to be dealt with.  This is my time.  Time to think about Damien and time to answer emails or any information regarding the case. 

I received an email from another mother of a missing boy.  She needed to talk to someone who would understand.  She was having problems with her daughter.  She wss feeling worn down and has lost her direction.  She has lost herself in the darkness that has become her normalcy. 

I replied to her at length, drawing from my own experience and the perspective that I have come to recognise as my life.  I can hardly remember what it was like before.  I can only seem to recollect the loss that has been my life for so long.  I don’t recognize myself anymore.  I breathe; I get up every day.  I watch myself in the mirror and wonder why I am still functioning, such as it is?  I breathe; I have no choice.  Brush teeth, dry hair, put on makeup, get dressed.  I throw myself together everyday; I am passable in appearance.  I try to make some effort, but then I catch my face in the mirror and I ask myself “for what.”  “Why are you still functioning, your son is out there somewhere, probably in a shallow grave, here you are getting ready for work, but your son is out there somewhere, what are you doing?”  I look away.  I see all around me the preparations that I need to make to face the day and again, I wonder, “how do I keep going?”   Life is routine, day in, day out.  I work, my mind wonders constantly.  Perhaps I could have had a career, instead of this one?  My heart is back in on the Island where Damien disappeared.  My mind is there too; I flit from present to past.  What is this life?  I am buried too under the thoughts, fears, and memories.   The email from that mother reminded me who I am and what my life is about.  It brought me back to myself.  THAT is who I am.  I am the mother of a missing child. This daily routine is a gossamer veil.  No substance, it just faintly hides what lies beneath.  It covers my life as I breathe.  I go through the motions every day.  No one can see past the veil.  I have become adept living with it. 

‘Unsolved’ is available to download on BBC Iplayer.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p041fkdp
Buy ‘Someone Knows – A Song for Damien’ by Alex Roberts here. 100% of the proceeds will go to Missing People.

Friday, 8 July 2016

What does Brexit mean for Missing People?

This post comes from Missing People's Policy Manager Anna Collins.

With the result of the UK referendum now clear after months of campaigning what it means for the future remains uncertain.

The referendum has shown a division amongst the UK’s population about how we’d like to operate in the world. At Missing People we’ve been considering what the ‘leave’ vote means for missing people and their families

Our services
Our services are funded from a range of sources so whilst the economic picture is uncertain, our funding sources are deliberately diverse to ensure we’re not reliant upon one source of income. We’ll be keeping an eye on economic developments to ensure that we can continue to provide a lifeline to missing people and their families day in and day out.

We work in close collaboration with European partners and are a member of Missing Children Europe, the European Federation for Missing Children. The leave vote won’t affect this membership. Our helpline number 116 000 came from an EU directive in 2007 won’t be affected either.

Our policy and campaigns work
With political uncertainty following the leave vote we’re reflecting on our campaigns and prioritising activities where we can have most influence. The Government’s main focus will be dealing with negotiations to withdraw from the European Union and deciding which pieces of legislation to repeal or amend. It’s not certain if there’ll be a general election in the short term. We’ll be monitoring the situation to identify opportunities to champion our campaigns with our parliamentary supporters many of you have helped us to develop relationships with, and with key agencies outside Parliament such as police and local authorities

What happens next?
The Conservatives are currently deciding who their leader and therefore the next Prime Minister will be. It will then be up to them to decide when to trigger article 50, which starts the process for leaving the European Union and for negotiations to take place.

In the meantime, our work will continue to support and campaign for missing people and their families and we’ll still need your help to make that happen.

Missing People produces a quarterly newsletter, Missing News, which collates a comprehensive picture of the latest developments in policy, practice and research relating to missing. To sign up to receive these updates, please email policyandresearch@missingpeople.org.uk.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Being a lifeline during ambiguous loss - "the most distressful of all losses”

This week Radio 4 will be repeating their award-winning drama, "Ambiguous Loss", which looks at the journey of a missing man from the perspective of both himself and his family. At Missing People we use the term "ambiguous loss" in relation to what families and loved ones may experience when their loved one is missing. 


In 2013, we were approached by the writer and producer of the drama at a very early stage of the play’s creation. Michael Butt, the writer, wanted to make sure his work reflected the reality of what happens when somebody goes missing. As part of  his research, he met with our staff and volunteers to find out more about the experiences of people who are missing and their families.

In the drama, the role of a Missing People helpline staff member was played by a member of our team,  Amy. Because the actors were improvising it meant that we could demonstrate how our call-takers work on the phone – listening, remaining calm - not knowing the whole story but gently exploring the situation to support the person.

When the helpline phone rings, or a text message comes through, we don’t know who it is. It could be a child who has been kicked out or run away, it could be an adult who has left home because of crisis they are going through, it could be a parent or carer. People can come to us whilst going through lots of different emotions – panic, fear, anger, guilt, despair, sadness. It’s our job to listen, to create a space where they feel safe and supported to talk through what is going on for them, and then get help for them, or offer advice, if that is what they want. We are here for support, and to help people to be safe.

In "Ambiguous Loss", Missing People takes a message from the missing man to pass onto his wife. Being able to pass such a message is a really effective part of our work – Message Home is core function of our helpline service. A lot of people who are missing will want their families to know they are okay, but won’t feel ready to talk to them directly. By passing the message on we can help both them and their family. If they want, we can help with further steps towards reconnection – such as passing messages back, or even connecting them through a 3-way call. During the 3-way call we stay on the line – to offer support, advice or clarification as needed.

Of course, reconnection - going home - is often just the first step. People may have left for many different reasons, and may still need help and support. They may have changed in the time they have been away, or find it difficult to adjust to being back. Their family may not know how to treat them – wanting to make sure they know they are loved and looked after, but worried they may leave again. If someone has been away for a long time it may feel like they have a stranger sat in their living room.  Because of this, we are currently piloting an Aftercare scheme in Wales. This a service where we can offer ongoing phone support to both the person who has come home and their family – giving them a chance to honestly talk through their fears and frustration, and discuss different services and resources that may be available to help them.

‘Ambiguous Loss’ brilliantly reflects the work our frontline staff and volunteers do for vulnerable people, and how it connects to the work they also do with their families. I want anyone who is away from home, or worried they may have to leave, to use our helpline services by phone, text, or email. We won’t tell you what to do. We know it’s difficult, and we will listen to you – it’s your call.

You can listen to the play "Ambiguous Loss" on BBC Radio 4 this week at 2.15pm on Monday 27th, Tuesday 28th and Wednesday 29th or you can listen again on the BBC Radio 4 website. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Work experience – Izzy’s blog

Work experience student Izzy spent two days with us in early June getting an insight into life at Missing People. Here she reflects on her time at our head office

For the past two days I have worked at Missing People in London. It has provided an insight into what the charity is, what they do, how they do it and how important their service is. We never think that any of what Missing People help with will affect us and my time here has made me realise that this cause is highly underappreciated because we don’t hear about it as much as we should.

I decided to come and work at Missing People because I am looking to do Arabic and Politics/International Relations at university and subsequently going on to work for either a governmental organisation or NGO that helps those who need it, or as a human rights lawyer. These two days have helped me to see more of the NGO side of things and how you can directly and indirectly help others, whether it is in a small or large way.

During my first day, I had an induction into the general aspects and principles of the charity. This helped me to learn key information about the charity that I did not know before. After this, I was able to help the Corporate Partnerships Officer in conducting research into companies that could be possible partners of the charity. This was interesting because the links between the company and the charities I was asked to look up were very clever and it seemed important that these companies became partners in order to fulfil Missing People’s main goal. This is a form of strategic partnership which I had not heard of before but it seems very useful in order to make strong alliances between companies. Finally, I worked with the Communications Team to help schedule tweets on a programme (Hootsuite) on their Runaway Helpline Twitter page, specifically with regards to stress at school. I enjoyed this task because I was able to directly involve myself in sending out public messages by helping people with the information I know and learnt about combatting stress at school.

On the second day, I was able to help the Communications Manager with a specific part of Missing People that concerns the aftercare that is given to a missing person and/or family when the person returns. This was really interesting because the whole idea of aftercare was not something that I expected Missing People to be involved in and therefore was really happy to be helping with this because I think it is very important. Specifically, I was able to find addresses for all the places in Wales (where the Aftercare aspect of Missing People is taking place) where they wanted to send materials that they needed to help with that scheme. I also drafted a letter that would be sent to these addresses along with the materials. During the afternoon, I was introduced to the data base (Raiser’s Edge) that the Fundraising and Communications team use to log all of their corporate or personal partnerships with people that have donated, set up an event or even shown interest in Missing People. This was interesting because it was not something I had come across before and it seems like a really sensible way to keep track of what has happened. I need to start using it to keep up with all the work I am set at school!

Overall, I have found my time at Missing People really valuable because of the skills it has taught me that are vital when someone is working for a charity, like the specific programmes to use and how goals can be achieved. The tasks I was set were interesting and relevant but most of all the people here are lovely. Everybody was welcoming and helped me and it has given me a thoughtful insight into what it would be like to work for a charity and what it requires.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Volunteer profile: Holly

This blog post was written by Holly Christie, Archivist Volunteer at Missing People

This week is my one-year anniversary as a volunteer at Missing People, it’s been a fantastic year and I feel that I have achieved so much and made an impact, even in my small way.
Last April I signed up to become a volunteer Archivist for Missing People. My day job doesn’t really have many clean cut starts and ends, work is always ongoing. I liked the idea of volunteering my time on something that is completely different to what I do every day. Archiving gives me a sense of satisfaction when after my four hour shift I have a pile of cases that have been completed and I can now shred. Job done!

What does an Archivist Volunteer do?
Missing People have thousands of missing people cases still on paper files that need to be checked, summarised and logged onto their electronic database. They’re about 25% of the way through the case load, but they always need more Archivists to help complete this enormous task.

My role is to check the work of the Junior Archivists, categorise the files and then the delightful task of shredding them at the end of my shift.
“Ergh dull” you might think, but there is something immensely satisfying seeing a pile of 30 cases at the end of your four-hour shift that can now be shredded.
I know that at the end of my shift that the chances are I’m the last person to see that case and know about that missing person, puts your life into perspective.

My year
I recently received my Pink Star Award from Missing People for volunteer over 100 hours for Missing People. On average I do 30 cases in a four-hour shift, I’ve now archived around 787 cases already this year!
I’m looking forward to another year of volunteer with Missing People, spending my Wednesday evenings with their amazing volunteers and friendly staff.

I would recommend you do too!

Find out more about volunteering at Missing People here 

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Henry’s Heroes: Barbara Robinson


This content first appeared on RH Uncovered and is reproduced with permission

This month, our MP Henry Smith has nominated Crawley resident (and hardworking volunteer) Barbara Robinson to be his latest community hero.

Sixty-nine year old Barbara, who is a retired teacher, has spent many years giving her time to help local organisations such as Crawley’s Citizens Advice Bureau, Missing People, Crawley Town FC and even being a foster mum for Canine Partners, making her one of Crawley’s most active volunteers.

“In my working life as a teacher, I was always having to problem solve and be empathetic towards my students. When I retired I wanted to continue to use my brain, problem solve and be proactive and the roles I fulfil now enable me to do that,” Barbara explains.

She now advises those in need of help and support at the town’s busy Citizens Advice Bureau, helps to find missing people and promote the charity (of the same name) across Surrey and Sussex, takes in and cares for dogs who are currently in training with Canine Partners to help those with disabilities, and most recently; played a pivotal role in creating the Crawley Town Disabled Supporters’ Association.

It’s volunteering for the association that Barbara has especially shone and improved the match day experience for many Crawley Town fans, with sight problems, thanks to the introduction of audio description at the stadium.

“I’m very proud to have been instrumental in getting audio description at the football club for those with sight problems up and running,” she says. “As a result five fans who had given up on enjoying a match because they couldn’t follow the action now thoroughly enjoy the games!”

So, what does this community hero enjoy so much about volunteering?

“I meet a variety of people in the various roles I do – I get a buzz out of being able to make a difference to someone,” she told us.

Henry says: “I am delighted to nominate Barbara for her continuing dedicated work for our community.”

“She has worked tirelessly for Missing People, working to help those who have suffered the trauma of not knowing the whereabouts of a friend or loved one. Barbara has also sought to encourage others to help by representing the organisation at a volunteering showcase.”

“Her work in setting up the Crawley Town Disabled Supporters Association has ensured that fans with sight problems can enjoy the full match day experience thanks to the audio description service now run at Crawley Town.”

“Barbara’s work, which also includes helping at the Citizens Advice Bureau and Canine Partners, helps people across Crawley and further afield – I would like to thank her for her service.”