Imagine a son, daughter, spouse or relative walking out of the door tonight and vanishing. That is the nightmare situation faced by thousands of families across the country.
Every year around 250,000 people go missing in Britain, 140,000 of whom are under the age of 16. Around 70 per cent will return or be found within 24 hours. Others will return after a week. Some simply never come home.
The names of some of the missing will already be familiar: Richey Edwards (the Manic Street Preachers guitarist who vanished in 1995); Suzy Lamplugh; and Lee Boxell – who disappeared aged 15 in 1988 and whose parents are interviewed in the Weekend section of today’s Telegraph.
For their family members left behind, life becomes almost unbearable, the agony of not knowing whether a loved one is dead or alive exacerbated by the faint glimmer of hope.
Missing People is a lifeline for families when a loved one disappears and the only nationwide charity offering such specialist support. The charity runs a 24/7 helpline and text service and also operates a dedicated runaway helpline for young people who are missing or thinking of leaving home, to confidentially get in touch.
As well as providing a liaison between families and the police, Missing People also assigns support workers to vulnerable families and helps with advice such as how to handle the financial affairs of a missing person’s family to stop them falling into debt.
Last year, they helped more than 10,000 people who were affected by a disappearance, including 3,500 families and 6,500 vulnerable adults, children and young people.