The Daily Telegraph - - Christmas charity special -

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.

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