Understanding the risk of going missing: estimating the probability of fatal outcomes in cancelled cases

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to improve the police, policy makers' and researchers' understanding of the likelihood of fatal outcomes befalling missing persons.

Design/methodology/approach: Data on the age, sex, duration missing and outcome (fatal or non‐fatal) of over 32,000 cancelled reports of missing persons were extracted from a police database of missing persons in the London metropolitan area. The analysis highlights the risk of a cancelled missing person report resulting in a fatal outcome by the same variables.

Findings: Shows that the risk of a cancelled missing person report resulting in a fatal outcome is overall very low, though it does increase with the age of the person reported missing and the duration they remain missing for. Males face a higher risk of being found dead than females.

Research limitations/implications: The risk estimations use a base rate of all cancelled missing person reports, therefore excluding persons who have never being found. The estimations are based on missing person reports rather than individuals. Insufficient detail was available to analyse the fatal cases by type of death (e.g. suicide, homicide, accident, etc.).

Originality/value: This paper provides new empirical evidence on what happens to people reported missing. The findings provide an actuarial context in which clinical risk assessment by police officers can take place.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246-260
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2006


  • risk management
  • policing
  • United Kingdom

Cite this