Found Deceased
: Informing Risk Assessment and Search Practice in Fatal Missing Person Episodes in the UK

  • Geoff Newiss

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The works submitted in this thesis were undertaken over a period of twenty years which saw a dramatic increase in scholarly and policy attention on the subject of missing persons. 1999’s ‘Missing presumed…?’ provided a review of the basic tenets of the police response, at the time constituting one of the earliest written accounts of the scale of the phenomena and the challenges facing police. The study produced the first published estimate of the rate of fatality in missing person cases and outlined the fundamental task of assessing which cases require greater investigative effort to prevent or detect harm. The 2003 report on missing-homicide underlined the inadequacy of the ‘vulnerability criteria’ as a simple mechanism for identifying suspicious cases, drawing attention to the relatively high risk faced by females (particularly adults) and the distinct types of homicide which are prone to first be reported as missing person cases.
In contrast, the 2006 and 2011 studies showed the preponderance of adult males amongst other types of fatal outcome: accident, suicide and natural causes. The 2006 research demonstrated how the probability of fatality increases with duration missing. The missing on a night out research (2019) showed the potential for developing powerful search heuristics when focusing on a small cluster of cases defined by the circumstances of a disappearance rather than the personal characteristics of the individuals concerned.
Together, the studies have helped to develop thinking about assessing risk in missing person cases and how research can be used to inform investigative decision-making. The research has been widely cited in scholarly and policy documents and has been disseminated to practitioners both in the UK and overseas. The research on men missing on a night out has informed water safety campaigns and prompted river patrol in several locations that have saved lives.
Date of Award10 Oct 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorKaren Shalev (Supervisor) & Craig Collie (Supervisor)

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