Risky business? A study exploring the relationship between harm and risk indicators in missing adult incidents

  • Naomi Eales

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This doctoral thesis critically evaluates risk indicators and tests them against different harm outcomes for missing adults. This aim is achieved by examining risk in terms of its concept, philosophical perspective and discussion of decision making processes. The study critically reviews historic and current risk assessment practices as part of police investigations of missing adult incidents, to highlight some of the key challenges. This thesis examines what is meant and understood about harm in relation to vulnerable missing adults. The final objective is to identify any vulnerability indicators, working individually or in combination, and establish any predictive value.
A sample of 1712 closed missing adult cases were examined, using a quantitative method of content analysis. The demographic and vulnerability indicators were examined as individual factors and in combination. Findings show that single vulnerability indicators were more likely to result in a fatal outcome, whereas combinations of three or more had an increased likelihood of a non-fatal harm outcome. This study provides a conceptual model, based upon demographic factors, which would benefit incidents where the vulnerability indicators were not known. Protective factors are part of risk and this study recommends that further research is required to identify these.
This doctoral thesis has contributed to academic knowledge by the creation of a harm framework and the identification of different types of non-fatal and fatal harm outcomes. In addition, this is the first study to examine combinations of risk factors in missing adult incidents. This study recommends that the national reporting form be re-structured to form the investigative foundation for risk assessment. Furthermore, this study suggests that the structured professional judgement approach forms the basis of a revised risk approach.
Date of AwardMar 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorKaren Shalev (Supervisor) & Francis Pakes (Supervisor)

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