'It Is like Living in Limbo - in This Perpetual Cycle of Grief, Hope, Grief and Hope ...' There Are 116 People from Wales Reported Missing by Their Families but Never Found. Helen Turner Reports on the People Who Have Vanished without Trace

Article excerpt

Byline: Helen Turner

POLICE searches, public appeals and historic case reviews have failed to find them.

Although the majority of missing people are found within 48 hours, the families of those who aren't are left with an unimaginable plight as they helplessly wait for news.

The emotional, legal and financial burdens left to family members have been put to MPs this summer by high-profile campaigners including KateMc-Cann and Peter Lawrence, father of missing York chef Claudia, as part of the parliamentary inquiry into the rights of missing people's families.

According to figures obtained from Wales' four police forces, there were 6,249 missing person reports from 2009-10, and 28,000 over the past three years. Ten people from this period remain missing.

Among the high-profile cases of those still missing - though from an earlier period - are James Nutley, 24, from Caldicot, Gwent, who disappeared in 2004 while on a golfing holiday in Tenby, and Robert Williams, 15, of Resolven, near Neath, who has been missing from home since March 2002. Earlier this summer police announced they have stopped looking for the schoolboy.

Martin Houghton-Brown, chief executive of charity Missing People, said: "The vast majority of missing people come home safe and sound.

"The people who don't come under a number of categories: those who are victims of crime, those who have had an accident and may have died as a result, people who have died at their own will, and people who have chosen to go missing.

"The number of adults who choose to go missing is relatively small, but they present a particular challenge to the families that are left behind because they don't know what's happened to them."

As well as supporting families and publicising appeals, the charity reaches out to missing people and will convey a message to relatives if requested.

Mr Houghton-Brown described this as "incredibly powerful" and cited how a man missing for 13 years had got in touch by e-mail last week to ask if a message could be sent to his family.

"They were delighted," he said.

"It had been 13 years since he first went missing. They said 'We love you, we don't blame you for going missing'. That led to the two parties communicating via the charity, now they have exchanged e-mail addresses.

"We hope that can bring resolution to the family. For the police it means they can close the case.

"Of course, the majority of families the charity supports are not in that situation.

"Of the 1,000 families we support, in most situations the family can't trace the missing person and police can't trace the missing person."

Ten per cent of the charity's long-term cases have a fatal outcome. Overall in missing cases it's 1%.

"We work with the families for however long the missing person is still missing - as we saw the other day, after 13 years someone can turn up," said Mr Houghton-Brown.

The charity has been granted lottery funding to develop specialist bereavement counselling for families whose loved ones are missing.

He said: "Families tell us it is like living in limbo, they live in this perpetual cycle of grief, hope, grief, hope.

"Unlike bereavement there isn't a journey they can go on. It's heart-breaking.

"The instinct of the public is to say move on.

"But if you put yourself in their shoes, you wouldn't want to move on.

"You would say, 'As long as there is breath in my body and a chance they are still alive, I will search for them'."

Appeals in newspapers - and now on Twitter and Facebook - are crucial in locating missing people.

"The good news is that the 70% of people we are looking for are found, that's a tremendous hope for families we work with," said Mr Houghton-Brown.

But he emphasised the need for a national strategy for all police forces. …