Child sex abuse, missing person cases ‘are linked’

Child sex abuse and missing persons cases are often linked, a senior police chief has said. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Child sex abuse and missing persons cases are often linked, a senior police chief has said. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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A LEADING Scots police officer has revealed how a new approach could help solve some of the nation’s most enduring mysteries.

Detective Superintendent Andy McKay, the national missing persons strategic co-ordinator at Police Scotland, says the so-called “golden hours” methodology applied in homicide cases could bear fruit in linking corpses and body parts with missing persons inquiries.

Crucially, they could prove a vital way of tackling the scourge of child sexual exploitation, which he says goes “hand in hand” with the disappearance of vulnerable young people.

Yesterday, Police Scotland announced a new partnership with the charity Missing People, looking at ways of linking more than 300 bodies and pieces of human remains to people who have disappeared over the past six decades.

DS McKay said the force dealt with more than 37,000 missing people reports last year, adding: “There was an opportunity to look at how we manage missing person inquiries as part of the process which saw Police Scotland formed out of the eight legacy forces.

“A big piece of the work is applying the same investigative processes and techniques we would apply to investigations like homicide.”

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He said police were now applying the same “golden hours” principle employed in murder investigations by focusing on the hours immediately following a person’s disappearance.

“Really, you are trying to get hot on the heels of people. The golden hours allow you to collect the information you need before the trail goes cold.”

He said vulnerable young people, as well as the elderly and those with mental health problems, had been identified as those most at risk of going missing.

“Child sexual exploitation goes hand in hand with [incidents of] missing young girls from children’s homes, unfortunately. Some of the findings of recent reports in England have shown that had more supportive return interviews been done, that would have made a difference in identifying abuse when it had happened.”

Police also hope to use DNA and photographic evidence to link hundreds of unidentified human remains to missing person inquiries dating back as far as the 1950s.

The new tactics emerged as Police Scotland signed an agreement with Missing People, which will improve the response given to missing person investigations and provide those who do go missing and their families with enhanced levels of assistance.

Joe Apps, head of the National Crime Agency’s UK Missing Persons Bureau, said: “The more joined-up we can be on this issue the better.

“Here at the Missing Persons Bureau we have a similar agreement in place with Missing People, which means we are able to jointly deliver the very best service to missing children and adults and their families through publicity campaigns and family support.”

More than half of those reported missing last year were traced within 24 hours and a further 40 per cent were located within seven days, police said.

Earlier this year, Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House told a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority that his force was keen to identify missing person “hotspots” around the country.

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