Scotland’s missing: How many disappear each year and why?

Over 37,000 people go missing in Scotland each year. Pictured are a handful of Scots current missing. Picture: Missing People

Over 37,000 people go missing in Scotland each year. Pictured are a handful of Scots current missing. Picture: Missing People

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Nearly 90 Scots reported missing every day with some not seen for decades.

More than 37,000 missing person reports are made in Scotland every year..

People describe it like being a torture

Karen Robinson, is the head of partnerships and development at Missing People

Of these, around 32,000 of these calls go on to form a police inquiry - at a cost of between £30m to £80m to Scotland’s national force.

It is not clear exactly how many individuals these calls relate to but it is accepted that thousands of families in Scotland experience the anguish of a vanished love one - and that torturous state of not knowing if they are safe or at harm.

Thankfully, more than 99 per cent of those who vanish will be returned safe and well, with the majority of missing people in the UK either home or in contact within 48 hours (85 per cent).

But missing persons lists still contain people who have not made contact with their loved ones months or years - and in some cases decades.

More than 600 cases are open in Scotland of people who classed as long-term missing - those who have been gone for 28 days or more.

The missing list in Scotland includes Heather Thompson, a 27-year-old hairdresser from Inverness who was last seen leaving her home on

on January 19, 1994.

Blond-haired and blue-eyed toddler Sandy Davidson also appears. He was just two-years-old when he vanished from his grandmother’s back garden in Irvine on April 23 1976.

Meanwhile, the missing persons case of Mary Ferns also remains open. She was 88 when last seen heading to Almondvale Shopping Centre in Livingston, West Lothian, with the help of her floral-pattern walking stick on Tuesday June 17, 2008

More recently, Shaun Ritchie, 20, from Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire,has not been seen since October 31, 2014, after last being with friends near a farmhouse in Strichen. A huge search of surrounding bog land has found no trace of the man, and his father believes he has been murdered.

READ MORE: Search stepped up for missing man Shaun Ritchie

While just half-a-percent of those who go missing in Scotland are found dead, a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary last June found that Police Scotland have 300 unidentified bodies in their charge and 65 unidentified body parts dating back to 1950.

More people go missing from hospital and children’s homes than anywhere else in Scotland and the top 100 repeat missing-from locations account for almost one-quarter (23 per cent) of all missing episodes recorded by police.

Karen Robinson, is the head of partnerships and development at Missing People, a nationwide charity which acts as an independent support service for those who have gone missing and the friends and family of the vanished.

She said: “The most straightforward explanation is that when someone goes missing, it’s a sign that something is wrong. The most common reasons are that the persons is having problems at home or work or school .

“There is a very high prevalence of mental health problems - both diagnosed and undiagnosed - amongst those who go missing.

Ms Robinson added: “If someone goes missing by just walking out the house and they just felt they needed to escape, they may not have been thinking these they wanted to get away for very long.

“AS time goes on, it gets harder to return and it can leave people in a risky situation. People may feel they can’t call home, they don’t know where to turn to next, That is where we come in.”

Ms Robinson said that much work had been done with Police Scotland in the past year on improving the way it works with organisations such as Missing People.

Police Scotland requested that Missing People - which is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery - send out a text message to the most vulnerable of missing people 160 times in the past year.

Ms Robinson added: “Police Scotland has done a lot of work to increase the use of these services. We have a memorandum of understanding so that we can help them to reach out to vulnerable people.

“We work with police forces all over the country and I would say that Police Scotland have been visionary in their approach.”

Ms Robinson said that last year, the organisation had helped to connect 5,000 people in the UK with their families or support services but added that no figure was available for missing persons from Scotland, primarily due to the movement of people.

“Someone can go missing from Aberdeen and find themselves on the streets of Manchester. They feel they can’t go home but we can get them a safe place in Manchester for them to go,” she added.

Ms Robinson said a small minority of missing people did not want to return home and could inform police that they no longer wanted to be looked for, but that was “extremely rare”.

“We would always respect that choice. It is your right to be missing,” Ms Robinson said.

But, she added that for those families who simply hear nothing, the pain can be endless.

Ms Robinson added: “Families recycle their grief over and over. They keep going back to the last day or week before the persons went missing and try and piece it all together. It is very, very painful and it’s not the same as a bereavement. You are unable to psychologically move on, you can’t go through the grieving process.

“People describe it like being a torture.”

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams, said those who went missing in Scotland often did so more than once.

He added: “It’s important to understand that people go missing for a variety of reasons, and there are often a number of underlying issues involved. That is why we are working hard with our partners, including councils, the NHS, the Scottish Government and charities like Missing People to develop a collective response that treats every missing person report in a way that addresses the long-term harm for the individuals involved as well as putting in place measures to reduce the likelihood of them going missing again.

“This shared approach not only benefits the person who goes missing, but also reduces the demand placed on the police service.

“As well as our preventative measures, we also have a hugely effective frontline response in the shape of our dedicated missing person co-ordinators who provide vital support and advice to front-line officers in their response to dealing with missing person inquiries.

“Their role is crucial in ensuring that we deliver the most professional service possible to support those who go missing and their families and loved ones.”

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