Missing Rights stems from our 2008 research report, 'Living in Limbo: The experiences of, and impacts on, the families of missing people'.
We used this report, along with our day-to-day policy, research and helpline work to develop the campaign. Here are a few stories from families Missing Rights is seeking to improve support for:
Janis’s husband, James (40s), went missing three and a half years ago.
“My family are about half-an-hour away and they have said for me to go back and live by them but obviously I can’t do that. I am more isolated here. It’s only half-an-hour away but they’re not on the doorstep. I wouldn’t be able to sell the house or anything.
“Every solicitor I have spoken to has just said it’s seven years and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. I have got to wait until seven years, or obviously if James came back, but if it was after a seven-year period then he would be pronounced dead and only then would the mortgage be sorted out and shares and things sorted out. It’s just the seven years, it seems an awfully long time.
“The finances are an added stress that you don’t need at this time really.
“We had shares. We’ve got three lots of shares in different companies from when all the building societies de-mutualised. We got shares then and you have to choose who is the lead name, so James went as the lead name. So I can’t get any access to those.
“We were, at the time, in a fixed rate mortgage but that stopped a few months after he went missing. I tried to see if we could get a mortgage holiday or change the product but I wasn’t able to because I needed two signatures. I’ve reverted back to the normal standard interest rate and the last couple of years it has just seemed to soar.
“I would never do anything against him financially at all and I would make sure he was protected. But they said no – unfortunately there is nothing we can do. I would have thought they would let me go into some sort of package. I wouldn’t have defaulted on the mortgage. The mortgage would still have been getting paid but the fixed rate I was on was a lot less than the standard interest rate. In the end I just gave up.”
Janis told her story to Lucy Holmes, Research Manager
Julie, West Yorkshire
Julie’s former husband, Peter (30s), has been missing for nearly ten years.
“The one thing that he did love was his kids and to not see them for ten years, I can’t believe that. The sad thing is that you know he has missed a lifetime of them. I believe he has died somewhere and they just haven’t found his body yet.
“I don’t know how to tackle the pension thing for my boys because they have missed out on a lifetime with their dad. I feel that the only thing he can leave them is this money and I can’t even get my hands on it, so this is why I am going down this road of declaring Peter deceased because that’s the only way I can get some money out of his pension for them.
“To get a solicitor to help me has been horrendous. I’ve been to every solicitor in the city, but no solicitor knows how to handle it. Eventually I got a solicitor I know, who deals with domestic tasks and things, to do it in his free time as the cost to me would have been horrendous.
“The solicitor’s been on this for going on a year now and hasn’t got much further. I’m going to have to really start pushing it now because my son is at university and he has loans and everything. We’re helping him as much as we can and he even works part time but it’s a real struggle. We’ve got money sitting there which is my endowment policy and insurance policies but I can’t touch them because I need Peter’s signature.
“When he first went missing he left me in the lurch because we were in the middle of sorting out the money side of our divorce. The judge was really sympathetic and she did say that I would be able to come back and sort out everything and all his estate if he was still missing after seven years. So that was always at the back of my mind that I had to wait seven years.
“Knowing my husband, he was too ill to survive that length of time and I always believed that he would be picked up by the police, but now we are talking ten years. The thing was that, after seven years, I kept putting if off and putting it off and it was just never the right time. So now it’s ten years and I realise that my boys are growing up and really really need some money and it’s about time I got my head round it and sorted it out.
“It gets very draining because once I start on this, I need to sit down for solid weeks at a time, 3 – 4 weeks at a time, that’s how bad it is.
“It’s horrendous. It makes me feel badly when I have to think about it. There are no rules or guidelines.”
Julie told her story to Lucy Holmes, Research Manager