Search services – who can help

The investigating police force may ask other agencies and services to help with the search to look for someone. Some of the services listed below are liaised with by the police, while others offer family support and liaison as well.

Police missing searches

Local Police

The local police to where the missing person normally lives or was last seen will lead the search for them. They made need to speak to other forces around the country or speak to other agencies such as the Border agency, if there is a chance the person has travelled distance or left the country. The police force that holds the initial investigation should update family members if the search is handed over to another force and who will keep them updated.

UK Missing Persons Unit and National Crime Agency

The UK MPU holds the national database of missing persons and all forces should inform this unit when someone has been missing for 48 hours, so the person is searchable at a national level by all forces.  The Unit provides support to police investigations, conducting a range of enquiries both nationally and internationally. They also hold the database for all remains and unidentified bodies.  The NCA also provides specialist support to missing person investigations, with a national team of experts who can provide tactical advice and search expertise to all forces.

UK Search and Rescue (SAR)

Police will coordinate and request assistance if needed from the different search agencies they can rely on. There are different agencies for the different geographical terrain for instance HM Coastguard, RNLI, Mountain rescue and Lowland Search and Rescue. These groups are often made of skilled and trained volunteers who are deployed to help search an area. They will complement the police search for a missing person.

Locate International – Centre for Missing People Investigations

Helping families of unsolved missing person cases, find their loved ones. They do this by building teams made up of specialists from different disciplines and volunteers from local communities. The teams review the cases to ensure that all that can reasonably be done, has and is being done. Their service is carried out at no cost to families or the police service.

International Investigations

If a UK national goes missing or is thought to be outside the UK, the investigating force, where the person normally lives will need to liaise with other agencies to help with the search.


Each force has a international liaison officer who may be able to assist and will assess the right involvement. They may issue a Yellow Notice which is used to list and locate international missing people. The police responsible for the missing investigation within the UK will liaise with Interpol.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

They can help families directly alongside a police investigation and they may help in providing liaison and arranging things in the other country. They may be able to appoint a caseworker to maintain contact with the family. You can contact the FCDO by phone 24/7 for help or advice from anywhere in the world by calling 020 7008 5000, or by contacting your nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. You do not have to wait to report the person missing to the FCDO.

The Lucy Blackman Trust

A charity that provides help with international missing searches of British nationals. They are able to advise and support on practical and emotional aspects and are available 24/7 to help families.
Call: 01983 718802

Tracing agencies

Each of the following agencies have teams who might be able to help you trace a loved one who is abroad. They all have their own remit, so it’s worth checking through each link to see who may be best placed to help you.

The Salvation Army

Family Tracing Service, which searches for immediate family members for the purpose of reconciliation. It operates in more than 100 countries around the world.

The British Red Cross

International family tracing and message service is aimed at restoring and maintaining family links between close relatives separated as a result of armed conflict, natural or other disasters, or where special Red Cross assistance is required.

Overseas Section, General Register Office

The Overseas section holds some records of the births, marriages and deaths of British citizens overseas that have been registered with the British registering authorities, e.g. British Consuls, High Commissions, HM Forces, Civil Aviation Authority and The Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen. Each section has varying date spans which can be searched.

The International Social Services

For relatives of people missing overseas, The ISS have contacts with similar organisations in other countries. They also deal with adopted children seeking contact with birth parents and vice versa. Tracing is available as part of ISS work in complex family cases only.






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