Suicide and Associated Vulnerability Indicators in Adult Missing Persons: Implications for the Police Risk Assessment
This research examined the relationship between adult missing persons and suicide, considering a number of possible vulnerability indicators/characteristics of this group of missing persons. Implications for missing person investigations were also explored, particularly for the risk assessment process. Data was extracted for 93 (N = 93) missing persons cases from one English police force, over a 4-year period. These individuals were found dead suspected of suicide. The findings illustrate a number of vulnerability indicators/characteristics of missing persons who complete suicide. In relation to the initial risk assessment level applied to the missing person report, two vulnerability indicators, a risk of suicide and the presence of a suicide note, had an effect on predicting a higher risk assessment level. Future research, in order to overcome the present study’s limitations, should attempt to collect data from more than one police force in order to increase the sample size. In addition to this, it would be beneficial to use a sample of missing persons who are found safe and well as a comparative sample to have a better chance in understanding the examined relationship and whether the vulnerability indicators/characteristics are indicative of suicide risk. The findings of this study have practical implications for the risk assessment process and are a step forward in providing empirical evidence applicable to identifying missing persons most at risk of suicide. This research has helped to build upon and corroborate existing knowledge of missing persons who complete suicide. This study provides new empirical evidence on suicide in adult missing persons. The findings demonstrate the subjective and variable nature of the risk assessment process and highlight potential implications on missing person investigations.
KeywordsMissing persons Suicide Vulnerability indicators
Compliance with Ethical Standards
This article has not been published or submitted elsewhere for consideration and the ethical guidelines of the journal have been taken into account.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This project was ethically approved by the University of Huddersfield Ethics Commitee and access to data was granted by the relevant Police Department. The project followed BPS ethical guidelines and no identifiable information was included. This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
For this study, no formal informed consent was required. No identifiable information was obtained for this study.
- All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) (2018) Inquiry into safeguarding missing adults who have mental health issues. All Party Parliamentary Group, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) (2013) Interim guidance on the management, recording and investigation of missing persons 2013. College of Policing, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) (2015) Changes to the definition of “Absent” & other matters. In: LondonGoogle Scholar
- Biehal N, Mitchell F, Wade J (2003) Lost from view: missing persons in the UK. The Policy Press, BristolGoogle Scholar
- Canter D, Fritzon K (1998) Differentiating arsonists: A model of firesetting actions and characteristics. Leg Criminol Psychol 3:73–96 Retrieved from: https://doi-org.libaccess.hud.ac.uk/10.1111/j.2044-8333.1998.tb00352.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Canter D, Youngs D (2009) Investigative psychology. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
- Cavanagh JT, Owens DG, Johnstone EC (1999) Life events in suicide and undetermined death in south-east Scotland: a case-control study using the method of psychological autopsy. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 34:645–650 Retrieved from: https://doi-org.libaccess.hud.ac.uk/10.1007/s001270050187 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- College of Policing (2016) Major investigation and public protection - Missing persons. Retrieved from Authorised Professional Practice: https://www.app.college.police.uk/app-content/major-investigation-and-public-protection/missing-persons/#the-risk-assessment-table
- College of Policing (2018) Detention and custody: Risk assessment. Retrieved from Authorised Professional Practice: https://www.app.college.police.uk/app-content/detention-and-custody-2/risk-assessment/#risk-of-self-harm-and-suicide-after-release
- Coolican H (2014) Research methods and statistics in psychology, 6th edn. Psychology Press, HoveGoogle Scholar
- Gibb GJ, Woolnough P (2007) Missing persons: understanding, planning, responding. Grampian Police, AberdeenGoogle Scholar
- Health Survey for England (HSE) (2013) Health survey for England 2013: Health, social care and lifestyles: Summary of key findings. Health & Social Care Information Centre, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Ioannou M (2006). Hero or villain? Criminals’ experience of crime. (PhD thesis). University of Liverpool, LiverpoolGoogle Scholar
- Ioannou M, Synnott J, Lowe E, Tzani-Pepelasi C (2018) Applying the criminal narrative experience framework to young offenders. Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol:1–17Google Scholar
- Missing People (2015) Missing people’s response to the authorised professional practice consultation on missing persons - October 2015. Retrieved from Missing People: https://www.missingpeople.org.uk
- Missing People (2016) Request a TextSafe. Retrieved from Missing People: https://www.missingpeople.org.uk/how-we-can-help/professionals/police-services/180-request-a-textsafe.html
- Newiss G (2011) Learning from fatal disappearances. Missing People, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Office for National Statistics (ONS) (2017) Suicides in the UK: 2016 registrations. Office for National Statistics, NewportGoogle Scholar
- Payne M (1995) Understanding Going Missing: issues for social work and social services. Br J Soc Work 25:333–348Google Scholar
- Samaritans (2017) Suicide statistics report 2017. Samaritans, EwellGoogle Scholar
- Synnott J, Ioannou M, Coyne A, Hemingway S (2017) A content analysis of online suicide notes: attempted suicide versus attempt resulting in suicide. Suicide Life Threat Behav:1–12. https://doi.org/10.1111/sltb.12398.
- UK Missing Persons Bureau (2017) Missing persons data report 2015/2016. National Crime Agency, SunningdaleGoogle Scholar
- World Health Organisation (WHO) (2014) Preventing suicide: a global imperative. World Health Organisation, LuxembourgGoogle Scholar
- Yaneva M, Ioannou M, Hammond L, Synnott J (2018) Differentiating contract killers: a narrative-based approach. Howard J Crime Justice. https://doi.org/10.1111/hojo.12243