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Missing Persons Week raising awareness of the issues and impacts

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Today is the start of Missing Persons Week 2020.

Every day the Echonetdaily inbox has at least one, but often more, police media releases about a missing person.

Sometimes these are soon followed by a release to say the person has been found.

More often than not, there is no follow up media release.

It’s frightening.

Missing Persons Registry

The NSW Police Force has launched the 2020 Missing Persons Week campaign, coordinated by the newly-formed Missing Persons Registry, to raise awareness of the issues and impacts surrounding missing persons.

Missing Persons Week is an annual national campaign and will continue until Saturday, August 8, 2020.

Still missing on the Far North Coast – Théo Hayez.

Following a comprehensive review of operations, the NSW Police Force announced the establishment of the Missing Persons Registry (MPR) and the implementation of a number of new systems and procedures, which came into effect in July last year.

The MPR is comprised of seven detectives and four analysts – including those with qualifications and expertise in psychology and data matching – and work to resolve current long-term missing persons cases and provide assistance to frontline police to improve the initial response to missing persons reports.

NSW Police Commissioner Fuller said substantial improvements have been made since the establishment of the Missing Persons Registry, particularly in relation to the resolution of missing persons cases.

The devastating impact on family, friends and the wider community

‘To have a loved one go missing has a devastating impact on family, friends and the wider community, and while police do an outstanding job in providing support for the families, we are also committed to providing answers,’ said Commissioner Fuller.

‘The Missing Persons Registry was created to ensure the NSW Police Force consistently delivers better outcomes for the families of missing persons.

‘Since its inception last year, reviews conducted by the Missing Persons Registry have led to 57 long-term missing people being located.

Ninety-nine per cent of missing persons located within 90 days

‘This year alone, ninety-nine per cent of persons reported missing to police have been located within 90 days, which can be attributed to the collaborative work by frontline police and those within the Missing Persons Registry.

‘In addition, officers are using every technological advancement available to continue following lines of inquiry to solve missing persons cases that date back more than 70 years,’ said Commissioner Fuller.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services, The Hon. David Elliott MP, said it is not a crime to go missing, but families and friends need to know that police will always attempt to locate their loved ones.

Family and friends need answers

‘With every person reported missing, there are family and friends left behind who need answers,’ said Minister Elliott.

‘Most people are found within the first day, but that 24 hours would feel like an eternity to someone who has fears for the safety of a loved one.

‘Police will never give up the search and with the support of the Missing Persons Registry will continue to investigate long-term missing person cases thoroughly.

‘As this year’s Missing Persons Week commences, we are appealing to the community to come forward with any information they may have to help police bring some closure and peace to affected families,’ he said.

Longest open and ongoing missing persons case is 75 years

State Crime Commander, Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith, said the state’s longest open and ongoing missing persons investigation is the disappearance and suspected murder of eight-year-old Valerie Dawn Eastwell, from Gol Gol in the state’s south, on Sunday 15 August 1945.

‘In the past year, the Missing Persons Registry has digitised 57 years of missing persons records – comprised of 769 physical files and data related to 275 unidentified human remains,’ he said.

‘Effective and efficient management of missing persons cases – both short and long term – is our priority.

‘Formal reviews of missing persons cases reported to police are regularly conducted to provide immediate advice to officers in the field and to ensure every avenue of investigation is thoroughly exhausted.

‘Specialist investigators who work in this team are persistent, determined and dedicated to finding answers for families and friends – many of whom they have developed strong relationships with over the years.

An efficient and effective response to all missing persons cases

‘Through the implementation of these new processes, our aim is to provide the most efficient and effective response to all missing persons cases – short-term, long-term and historical – to alleviate the grief and suffering of loved ones left behind,’ he said.

As part of investigations under the Missing Persons Registry, officers work collaboratively with law enforcement and partner agencies across Australia and internationally.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) National Missing Persons Coordination Centre (NMPCC) collates missing persons data from across the country and undertakes national research to identify trends and issues associated with missing persons.

The NSW Police Force also works extensively with NSW Health Pathology, the Department of Communities and Justice, and the State Coroner’s Office.

DNA specialists recover DNA profiles from 100-year-old remains

NSW Health Pathology’s Forensic and Analytical Science Service Executive Director, Mr Michael Symonds, said world-leading DNA specialists have successfully recovered DNA profiles from human skeletal remains, including those that are more than 100 years old.

‘NSW Health Pathology’s Forensic and Analytical Science Service provides independent expert analysis to assist police with their investigations, including missing persons cases that require the examination of unidentified human remains,’ said Mr Symonds.

‘This process can be highly complex and challenging and involves a team of NSW Health Pathology experts, including forensic pathologists, anthropologists, dental specialists and DNA specialists.

‘A DNA profile can be compared to DNA found on a missing person’s personal effects or with that provided by family members. This has helped provide families of missing persons with answers that may not have been possible without these advanced forensic capabilities,’ he said.

NSW State Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan said the Coroners Court of NSW works collaboratively with multiple agencies to help provide much-needed answers for the family and friends of missing persons.

Not knowing can be the hardest part

‘Not knowing can be the hardest part for people whose loved ones are missing,’ said Ms O’Sullivan.

‘The Coroners Court of NSW works alongside the NSW Police Force, NSW Health Pathology and other agencies to help put together the pieces of the puzzle and draw conclusions based on the available evidence.’

Additional examples of investigations overseen by the newly formed Missing Persons Registry (MPR) include:

  • About 2pm on Tuesday 17 December 2019, a member of the public contacted officers from Coffs/Clarence Police District after locating human remains at Mylestom Beach on the state’s north coast. Following extensive inquiries by the Missing Persons Registry, together with NSW Health Pathology and partner agencies in Queensland, officers were able to trace the manufacturer of a surgical plate located inside an ankle bone. Less than 48 hours later, the remains were formally identified as missing 38-year-old Bundaberg man, Andrew Page.
  • A 34-year-old Hong Kong national was reported missing to officers from North Shore Police Area Command by friends on Sunday 17 February 2008. Following a review by the MPR earlier this year, and subsequent inquiries with the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and Department of Foreign Affairs, the woman – now aged 46 – was located safe and well on Tuesday 28 April 2020.
  • About 7pm on Thursday 18 August 2016, three men – aged 36, 42, and 51 – were reported missing after failing to arrive at a hotel in Sydney’s CBD as prearranged. The 42-year-old man was located in 2017 after attending Campsie Police Station. Following a review by the MPR earlier this year, police identified that the 36-year-old man had returned overseas in February last year, and the 51-year-old man was located safe and well in NSW.
  • A 47-year-old woman was reported missing to police in November 2017, after arriving in Sydney from Tonga and failing to make contact with family as prearranged. Extensive inquiries were conducted to locate the woman at the time; however, she was not found. Following a review by the MPR in March this year, and inquiries conducted with the Department of Home Affairs, the woman was located safe and well in the state’s Riverina region.

For more information about the Missing Persons Registry, visit – https://www.police.nsw.gov.au/can_you_help_us/missing_persons

For more information about the Australian Federal Police (AFP) National Persons Coordination Centre (NMPCC), visit – https://www.missingpersons.gov.au/

Anyone with information relating to a reported missing person is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.

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