University of Glasgow launches appeal for missing persons stories

Published: 17 September 2012

A project to understand why adults choose to go missing has launched a call for direct experience or stories of their missing journeys.

A project which aims to understand why adults choose to go missing has launched a call for people to volunteer their direct experience or stories of their ‘missing journeys’ via a new website. 

The ‘Geographies of Missing People’ project is a unique partnership between the Universities of Glasgow and Dundee, the Scottish Institute for Policing Research, London Metropolitan Police and the Grampian Police and the charity Missing People. 

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The partnership is working to better understand the reasons adults go missing – but also where they go - by collecting first-hand accounts from those who have gone missing for any length of time. 

 A new section of the Geographies of Missing People website allows members of the public aged 18 or over to anonymously submit written details of their experiences which will be used to compile learning resources about people reported as missing. Visitors to the website can also supply video or pictures to support their story. 

Dr Hester Parr of the University of Glasgow’s School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, who is leading the project, said: “Nearly 327,000 people were reported as missing in the UK last year, but there is very little research into why adults choose to disappear and what they do or where they go during their time away. 

“The stories of people who have gone missing and returned home are vital to this unique research project. We are conducting an ongoing series of face-to-face interviews with people who have gone missing, but the written submissions collected through the website will allow us to expand our research base considerably.

“By collecting and analysing the experiences of the missing, we are aiming to develop for the first time a more complete understanding of the way missing people seek out, perceive and navigate the places they visit. This will be of real, practical use to organisations such as the police services which are responsible for investigating cases of missing people.” 

The project is overseen by an expert steering group made up of serving police officers, police-based researchers, forensic scientists, academics and representatives of the independent Missing People charity. The charity provides help and support to family members and friends left behind by people reported missing. 

Martin Houghton-Brown, Chief Executive of the Charity Missing People said: “We know that there are a variety of reasons why people going missing in the UK, and this additional research should provide valuable analysis to help us better support them and their families. 

“A wider understanding of the way a missing person’s life develops whilst they are away, as well as detail on the reasons for their disappearance, should provide a very positive contribution to current research on the issue”. 

The Geographies of Missing People project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and involves the University of Glasgow, the University of Dundee, the Scottish Institute for Policing Research, and Grampian Police. 

Find out more


For more information contact Ross Barker in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 8593 or email


First published: 17 September 2012