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Missing persons

Northumbria Police takes every report of a missing person seriously. Most people who go missing return within 48 hrs however if you have established that someone is missing and you are concerned report this immediately – remember you do not have to wait 24hrs before reporting them missing.

The definition of a missing person is:

Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established and where the circumstances are out of character or the context suggests the person may be the subject of crime or at risk of harm to themselves or others.

The definition of an absent person is:

Anyone over the age of 18 who is not at a place where they are expected or required to be, when the behaviour is not out of character and there is no apparent risk.

What to do if someone you know goes missing

Before calling the police, take the following steps to try to locate the missing person

  • Search their home or the place they were last seen, in case they are hiding or fallen and suffered injury. Remember that children can hide in small spaces.
  • Look out for any notes or clues that may suggest where they may be.  Check diaries, social media or email messages.
  • Check to see if they have left you a message on your phone voicemail or email.
  • Contact family members, friends and the person’s place of work to verify that they are missing and not just somewhere unexpected.
  • Check places of significance to the person, i.e. parks where they may play, or gather with friends.


How to report a missing person

If you are concerned about someone and want to report them as missing please call us on 101. You do not need to wait 24 hours to report someone as missing. If you think the missing person is at risk of immediate serious harm please call 999.

What information do I need before I ring?

It would be helpful to provide us with full names, date of birth or age, home address, vehicle details, contact numbers, where they were last seen and what they were wearing at the time. It’s also important that we’re made aware of immediate concerns such as mental health, physical health issues or other vulnerabilities. 

Do I need to wait 24 hours before I report someone missing?

You do not need to wait 24 hours to report someone as missing. If you have genuine concerns and have been unable to locate the person yourselves, please contact us to help.

Who can report someone as missing?

Anyone can contact us to report someone missing. We would recommend that you make initial enquiries with the person’s close family and friends in case they’ve had contact with the person.

Do I need to attend my local police station to report someone missing?

No, you no longer need to attend your local station to report your concerns. You can contact 101 to report someone as missing. Please use 999 if they are vulnerable and you believe they are in immediate danger.

What happens once you have reported someone missing?

We will use the information that you supply to assess the level of risk that the person may be at while missing. We will then consider all appropriate and necessary lines of enquiry.

If the missing person returns, ring 101 and let us know. We may wish to see them to confirm that they have returned safe and well.

The Herbert Protocol

The Herbert Protocol is a national scheme introduced by the police in partnership with other agencies which encourages carers to record useful information which could be used in the event of a vulnerable person going missing.

Carers, family members and friends can complete in advance, The Herbert Protocol form recording all vital details, such as medication required, mobile numbers, places previously located, a photograph etc.

In the event of your family member or friend going missing, the form can be easily handed to the police to reduce the time taken in gathering this information.

This form could make a real difference. It could help reduce the amount of time a vulnerable person is missing, bringing them to safety even quicker.


What is the Herbert Protocol form?

The purpose of the Herbert Protocol form is to record important information about a vulnerable person. 

In the event the person goes missing - the form will be used by the police, care workers and partner agencies to understand the person’s routines, interests and information as fast as possible.

The Herbert Protocol initiative is named after George Herbert, a war veteran of the Normandy landings, who lived with dementia. George Herbert died whilst 'missing', trying to find his childhood home.

What should I do if the person I care for goes missing?

Carry out brief initial checks for missing person. 

Inform family and friends, contact local clubs or places that the person may frequent. 

Contact 999

Inform the call taker that you use the HERBERT PROTOCOL and complete the red section of the form, before giving the form to Police. 

Where should I keep the form?

The form should be stored securely in the care setting, in accordance with data protection laws, but where you can find it quickly.

It is recommended that multiple copies are made so that other care workers, neighbours or relatives have access if required.

Review the information every 4 weeks or where there has been a change in personal circumstance.

Please make sure other relatives, carers or staff know where it is, and that the person it refers to is part of the Herbert Protocol.

Download the Herbert Protocol Form

How can I help support a vulnerable person?

Spot the signs

The most important thing to remember is that the person living with Dementia can live a good life.  However, safeguarding measures can be put in place to aid and support this.  Seek help from places where the person frequents.  An example of this would be telling the bar staff they attend about your concerns and leave a contact number with staff to contact family/carer in the event the person arrives at that location.

  • Consider using a home monitoring system or door alarm system which will alert family or carers should the person leave the address.  This will allow early awareness and help the safe return of a loved one.  Always consider a person’s human rights and seek consent in appropriate circumstances. 
  • GPS tracking devices are available to buy which will pinpoint a person’s location should they go missing.  These are available in various forms such as, mobile phone, watch and trackers that can be put into a regular jacket worn or in the sole of shoes the person uses. 
  • Inform neighbours and friends of the circumstances.  Additional help is always a bonus and will often prevent or help locate an individual should they go missing. 

Look out for 'wandering'

Many people living with Dementia feel compelled to walk or travel to another location as walking can often help relieve stress and boredom. They may leave their homes without warning because of this. When a person with Dementia leaves their home it can be worrying for those around them.  It is important to help the person maintain dignity and have their own independence.  We need to remember it is possible to live well with Dementia and there is more to a person than Dementia.

When a person begins ‘wandering’ it often appears that there is no reason.  However, the term ‘wandering’ is very unhelpful as this it suggests aimlessness.  Walking often does have a purpose; for example, George Herbert who sadly died when he was attempting to walk to a childhood home. 

Those living with Dementia might walk repeatedly around the house or garden, or get up and leave the house at any time of day or night.   People with Dementia struggle with disorientation and will become lost and find it difficult to get home or to their desired location.  This increases risk and danger for this person.

Reliving past habits

If walking has been a past hobby or something they previously enjoyed then it will be natural for them to continue wanting to walk.  Try to encourage this habit and assist by accompanying  them with the help of relatives or friends.  This may prevent the person from walking alone or leaving his/her home address without warning.

Relieving Boredom

Try to keep those living with dementia mentally engaged and physically active and engaged/involved in daily activities, chores or hobbies.

Using up energy

Like anyone, a person living with Dementia requires exercise.  Try to assist the person in living a normal life with normal levels of activities.  Accompany the person on a walk, assist with gardening or house work. 

Relieving pain and discomfort

People often walk when they are in pain. Walking can ease this pain and help reduce discomfort.  Again, assisting the person on a short walk or with exercise may eliminate the urge to walk alone or without purpose. 

Discomfort can also include environmental discomfort.  Is the person’s house too hot or too cold? Is the house clean and tidy? Is there food, water and other essentials available at home?


People with Dementia will ‘walk’ if they are agitated, stressed or anxious.  Try to encourage the person to tell you about these issues and attempt to help or aid their concerns.  Help can also be sought from Alzheimer’s Society or Dementia UK. 

Feeling Lost

New surroundings can cause uncertainty and increase the risk of someone ‘walking’ and going missing. In these circumstances having familiar items, photographs and messages to provide reassurance will reduce this risk.

Also consider extra help in aiding them in finding their way about due to disorientation in a new location. This may improve as a person becomes more familiar; however as Dementia progresses this is less likely.  They may even feel a long term home becomes a ‘strange place’. 

Searching for the Past

As Dementia progresses, early memories may become more prominent in minds and thoughts.  They may begin to look for someone or something relating to their past. An example of this may be a childhood home.  It is important to engage with the person to show you care, but also this may provide vital information of where the person may go should they go missing. 

Seeking Fulfilment

A person with dementia may walk because they have the urge or need to carry out a certain task or activity that they previously carried out.  Examples of this could be collecting children from school or going to work.  This need for fulfilment often indicates boredom or being unfulfilled.  Try to help with this and find them a task that gives them a purpose or motivation, such as housework, or day club. 

Getting confused about time

People living with Dementia often become confused about time.  They will wake in the middle of the night or go to bed through the day thus confusing the time of day.  Night walking can also be a particular issue and can be when people with Dementia go missing and are most at risk.  To avoid this, simple measures can be taken, like avoiding caffeine, eating large meals late at night and exercise. 

It can help having a large clock that shows AM and PM; however this may not help in certain cases.  To reduce this risk then further safe guarding may be required like, GPS tracker, alarmed front door to alert carer of the person leaving the address.   

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