Harcourt Street Centre, Missing Persons location.Photo: Sinéad Fitzgerald.
Missingpersons.ie was founded in 2003 in order to provide counselling for families in the limbo of searching for missing loved ones. The site is poignant with an interactive map that shows missing people from each county. Ciarán, a spokesperson for the organisation tells me ’What a person has to do after a family member goes missing, is to go to the Gardaí immediately.’ The organisation can only publish details after a media release has been made. ‘The family talk with all friends, check bank accounts, there is a check list.’ The checklist is detailed and includes the advice to nominate one gardaí liaison and a media liaison. I ask how long a missing person’s case is kept open and am told, ‘As long as they are missing.’ Claire Dixon, mother of Paul Shine Dixon who went missing in 2009 tells me, ‘When I rang missing persons they gave me the name and number of a trained counsellor that I could call anytime. To me that was so important.’
Paul went missing at 28 years of age while travelling between France and Spain. He had been due to meet his partner in Barcelona. While on the phone to her, Paul chose to leave the train in Perpignan after claiming to have witnessed a shooting. Paul ended the call as he needed to charge his phone, but although they are aware that he was brought to a medical centre after being found disoriented by police, his family have not heard from him since.
Claire and members of her family travelled to the town where the disappearance occurred and she tells me ‘It was an experience of complete panic.’ Claire has become a board member of Missing Persons, hoping to help other families who find themselves in the same situation. Claire tells me that the French authorities provided an interpreter and took DNA samples. ‘They couldn’t have done any more for us’ she adds. But Paul’s name has not surfaced anywhere in France or Spain.
Every year, on the date of the anniversary of a person going missing, their profile is updated and highlighted though often information about individual cases is volunteered in the first five to six weeks. Missing Persons though primarily focused on emotional support and information for families, can provide access to searching organisations and Ciarán tells me, ‘We have a memorandum of understanding with different organisations and if we need to use dogs they’ll come up, from Cork, from anywhere to help out.’
In the event of a person choosing to go missing, the organisation can act as a mediary with friends or family if so the missing person can ease concerns about their wellbeing. . The website states, ‘If, for whatever reason, you have decided to live your life in a different way and different place, you may be most at ease in doing this if those who care about you know that you are safe and well. We can help in trying to ensure that this is the case.’
The Missing People’s Bureau, found through the Garda website, highlights figures of missing persons since 2003 and what stands out is that the majority of people are located. In 2013, out of 7,753 missing persons cases, 15 remain open. For those families who do not have the answers they need however, the support of Missing Persons remains vital.
Missingpersons.ie is mostly funded by the efforts of organisation members and supporters and partially by the Comission for the Support of Victims of Crime (CSVC). Volunteers interested in running or walking the women’s mini marathon on the organisation’s behalf are currently being recruited via mycharity.ie and there is a golf classic taking place in Kilenard, Co. Laois on the 26th of September. Donations can also be made via www.missingpersons.ie at any time.