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Search for missing persons: here's how to do it

Unfortunately, the search for missing persons is a reality we must face every day. Disagreements between spouses, misunderstandings with parents, but also kidnappings, premeditated escapes, confusional states, and disorientations are some of the reasons why, at some point, our loved ones or acquaintances might leave no trace.

In the following lines, we will provide an overview of the situation in our country (with the latest figures extracted from official documents). Additionally, you will learn what actions to take immediately and who to contact to find your relatives as soon as possible.


Disappearance of a person: what exactly does it mean?

The meaning of this term is very clear in jurisprudence: we speak of disappearance when there is no news regarding the person who has left the last place of residence or domicile, for a period longer than usual.

This period is not objectively defined, but depends on the habits of the person in relation to work, leisure, daily needs, and family commitments. In any case, it should not exceed 2 years, beyond which it is more correct to speak of absence.

Once the indicated conditions are met, the Court has the authority to take measures regarding the administration of assets and any activities, after appointing a curator. However, it is not possible to start a testamentary succession or dispose of the missing person's property, not even in a limited form.


How long does it take for the declaration of presumed death?

At least 10 years must pass before a court can officially declare a presumed death. Regarding the date to be reported in the documentation, the last day the missing person was seen or gave some news to relatives, acquaintances, or randomly encountered people will be considered.

Once the declaration is issued by the judge, the effects of the judgment are the same as those of an actual death. In other words, the spouse can remarry, while the heirs acquire ownership of the assets and can dispose of them as if there were proof of the relative's death.


Missing persons in Italy, the latest statistics

According to the latest annual report prepared by the Government Commissioner Maria Luisa Pellizzari (in collaboration with the National Council for Missing Persons), in 2023 there were 29,314 reports (20% more than in 2022), averaging 80 people per day.

51.7% of the total (15,156) are still being searched for, while the remaining 48.3% (14,158) were found mostly within the first 7 days, including 188 identified deceased and approximately 1000 unidentified individuals. A high percentage consists of minors (75%, or 21,951), mostly foreigners (17,535).

The distribution of cases varies greatly by gender and origin. 80% of the reports concern men (23,458) and the remaining 20% women (5,857); 2/3 of the disappearances are related to foreigners (19,646) with or without a residence permit, mostly in Sicily, compared to 1/3 of Italians (9,668), mainly in Lombardy.

A particular situation is that of repeated reports, referring to individuals who were found multiple times in a year and initially reported as voluntary departures. For 2023, there were 1,746 such cases, usually reported by recovery communities, orphanages, and other care institutions.


Declaration of disappearance, the key details

In the formalization of the report, some elements can make a difference in the probability of finding the person.

Here is what might be useful to remember about the missing person:

  • recent photographs
  • clothes worn
  • presence of piercings and tattoos
  • scars, moles, birthmarks on the face or visible parts of the body
  • other distinctive features (e.g., a limp)
  • any documents, bags, and wallets carried.

The time and place of the last meeting or sighting will offer an even clearer picture of the situation.


Missing individuals, the role of investigative agencies

Contacting an experienced detective or investigative agency in the search for missing persons can significantly shorten the time. In many cases, it can increase the likelihood of finding the person alive.

This goal is achievable if you choose a reliable investigative agency, operating according to legal requirements and fully respecting privacy. Because sometimes, timely advice is enough to prevent the worst.

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