Richmond charity celebrates new law helping relatives of missing people


The Presumption of Death Act was passed last week.


By Laura Mitchell

A law helping relatives of missing people was finally passed in England and Wales last week after years of campaigning by the Richmond based charity Missing People.

The Presumption of Death Act allows relatives to apply for a certificate declaring someone is presumed dead, providing they have evidence, permitting them to resolve that person’s affairs.

Until now they faced a complex process lasting up to seven years and often faced huge problems such as financial difficulties and sometimes even repossession of their homes.

The law, passed by parliament, will help to relieve these deep financial and legal problems.

Jo Youle, Chief Executive at the charity Missing People, said: “We are delighted that families facing the unimaginable pain of having a missing loved one will now have access to a fair and effective system.”

The campaign was backed by many grieving relatives of missing people including Peter Lawrence, father of missing Chef Claudia Lawrence, and Rachel Elias, the sister of Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richey Edwards who went missing in 1995.

Ms Youle said: “We are grateful to the families affected who have so selflessly campaigned alongside us, and we will continue the campaign for an additional law on guardianship.”

The guardianship law would allow families to maintain a missing person’s estate during the years of uncertainty by cancelling direct debits, paying off debts and providing maintenance for dependants.

An estimated 250,000 people are reported missing in the UK each year and with police forces responding to 900 missing people call outs each day, they have had to revise their approach.

In future the definition of missing people will be changed to “absent” or “missing” after a risk assessment has been carried out by the police call handlers.

Police will not be sent to cases where young people or adults are defined as being absent and will be targeting investigations on those at risk instead of responding to every call-out.

This may put extra pressures on charities like Missing People who are already providing a huge lifeline to the relatives of missing people.

“My wife would describe the experience of having a child missing from the family as like having a knife stuck in you; it hurts constantly and until you know what happened, it stays there, agitating the wound,” said Kevin Gosden, whose son Andrew is missing.

“If you only knew, even if it was knowing the worst, then the knife would at last be pulled out and the wound could begin to gradually heal. It would be less painful but always leave a scar,” he added on the Missing People blog.

“It is families like ours that are supported by the charity Missing People, both in practical terms through publicity campaigns and in emotional terms through support days and counselling services.”

In the last few days two pensioners have been reported missing from South West London.

Stephen Best, 72, was last seen leaving his address in Langdale Close, Walworth just after midnight on Wednesday April 3 2013. He is described as black, slim build, 5 foot 5 in height, with a white beard and a short dark hair with grey flecks in it. He may also be wearing sunglasses and a black and gold baseball cap. Mr. Best walks with a pronounced limp.

Sarbans Matharu, 83, who left his Tooting home at 12 noon on April 3 and has not been seen since. He is wearing a black woolly hat, navy cardigan and black tracksuit bottoms, and has diabetes. If anyone knows of their whereabouts please contact the number below.

These are just two of many vulnerable people that go missing in South West London.

If you would like to help, Missing People, who celebrate their 20th anniversary this year, will be holding a charity run on Clapham common on May 25 to raise money for their charity. To take part see

For general enquiries call Missing people on: 020 8392 4590 or email [email protected]

 To report someone missing:

Fill in the online form or email: [email protected]

 If you have a missing person sighting to report:

Fill in the online form or email: [email protected]

Photo courtesy of missingpeople, via YouTube, with thanks.

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