View Full Version : Police procedures UK - missing children

Julie Reilly
10-18-2011, 05:17 PM
I am planning out my newest WIP and I have a child who sees ghosts. She meets the ghost of another child who was reported missing but never found.

Would the police follow an anonymous tip-off in the case of a missing child as to where a body might be found?

And would they follow an anonymous tip-off as to who the murderer might have been?

10-18-2011, 05:27 PM
Has the child been previously reported to the police as missing?

What do you need to happen?

Julie Reilly
10-18-2011, 05:37 PM
The child has been reported missing. I haven't decided how long ago yet. It depends on how good the evidence left would be.

There will be no sexual activity, as it's a middle grade book, and it wouldn't be appropriate, although that was what the villain had in mind - but that won't be spelled out.

I need the MC to be able to tell the police where the body is hidden and whodunnit without having to say something ridiculous like "the girl's ghost told me".

So, I'm thinking anonymous tipoff, which they will hopefully then follow up, find the body, arrest the bad guy and the ghost is at peace and goes to wherever ghosts go.

Becky Black
10-18-2011, 05:48 PM
The police in Britain positively encourange anonymous tipoffs, though the use of the CrimeStoppers freephone number, the publicity for which always emphasises that you don't have to leave your name.

They wouldn't rush round and arrest someone on the strength of one tipoff of course. What they did at once would probably depend on how much specific information the caller gave them. They might investigate immediately, or put the name on a list to check out later.

Julie Reilly
10-18-2011, 06:15 PM
Hmm - that's what I was thinking. So they can find the body - I'm guessing they will investigate the area, but not necessarily arrest the bad guy.

And if he knows the body has been found, he will be on his guard. I could do with him being caught unawares so he hasn't got time to erase any computer evidence etc.

10-18-2011, 09:56 PM
Yep, the police would investigate. Every so often they go and dig up another part of the country looking for the missing. Unsolved cases are never closed.

Julie Reilly
10-19-2011, 12:14 PM
I think I've got it. The victim could have scratched the killer and have his DNA under her fingernails.

The MC is told this by the ghost; she then breaks into the killer's house to steal a sample of his DNA - a hair or something, putting her at danger from the killer - bit of nail-biting suspense for the reader. She then hands in the DNA sample to the police, who compare it with what they found under the victim's nails.

They match, killer gets arrested, ghost is at peace, crime solved.

I just need to know how long DNA in the form of skin under nails would be viable in a buried body.

Becky Black
10-19-2011, 04:58 PM
Could be that the perpetrator is on the DNA database for another, unrelated offence. Even for minor offences you can get your DNA put on the database these days and then it's compared to evidence from unsolved crime scenes. It's a bit of a dubious area in civil liberties terms, but it's cleared up numerous old murder and rape cases and other serious crimes where the perpetrator probably long since thought they'd got away with it. Anyway... can of worms, that's for another discussion!

Of course in dramatic terms that makes it a bit easy for your protaganist and the breaking in is more exciting. (Though sounds rather similar to a bit in The Lovely Bones where the victim's sister breaks in to the murderer's house to look for evidence. Then again that's a common enough trope all around.)

Just hair itself isn't much use for DNA by the way. You need hair with follicles still attached. Steal the whole hairbrush - follicles and skin cells galore on that.

The police would obviously have to redo DNA tests once they arrested him. You might need a police or lawer type to confirm if they can even use her evidence as reasonable grounds for arresting him. Obviously a girl walking into a police station with something she says came from that guy hardly has the kind of proper chain of evidence it would need to be used in court!

Julie Reilly
10-19-2011, 05:24 PM
I might have to make it a recent murder - from what I've discovered, DNA under fingernails wouldn't last much longer than maybe a few weeks once the body was buried and I don't really have any other way of linking them.

The killer is a respected pillar of society.

Thanks for the tip on the hair - I knew that but I'd forgotten.

I was vaguely thinking of having the MC make herself a sort of honeytrap, so he can try to grab her as well and then they have grounds to arrest him for the attempted abduction and, lo and behold, when they do DNA, it matches that found on the murder victim.

Would they do DNA on someone arrested for the abduction of a child?

Maybe she could break into his house and have her friend tie her up in his cellar and then call the police and say he'd seen a man drag a girl into a house. Of course the killer wouldn't know anything about it, but when the police turned up and found the girl in his cellar, it would be pretty solid grounds for arresting him, wouldn't it?

Becky Black
10-19-2011, 05:30 PM
Would they do DNA on someone arrested for the abduction of a child?

God, yes! Like a shot. :D

That sounds like an interesting scenario. Could she and a friend try to set it up so she gets grabbed and the friend then brings the police, but of course something goes horribly wrong, he takes her somewhere other than they expected and the friends can't follow, or he grabs the friend too, or whatever.

I'm always thinking to myself when plotting "so they decide to do this...now how can that a) not work and b) horribly backfire?

Julie Reilly
10-19-2011, 05:47 PM
Thanks - my mind is now taking the story down a whole other avenue. One thing I was thinking though - if you're a respected pillar of society who has killed a child and the body has just been found, wouldn't you be keeping a VERY low profile?

Not sure I can get the whole "getting him to grab her too" thing to work under those circumstances.

Becky Black
10-19-2011, 06:25 PM
Well it could be she lets him know she knows about the other girl, so he has to grab her to silence her. Or, well, why not go the other way around with the revelations. Get him arrested first by making him abduct her - then give the police the location of the body, so they can match up the DNA. So he won't be on his guard the way he would if the body is found first.

Of course that's a lot for your protag to risk on the word of a ghost. If the ghost tips her about the body and then, yep, there is indeed a body where she said, then she's convinced. But without that it's a lot to risk her life on. Maybe the ghost can give her some other kind of evidence, like maybe the location of a murder weapon which is somewhere other than with the body. Or the killer took a trophy, so the ghost says "in his house you'll find a slide from my hair" or whatever, and the protag find said item and knows it's for real - so there she is breaking into the house again.

So in order to get him arrested before revealing where the body is, she puts her plan into effect to get him to kidnap her. Maybe she takes the trophy and lets him know she's got it? Or just takes a picture of it in his house or something, with something identifing it as his house. Maybe she lures him pretending she wants money to keep silent, thinking he either comes along with the money (close to an admission of guilt itself!) or will try to silence her for good.

I love a bit of brainstorming. I always end up wanting to write that story myself. ;) Hope it gets you thinking anyway.

Julie Reilly
10-19-2011, 06:38 PM
I was thinking possibly of a trophy as well - another link from the body to the killer without having to rely on DNA evidence left on the body.

But if you were a clever killer, would you keep such an obvious piece of incriminating evidence?

10-19-2011, 07:25 PM
I was thinking possibly of a trophy as well - another link from the body to the killer without having to rely on DNA evidence left on the body.

But if you were a clever killer, would you keep such an obvious piece of incriminating evidence?

Depends on the mentality (rather than the cleverness) of the killer - some think they are so clever they will never get caught, so yes they would keep such a piece of evidence. Others do not think at all and would keep it just because they can. Killers who are caught are not clever, they are at some point, careless and /or arrogant. Or both. Some killers are in a world of their own where they are the supreme being and everyone else is subservient to them. They believe they will never get caught.

She then hands in the DNA sample to the police, who compare it with what they found under the victim's nails.I don't think that would work as it would only be her word where the DNA came from. She would have to tell the police how she got it and breaking and entering is a crime.

10-19-2011, 08:04 PM
But then, maybe she doesn't have to break and enter. If she gets lifted by the killer, she can get his DNA. And when she's rescued, that DNA is checked and up pops the old case.

Julie Reilly
10-19-2011, 08:20 PM
I'm currently thinking along the lines of . . .

MC and friend break into killer's house. Friend ties MC up in cellar and calls the police, intending to tell them MC has been kidnapped. The idea being the police will turn up and rescue her. BUT killer comes home, finds MC in cellar and asks her what the hell she is doing there.

MC tells killer she knows about the dead girl, "I know what you did, and you're gonna get yours," kind of scene, and tells him things only the dead girl could know - via ghost telling her.

Killer freaks out - cue nail-biting scene whereby MC nearly meets same fate as dead girl. Police turns up in nick of time and arrest killer for abduction of MC, and take his DNA.

Now I just need a foolproof method of linking killer to body and I think I'm sorted!

10-20-2011, 08:38 PM
Trophies are kept in order to facilitate reliving the experience. That's much the same reason why many criminals return to the scene of the crime. Cleverness or otherwise doesn't really have anything to do with it.

10-20-2011, 10:24 PM
Buffy I thought that the criminal returning to the scene of the crime was an urban myth. Some criminals surely go as far away from the scene as possible.

10-20-2011, 10:34 PM
No, it's quite often true. Ian Huntley, for instance, actually got involved in the search/investigation for the two girls he killed.