Disappearing Without Trace

Lord Lucan Background

Many of you will recall the enthralling case of Lord Lucan. Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl Of Lucan (DOB 18th December 1934)  The Lucan children’s Nanny, Sandra Rivett, was bludgeoned to death at the Lucan family home. Lady Lucan, the estranged wife of the Lord, was also attacked and identified Lord Lucan as the assailant. It seems that Lucan committed these heinous crimes before disappearing without trace on the evening of the 7th November 1974.

Disappearing Without Trace

Lucan’s disappearance captured the public’s imagination for decades.  There have been numerous theories about what happened to him and many unconfirmed sightings across the world. Lucan has never been found. If he were still alive, he would be 83 years of age, but he was officially declared dead and a death certificate was issued in 2016. John Stonehouse, a former M.P. and John Darwin, (dubbed “The Canoe Man”) are two other interesting cases that spring to mind. They all raise the question about the ease of disappearing without trace in the modern world and how to go about finding missing persons.

The motivation for disappearing without trace can be many and varied – evasion of criminal or Civil Proceedings, debt, divorce and paternity denial are just a few of the reasons some people disappear into the ether. There are, of course, many reasons people may wish to find someone and many of these can be positive – family reunification and estate beneficiaries are just two.

How to Find Someone Who Has Disappeared

Obviously, law enforcement agencies and government organisations such as HMRC have significant powers to access and obtain information in order to locate people. For the rest of us, there are legal restrictions on accessing information and regulatory frameworks we have to adhere to. However, some useful guidelines in the quest to find someone are:

The Basics

Start with what you know and get all the information you can. Establish their full name including any alias or maiden names if relevant. Find out their date and place of birth, the last known and any previous addresses, family members and partners. Check vehicles owned and driven, jobs the person has done and who they worked for. Collect any telephone numbers, email addresses and photographs. There is rarely too much information when you are trying to find someone.

Database Sources

There are several sources of database information, which are accessible online and many are free or inexpensive. The Electoral Register lists all UK residents who are registered to vote. The Land Registry enables you to find out who owns a piece of land or property. Companies House list company directors or company secretaries together with their contact details. Experian and other credit agencies which allows you to check credit and other address information against an individual. Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Registry of County Court Judgments, Registry of Bankrupts – currents and discharged, White Pages or 192.com are all other possible sources of information.

Tracing People Online

The widespread use of the internet and especially social media has certainly limited the “Lord Lucan effect”. We live in a time when people yearn to be known and share details of their lives with others.

Using Social Media to Track People

Facebook has in excess of a billion users. Only the population of China and India rivals these numbers. It should be obvious that anyone who does not want to be found should not be online. There does, however, appear to be a magnetic attraction, some would say habitual addiction to social media. There are a whole plethora of online social media sites with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn the most popular. All of these can provide useful information when trying to locate or identify someone. If the person you are looking for is on any one of these sites a Google search will help you find them.

By sifting through Facebook Posts or Twitter feeds you can also build up a picture of an individual’s life and thereby attempt to find them. With the huge growth in migration across national borders these databases and social media are invaluable and furthermore, cost-effective tracing tools. There are two very good books which cover this – Open Source Intelligence Techniques (Micheal Bazzell) and The Complete Privacy and Security Desk Reference (Bazzell & Carroll – Volume 1 Digital.)

Traditional Tracing Methods

Even in the modern, digital world, there is nothing better than the good old fashioned knock on the door. Neighbourhood enquiries can invariably confirm information from databases or provide extra details. This can be money well spent. Legal action can be very expensive and as such needs to be based on accurate, reliable and verified information.

So, disappearing without trace is possible, however, it takes a lot of planning and a certain amount of luck. Fortunately, in most cases, we are probably not looking for people who are challenging Einstein’s place in history or, for that matter Lord Lucan’s.