Pain, grief and an emotional-roller coaster ride from hell is what many people go through when their loved ones go missing.
And while some remain missing, are found injured or even dead, a lot are found safe and sound, with it later emerging that their disappearance was voluntary.
Private investigator Brad Nathanson, who investigates missing persons cases, said the trend he sees when it comes to missing people is mostly as a result of attention seeking or absent parenting.
Most missing people he searches for are found, he said. Many of them are either on drugs, depressed or seeking attention while some genuinely were kidnapped, he added.
At the moment, more adults are going missing than before because they have been most affected by Covid-19, leaving many feeling despair. They also lose hope. He added that too many young girls are going missing.
“No crime — just drugs, sex and no consequences for their actions.”
The Witness has reported on several cases recently where teenagers went missing and were then found. They had been gallivanting.
Perhaps the most serious case this year in Pietermaritzburg was a teenager who was reported missing and when she was found she lied to the police, saying that she had been abducted at Capital Centre. She had in fact run off with her boyfriend and friend.
Police efforts to track down the kidnapper after the teenager was found revealed that she had told her family lies.
The young woman initially said she was kidnapped while walking out of the Pep store at Capital Centre. She claimed a white cloth was placed over her nose and mouth to drug her.
She said she was taken away in a vehicle that had seven other girls inside, and “three or more” abductors.
She said that she “found” herself at the Market Square taxi rank the day afterwards.
Police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said that a lot of resources and time get wasted by police trying find people who are not really missing. Instead, police could be investigating legitimate crimes.
One does not have to wait 24 hours to report a missing person, he said. Police will investigate once they are satisfied that a person is really missing.
If they refuse, the officer can be reported to a higher structure, for instance the station commander.
He warned teenagers to behave in a responsible manner.
Bianca van Aswegen, national co-ordinator of Missing Children SA, said they have seen an increase in children being reported missing yearly.
There are various reasons for this.
“Crime is escalating and people have become more aware of how to report a child as missing and also of us as an organisation that assists.”
She said the main reasons children go missing are that they run away from home, get lost, are kidnapped and also because of human trafficking.
Aswegen added that the organisation also comes across cases where teenagers run away from home due to different reasons. “One of them is that girls run away specifically to be with their boyfriends,” she said.
Children do not realise what danger they put themselves into when they run away and when they are “out on the streets”. It makes them vulnerable and a soft target. She said every missing persons case is important and resources are deployed to find the person.
If a person or child has not returned at a specific time or arrived at a specific place, it could be a red flag to become worried, advised Aswegen.
Also, when a person or child’s phone is off and they are not supposed to be where they should be then it could mean something is wrong.