Missing Persons‎ > ‎

Adult female Suicidal

Missing adult female who is suicidal.


Statistics taken directly from Grampian Stats report 2007.


Initial Strategy

In some cases it may be difficult to determine whether the missing person has gone off to commit suicide or has simply gone off to ‘think things through’, or to be alone for a while.

In such circumstances, therefore, it may be prudent to develop a ‘twin-track’ search strategy where one track is based on the probability that this is a ‘normal’ missing person and the other is based on the probability that the person intends to take their own life. When planning the search strategy in relation to the probable or possible suicide, the first steps are to consider the likely method used and likely location chosen. 


People choose the location of their suicide for one of two reasons. Either for its practical aspects (e.g., a conveniently high building; the nearest body of water; the nearest railway line), others choose the location because it has some personal significance to them (e.g., where they used to walk their dog; where they met their partner; the secret place they went to with their lover; their favourite beauty spot). 



Age as a factor

In terms of age, it is rare, but certainly not impossible, for people to commit suicide before the age of 14. The risk increases during puberty and adolescence, reaching a peak in the mid 20’s and then remains fairly constant until old age. 


Occupational influences

Some occupational groups are more at risk (e.g., farmers, doctors). This may be a reflection on the fact that these occupational groups have ready access to means of committing suicide. Consideration should be given to the ‘access to means’ in all cases of potential suicide. If they have a ready ‘access-to- means’ this may increase the risk assessment 


Summary of likely places found to being found and distance from last being seen. Followed by characteristics and further information on Depression.


Missing on foot – likely places suicidal females will be found. 

Many women who commit suicide do so by drowning. Therefore rivers, riverbanks, beaches, the sea and even garden wells featured as places found. Smaller numbers chose to suicide at their boyfriend/girlfriends houses, railway lines/stations, rural beauty spots, in woods (hanging), graveyards, and farm buildings. 

When someone chooses to drown themselves, the point at which they enter the water is often some distance from where the body is eventually found, especially in fast flowing rivers or in the sea. The point of entry is often indicated by items of clothing or a handbag being left behind on the riverbank. These items are often picked up by members of the public and handed into the police as ‘found property’. If drowning is suspected, it is always worth checking local found property registers. 

It should be remembered that a large number of people who commit suicide, do so in the privacy of their own homes. The majority of these are easily found. A small minority however choose to hide themselves away in attic spaces, basements, cupboards, garages and outhouses. Searchers should pay close attention to these and other hidden locations before extending the search beyond the home address. 

A similar phenomenon can also occur where people choose to commit suicide at their place of employment. They tend to have an intimate knowledge of the premises and often hide themselves away in a secluded location to commit the act. 


On foot - Distance from last seen to being found. Cumulative percentage of cases.

40%         1.10 km

50%         1.5 km

60%         2.00 km

70%         3.20 km

80%         4.90 km

90%         6.90 km

95%         8.00 km

99%         10.00 km


Missing using a motor vehicle – likely places suicidal females will be found. 

The majority of these women travelled to rural beauty spots, often near water, such as sea cliffs or rivers. Unlike their male counterparts, very few were found in secluded wooded areas. Picnic sites and rural car-parks are also fairly popular spots. 


Using a motor vehicle - Distance from last seen to being found. Cumulative percentage of cases.

40%         11.00 km

50%         11.50 km

60%         20.00 km

80%         25.00 km

90%         44.00 km


If the car has been found and there is no trace of the occupant – How large should my search area be? 

25%         50 m

50%         150 m

80%         500 m

99%         900 m


Factors to look for

Detailed enquiry will reveal whether the following strong indicators are present: 

  • If someone has never been reported missing previously, but has attempted suicide before, they have a higher risk of suicide.
  • Someone who has recently talked in depth about taking their own life (e.g., to the extent of describing how they will commit the act and what they will wear or asking how their friends will feel afterwards) has a higher risk of suicide. 
  • If their disappearance coincides with any significant dates in their life (e.g., a birthday, anniversary of the death of a loved one, the date of a divorce) risk of suicide is higher. People with strong religious beliefs are generally less likely to take their own lives (although sometimes aspects of religion and cultural beliefs can be a ‘trigger’ for suicide e.g., where someone is unhappy in relation to a forthcoming or existing ‘arranged marriage’). 


As well as the points mentioned above, some subtle pre-suicide behaviours may not instantly be thought of as relevant or worthy of mention by families and friends during initial enquiry stages. However, in the context of other information, a single subtle behaviour difference can significantly affect the risk assessment and/or search strategy. 


It is essential that early enquiries are conducted to explore whether any of the following more subtle indicators are present: 

  • Missing person was significantly more affectionate prior to their disappearance.
  • Men, particularly the elderly, uncharacteristically leaving wedding rings on bedside cabinets or other obvious places prior to their disappearance. 
  • People setting their personal affairs (e.g., wills and financial matters) in order prior to their disappearance. People leaving wallets/purses, mobile telephones, cigarettes or other necessary everyday items behind which they would normally have with them. 


Married men are less likely to commit suicide than single men. Women who are single are not, however, more at risk. 


Method and location?

Choice of method and choice of location may go ‘hand-in-hand’. Thus, establishing one, may allow the other to be readily worked out. For example, if a person has a ready access to medication but
no apparent privacy in which to take an overdose, the individual may well have checked themselves into a hotel. Another example is where the individual has an obvious personal place in the countryside where there are trees and they have access to a rope which is missing from its usual place in the garage. 


If no information is available where do I start searching for the person?

When dealing with a missing person who is thought to be
in danger of taking their own life, and there is little or no information available, it can be difficult to formulate a logical search strategy. In such cases it is necessary to look at where people of a similar gender went when they committed suicide, as well as the distance they travelled from their home address. 

The following tables provide two vital pieces of information for the Search Advisor: 

1. Approximate search area sizes
2. Likely places within the search area where the 

missing person may be found. 

The information contained in these tables should be used as an approximate guide and always in conjunction with all other sources of information / intelligence available. 


Is there a suicide note?

If there is a suicide note the content may provide vital information regarding where and how the person intends to kill themselves. For example, a note which contains the statement “you’ll never find me” suggests they will not be in a location that is known and/or obvious to those whom the note was intended for. On the other hand the statement “look inside the holly tree” indicates their likely location within a known specific tree. However, suicide notes can contain false or misleading information and should be considered carefully. 


Common methods of suicide

It is important to remember, however, that there are exceptions to every rule, therefore it may be necessary to give consideration to alternative suicide methods to those listed. Dependant on the enquiry information available, consideration should be given to carrying out an analysis of the environment in which the person lives, this may reveal access 

to a means of suicide not commonly used. In addition, it is important to point out that these tables of ‘common methods of suicide’ relate to people who suicide away from home. 

A significant number of people who commit suicide do so in the privacy of their own homes. The majority of these are easily found. A small minority, however, choose to hide themselves away in attics, basements, cupboards, garages and outhouses. Searchers should pay close attention to these and other hidden locations before extending the search beyond the home address. It is presumed that any case will commence with a thorough search of the missing person’s home to a standard sufficient to locate a suicide victim. 

Traditionally, men have tended to use more violent methods than women (although there have been
many exceptions).

Generally, men are more likely to hang themselves
and women are more likely to drown themselves.

Car exhaust fumes (i.e., carbon monoxide poisoning) have played a significant role in both male and female suicides in the past. However, as most cars are now
fitted with catalytic converters a rapid decline in this method is likely.
People intent on utilising this method have, however, gone to their nearest garage and purchased an old car specifically to kill themselves. 


Male common methods of suicide

Age Range                  Common methods Employed

18-30                           Hanging

Jumping from a Cliff, building or bridge

Hit by a train

Car exhaust

31-40                            Drowning

Jumping from a Cliff, building or bridge


Car exhaust


41-50                           Hanging


Jumping from a Cliff, building or bridge


51-60                           Drowning


Jumping from a Cliff, building or bridge

61-70                           Hanging


Jumping from a Cliff, building or bridge

Hit by a train

71-80                           Drowning

Jumping from a Cliff, building or bridge

81-90                           Drowning

Jumping from a Cliff, building or bridge


In order to assess whether the missing person may be at risk of suicide, a large number of inter-related factors need to be considered. Good enquiry is essential to increase the likelihood of accurate risk assessment.


Relationship between mental health and suicide

A large number of people reported to the police as missing persons suffer from depression. Although there is a strong association between suicide and mental illness, particularly depression, this does not mean that everyone with a mental illness will try to kill themselves. Two strong indicators that a depressed person may be at risk of suicide are: 

  • When a suicide note has been written indicating an intention to take their own life
  • When the person has recently talked about taking their own life.

However, even if one or both of these indicators are present it cannot be automatically concluded that the person will try to take their own life. Conversely, it cannot be concluded that they will not try to commit suicide if neither of these indicators are present. It is essential that detailed background enquiries are conducted in order to find out as much about the missing person as possible. There is usually something in their ‘background’ which is either the cause of depression or the ‘trigger’ which has pushed them towards ending their own life. In particular, officers should find out whether one or more of the following ‘triggers’ are present: 

Relationship Problems Financial Problems Sexual Problems Employment problems Education Problems Medical Problems Mental Health Problems Addiction Problems Recent Bereavement 

If someone who is suffering from depression has indicated an intention to take their own life or has left a suicide note and has one or more of the above ‘triggers’ present in their life, there is a higher probability that person is at risk of suicide.