Missing Persons Singapore: Legal Steps to Find and ‘Presumed Dead’

Last updated on March 12, 2019

missing person's shoe in the forest.

If your loved one is missing, there are certain steps that you can take in attempting to find him or her.

This article will explain:

What Should I Do If My Loved One is Missing?

Make a Police report

How long after a person is missing must I make a police report?

There is no minimum time period for which you must have lost contact with your loved one to make a police report.

If you have tried to locate your loved one yourself but failed in doing so, you should make a police report immediately.

Finding missing persons requires immediate police action. Hence, to make a police report you should dial “999” for the Emergency Police Line.

You may also wish to make a written report at the nearest Neighbourhood Police Station afterwards. This is because a written report includes the Investigation Officer-in-charge and the police report number, which may be necessary should your loved one be missing overseas (see below).

What information must I provide when making the police report?

When making the police report, you should provide the following information about the missing person to the Police:

  1. Name and NRIC or passport number;
  2. Description of his/her physical attributes and his/her last-seen or known attire;
  3. The places that he/she frequents;
  4. The date, time, and/or place that he/she was last seen at; and
  5. Any other relevant information that would assist with the investigations, such as the missing person’s mobile number.

Should you make a report at the local police station, you are to bring along your NRIC or other identification documents, and a recent photograph of the missing person if you have one, in addition to providing the information above.

What Happens After the Police Report has been Made?

After lodging a police report, the police officers will advise you on the next course of action. They will inform you if they have located your loved one.

What are the types of searches the police will conduct?

The Singapore Police conducts inquiries immediately after a missing person report is filed.

Some of the preliminary actions include:

  • Screening the missing person in the police databases
  • Checking with institutions and hospitals
  • Disseminating the missing person’s information to police officers on the ground to keep a lookout
  • Issuing appeals for information from the public on social media

What if I find my loved one after making the police report?

If you find your loved one after lodging the report, you should immediately notify the Investigation Officer-in-charge.

What Should I Do If My Loved One is Missing Overseas?

If your loved one is missing overseas, you should likewise make a police report in Singapore.

Upon which, contact the relevant Singapore Overseas Mission or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) at 6379 8800 and provide them with the police report number from the written report (as mentioned above).

The MFA would be able to check with major hospitals abroad to find out if the missing person has been hospitalised and/or check with the relevant local authorities to find out if he/she has been arrested.

The MFA would not, however, be able to track down your loved one or disclose whether he/she has left Singapore or entered another country. Only the Singapore or foreign police has the authority to find out such information.

What are Other Ways of Finding/Tracking My Loved One Who is Missing?

Contact the missing person’s mobile phone

After making the police report, continue calling the missing person’s mobile number. The most important part here is to check if the number rings or goes straight to voicemail. This may shed some light on whether the mobile phone is in an accessible mode (i.e. switched on) or if has been switched off.

If the mobile phone is in an accessible mode, satellite technology makes it possible to trace the location of the mobile phone, which would help in locating the current (if the mobile phone is in his/her possession) or last whereabouts of the missing person.

If you know that your loved one has installed applications such as “Life 360” or “Find My Friends”, which are specifically meant for keeping track of one’s whereabouts, you may try to establish contact or get information from these applications.

You may also wish to download other applications that enable you to get the location of the mobile phone if its user grants permission.

Check your loved one’s social media accounts

At the same time, you may wish to keep track of your loved one’s social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

The last social media posting may give a clue on how or what your loved one is feeling.

He or she may have been feeling depressed and may have developed a suicidal intent or faced any danger from anyone. If so, you should let the police know so they can follow up on the investigation accordingly.

If your loved one had recently checked-in to a location on social media, it may also be useful to start searching for him/her there.

As the date and time of the social media postings are usually recorded, you would be able to see the last time he/she was active on social media. Any ongoing activity on social media would tell you that your loved one is able to access social media (and also the Internet), which may be helpful to the police in facilitating the investigation.

Spread the word online

Meanwhile, you may also wish to spread the word on your, your family and/or friends’ social media platforms.

According to Crime Library Singapore, a crime awareness and prevention non-profit organisation that mobilises volunteers to conduct physical searches of missing persons, the search for finding missing persons has gone online and the chances of finding missing persons have been higher and quicker ever since.

On November 2017, a 32-year old woman who was reported missing was found by a man who recognised her from a viral Facebook post about her disappearance. This shows how effective social media has been in locating missing people, especially when the information is shared by concerned netizens.

When a post is shared, more awareness is raised about the missing person. This means that a larger community is alerted and more people can then help to keep a look-out and/or provide any useful information in locating the missing person.

Retrace the missing person’s last steps

It would also be helpful to find out the last known activity of your loved one.

If social media does not provide much help, you may contact his/her friends or neighbours directly to request for information on his/her activities for the past few days. This may shed light on new locations that should be searched.

If the Missing Person is Never Found

When a loved one has gone missing, and you have exhausted all ways to find your loved one, what may be left to do is to protect and manage your loved one’s affairs.

For example, any property or bills that he/she may have left behind and needs to be properly dealt with.

However, in order to deal with a missing person affairs, you will need to apply for a Grant of Probate (if he/she has made a will) or a Letters of Administration (if he/she did not leave behind a will).

A death certificate is one of the prominent documents that is required for the application.

Hence, in the unfortunate event the missing person is never found and you have to deal with his/her affairs, you may have to apply for a presumption of death certificate.

A presumption of death certificate declares the missing person presumed dead. In order to obtain this declaration, applicants must sought a court order and fulfil the following requirements:

1. The missing person must not have been heard of for 7 years

According to section 110 of the Evidence Act, if the missing person had not contacted those whom he/she would naturally have contacted in the past 7 years it may be presumed that the missing person is dead.

This is unless there are facts to suggest that the missing person is presumed to be alive in the last 30 years, in accordance with section 109 of the Evidence Act.

2. The missing person must not have been heard of by persons who would have naturally been contacted by the missing person, if he/she was alive

Persons who may have been naturally contacted includes any persons with whom the missing person was in a close and good relationship with, prior to his/her disappearance and, would confide in if he/she was alive.

3.  The applicant (or persons who would have naturally have been contacted) must have taken sufficient steps to ascertain if the missing person is alive

Before applying for the court declaration, you should take sufficient steps to find out if your loved one is alive. Whether the steps are sufficient or not depends on the circumstances of your loved one’s absence and the circumstances surrounding the application.

However, there must be attempts to establish contact with the missing person and not merely waiting for him/her to contact. This may include situations where you may have taken additional steps to search for your loved one’s whereabouts and subsequently discover any information that would not have been discovered if such steps had not been taken.

For example, if you had lodged a police report upon your loved one’s absence, contacted his/her friends, searched for the places that he/she frequents, and had appealed online (as discussed above), these actions may constitute sufficient steps if there are no other attempts that can be pursued.

What If My Loved One is Missing due to a Natural Disaster?

Must I still prove the death of my loved one to obtain the presumption of death certificate?

If you can prove that your loved one was at the location of the disaster, perhaps by submitting the flight ticket of a flight crash or the accommodation details where the natural disaster had occurred, you may immediately apply to the court for the presumption of death certificate.

Once the court has declared the missing person presumed dead, and you have obtained the presumption of death certificate, you may then proceed to apply and obtain the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration to empower you to manage your loved one’s property and financial affairs.

Having a missing family member may indeed be an anxious situation to be in. Should you require any emotional support, you may reach out to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) at 6389-2222 or refer to a list of hotlines for further assistance.

You may also wish to contact online support groups such as Crime Library, “Singapore Missing People” and “Reunite Missing Children” to learn more about what can be done when your loved one is missing.

While being unable to contact your loved one may be a difficult situation to be in, pursuing certain steps may be of some help in your attempts to locate your loved one.

In the event that you are not able to locate your loved one, you may wish to start managing his or her affairs. Should you require any assistance in applying for the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, please feel free to contact any one of our probate lawyers.

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