Grandad of murdered boy slams missing children plans

Changes to the way in which police deal with missing people have been slammed by the grandad of murdered schoolboy Wesley Neailey


The grandad of a boy who was snatched from his home and strangled by a paedophile has slammed the police’s plans to change the way they deal with missing people.

Nationally, officers deal with around 327,000 reports of missing people per year –  the equivalent of around 900 per day. Two thirds of these involve children.

The new plans, announced this week, will stop officers getting called out to around a third of missing people cases. Call handlers will class missing people cases as either “absent”, when a person simply does not arrive where they are expected to be, or “missing”, where there is a specific reason for concern.

This can be that the disappearance is out of character or that they may be at risk of harm.

Under the plans, each force in the UK will have missing persons co-ordinators who will check whether a child is going missing frequently to detect any patterns of behaviour.

But last night Harry Hammond, the grandad of 11-year-old Wesley Neailey, who was snatched, raped and strangled to death in Arthur’s Hill, Newcastle, in 1998 by convicted sex offender Dominic McKilligan, hit out at the proposals.


Pictured above – Dominic McKilligan: PURE EVIL !

The 68-year-old, of Fenham, Newcastle, told the Sunday Sun that more missing people could suffer the same fate as Wesley under the new procedures.

He said: “Everybody should be treated as a missing person from the beginning – they say the first 48 hours are the most crucial for the investigation and finding the person alive.

“The right people should be on the job from the beginning and a missing person case should always be treat as serious.

“If the police don’t act immediately then more people will lose their lives like Wesley. Nobody on the telephone should be making a decision like that. You can’t make that sort of decision over the phone. Somebody should be sent round to the house immediately.

“The police should assume that everyone that goes missing will be in danger and they should be investigating from day one.

“They need to go out and talk to people to make sure they have the information right.”

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The changes have been put in place following failures in cases such as the Rochdale child sex ring, where nine men were jailed in May last year for grooming and abusing vulnerable teenage girls.

Pat Geenty, the lead for missing people for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO),  insisted the move will free up officers’ time and improve the way forces deal with children who go missing from care.

He said: “There is an element about reducing bureaucracy, but I am convinced the change will enable us to focus resources to protect those children we need to protect.

“Whenever we get a call and someone is reported missing, we would normally dispatch a police officer, irrespective of the circumstances of the case. So you see that’s a huge demand on police resources.”

Mr Geenty said police are sometimes used as a “collection service” for children who go missing from care homes.

He said: “What we’re asking for now is that care homes act as responsible parents, do the initial work that’s required in terms of trying to find out where the missing individual is, then if they have concerns, ring the police.”

Under the plans, each force in the UK will have missing persons co-ordinators who will check whether a child is going missing frequently to detect any patterns of behaviour.

However, children’s charities across the North fear the new definitions could put children at risk. David Tucker, head of policy at the NSPCC, said: “We are very concerned that the new definition of ‘missing persons’ will put vulnerable children at risk of being groomed and sexually exploited.

“The length of time a child goes missing is irrelevant because they can fall into the clutches of abusers very quickly.

“Children go missing for a variety of reasons; they may be bullied, abused or are generally unhappy.

“But whatever the reason, this problem must be taken seriously.

“We expect all professionals including the police to invest the right amount of time and take the necessary action to protect all children as soon as they go missing.”

Forces across our region say that each missing person case will be taken seriously.

Det Supt Steve Wade, of Northumbria Police, said: “The force is committed to doing as much as it can to bring people’s loved ones home safely and is working with partners to ensure the new changes are implemented.

“Any systems which will further improve the way all agencies deal with missing people have to be welcomed.”

Acting Chief Constable Dave Pickard of Cleveland Police said: “This will be implemented as per the national guidelines.

“Each missing person case is taken extremely seriously and risk assessed on an individual basis.

“The safety of vulnerable adults and children is of paramount importance, which is why we have adapted our approach to ensure better protection for those most at risk of harm.”

A Durham police spokesman added: “The overwhelming majority of those reported as missing return home safe and well, usually within 48 hours or less.

“But when serious concerns are expressed for their well-being then additional resources are always allocated, since their health and safety are of paramount importance.

“This applies to people of all ages but especially to children as they are naturally considered more vulnerable.

“Dealing with reports of individuals who repeatedly go missing does take up considerable time and resources, but each case is treated on its merits according to the level of risk involved.”