‘Thousands of French adults go missing each year’

Many thousands of adults are thought to disappear every year, although figures are approximate

A French missing persons group is to present proposals to the government in aid of the families of the many thousands of adults who go missing every year, but who often receive limited police support.

The Association Assistance et Recherche de Personnes Disparues (ARPD), alleges that families whose adult relatives disappear often find that authorities offer limited powers to deal with the often-devastating problem.

Now, the group is to present proposals to the minister for justice on January 30 next year (2018) in a bid to improve the situation for affected families.  

The group has highlighted that figures on the number of adults who go missing are approximate, as there are no recent official statistics.

Yet, in an interview with French news site 20 Minutes, Pascale Bethany, vice president of the ARPD, explained that many families find it very difficult to launch ‘missing person’ campaigns when adults, rather than children, vanish without a trace.

This is because adults technically have the right to ‘disappear’ if they wish, and do not have any legal obligation to contact their family and friends if they choose not to. It can be very difficult to identify which cases are suspicious and which disappearances are simply voluntary.

“Families will often go to the police or gendarmerie if they are worried, but they just say ‘adults have the right to be forgotten’,” explains Bethany. “Then, it’s ‘goodbye’ [from the police], and the door closes. It’s very difficult for families who find themselves alone.”

The ARPD is said to receive a call about another person going missing every day.

Neither a police service or a detective agency, it simply offers a listening service to families and helps to “install a climate of confidence”, to help relatives cope with the anxiety and fear that the situation can cause, and support them along the way in hopefully finding their missing person.

Many are found within days of their disappearance, but some cases take months to resolve, and other cases are still open - such as that of a woman named Marie-France Fiorello, whose adult son Adrien disappeared in October 2010, and is still missing.

“Not knowing if the [missing] person is alive or dead is terrible,” explains Bethany. “You need a body to mourn. Some still hope that the missing person will call for their birthday, even ten years later. You cannot call that ‘living’. That is why we are presenting our proposals to move things forward in January.”

The case of missing adults in France has been brought to national news attention in recent weeks, after Nordahl Lelandais - who is being investigated for the suspected murder of disappeared little girl, Maëlys - was also linked to the disappearance and death of 23-year-old military officer Arthur Noyer, who first went missing in April this year and whose skull remains were found in September.

It is said that authorities were only alerted to the possible link between Noyer and Lelandais after the latter was investigated in connection to Maëlys.

Previously, they had had “no serious line of enquiry to go on” despite examining CCTV footage and studying phone records, according to reports.

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