Hi-tech software to help cops find missing people

Attracta Harron
Hi-tech software to help cops find missing people
1 September 2011
Evening Express
David Ewen

As a mountain rescue team leader, Graham Gibb honed his search skills in the toughest conditions. Since retiring, he has been helping to solve cases of people who have gone missing across the world. And on occasion, predictions of foul play have led to the snaring of killers. Graham now hopes the public may be able to benefit from his expertise.

The former Grampian Police inspector is searching for funding to develop computer software that will give a guide to tracking down missing people. The programme could be accessed over the internet or even as an application for mobile phones.

Graham said:
“Many hundreds of families are affected, whether they are searching for an elderly parent or a child. “Some people will panic and call the police after five minutes but others will leave it too long.”

As a former leader of both the police and Braemar mountain rescue teams, Graham started to see patterns in missing people’s movements and applied this to more general searches. Age, sex, mental state – such information can be used to build a picture of how far someone is likely to have gone and what might have happened to them. Not all searches have happy outcomes but detecting a crime quickly gives police a better chance of finding the perpetrator.

In August 2005, Graham persuaded police in Edinburgh that missing schoolboy Rory Blackhall was likely to have come to harm. Police changed the focus of their inquiry – and found the murdered 11-year-old a few days later in woods near his home.

On other occasions Graham has helped police rule out suicide or to renew investigations.

At Graham’s urging, Irish police reopened the case of Attracta Harron, 65, who went missing in December 2003. This led to the arrest of killer and convicted rapist Trevor Hamilton, who had buried her near his home.

Graham, 52, from Tarland, is now a specialist adviser with the National Police Improvements Agency.

He initially developed the profiling system for Grampian Police with Dr Penny Woulnough after analysing 3,000 cases.

Copies of a guide are given to all police officers trained in missing person searches. Graham is hoping money can be raised to help make the tool accessible to the public and help anxious family and friends trace loved ones.

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