Police are set to employ a bold new tactic as they continue the hunt for the long list of missing people in NSW – and work to identify the more than 330 mystery bodies on record.
A new program aimed at collecting the DNA of biological relatives of missing persons on the state’s mid-north coast has been launched, after a review of case files revealed a lack of direct or familial DNA.
The pilot, set to begin in Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie, will feed information to the NSW Police’s Missing Person Registry – whose officers are currently searching for 769 long-term missing people.
Results will be uploaded to a national database and matched against the Unidentified Bodies Index, while family members will also be interviewed.
Acting Assistant Commissioner Darren Bennett said due to the passage of time police often had little chance to gather direct DNA of those who have vanished.
“Currently in NSW, we have 769 long-term missing people and approximately 330 unidentified bodies or human remains cases, with just over 100 unidentified bodies or partial human remains physically on hand with NSW Health,” he said.
Forensic and scientific experts from NSW Health Pathology on the Human Skeletal Remains Initiative will also be used by the program, Acting Assistant Commissioner Bennett said.
Missing Persons Registry Commander, Detective Inspector Glen Browne, said the success of the pilot program will depend heavily on the families of missing persons coming forward.
Investigators will work collaboratively with agencies including NSW Health, the Australian Federal Police and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to identify any possible investigative leads or DNA matches, he said.
“To further missing persons investigations across Australia, we are calling on relatives of any missing person across the country, who resides on or near the NSW Mid North Coast, to consider coming forward and providing a DNA sample,” he said.
“The team at the Missing Persons Registry are determined to identify these remains and ensure they are safely returned to loved ones so they may finally be farewelled and put to rest.”
NSW Police Minister David Elliott said: “I would encourage anyone who is looking for answers after the disappearance of a family member to come forward and potentially find closure.
“Every one of the long-term missing people have loved ones who have been seriously impacted by their loss and it is crucial that we do everything in our power to ease their pain.”
DNA samples are taken via a buccal swab and are only matched against missing persons databases.
The program will begin in February, and will be held at:
Cavanbah Centre, Coffs Harbour – February 8-9, from 10am to 7pm
Historic Courthouse, Port Macquarie – February 11-12, from 10am to 7pm