Tom is a civilian instructor for the Air Training Corps. He’s on his way home, late on a Thursday night. It’s snowing and he’s driving carefully in the darkness. One of his cadets, David, is a teenager living on his own and struggling to make ends meet. Knowing this, he texts the young lad to make sure he’s ok and has enough credit on the electric and gas meters to get him through the cold snap. Getting no response, he goes home.

Civilian instructors are an odd breed, not officers but still adult staff. This lets them get friendly with the cadets and provide support to them for things that the cadets feel they can’t bring to the officers. In this case, David had spoken to Tom at length about his home situation and with no care from his parents, David was effectively on his own at 16.

Friday morning Tom wakes up and checks his mobile. His text to David hasn’t been delivered. As he works throughout the day, Tom is getting more and more worried about David – he always has his mobile on but the message still hasn’t been delivered. On his way home, he decides to pop into David’s to make sure he’s OK. When he gets there the house is in darkness and a neighbour greets him outside with some terrifying news. With snow on the ground and temperatures plummeting, David’s somewhat less-than-legal Landlord has thrown him out and taken his key from him. The neighbour said that they’d seen him in a pub in town around 1700 looking very drunk and very depressed.

This is a key piece of information, the Point Last Seen or PLS. Search teams will use this to try and work out the missing person’s last movements.

Tom gets the details of David’s mother and heads over there. A cloud of bitter-sweet smoke greets him at her house, and he recognises that smell immediately. David’s mother smiles serenely at him as Tom explains his concerns. She has difficulty focussing on his face as she says that she hasn’t seen him, but David’s best friend, Jane lives around the corner. Tom rushes over to Jane’s.

In a situation far to common in parts of this country,  David’s parents aren’t around. Here, his mother is high on cannabis, affecting her short term memory and perception of the events around here. We don’t know if she knows where David is, she may be too stoned to realise the implications of Tom’s comments.

Jane saw David at around 1300 heading up to town to get his unemployment benefit. He was supposed to return to hers by 1400 to possibly go for a trip to a town some 20 miles away, but didn’t return. His phone was ruined last night when it fell in a puddle, so there’s no way of contacting David now.

Another piece of critical information here, the LKP or Last Known Position. This has a higher confidence rating than the PLS and is the last position that the missing person was known to be. Again, more information to help the search teams.

Armed with this information Tom and Jane scour the town’s pubs looking for David. Concern is growing as they get some more information from friends – David was depressed after a recent funeral of a friend.

It’s 1900 now, and the Met Office is predicting a low of -1C, with windchill giving a temperature of -18C. Tom heads up to the Police station to ask for help. With reports that David was wearing only a light shirt and a suit jacket,  and with nowhere to go that night, Tom’s concerned that David won’t survive the night in these temperatures.

The police will treat this situation very seriously, even though David has only been missing for a few hours. David is a “vulnerable person” as he’s a teenager, added to the fact that he’s reported as being depressed or despondent with potential suicidal thoughts. This behaviour of disappearing without telling anyone is reported to be out of character for him and with reports of his clothing being unsuitable for the evening the Police will want to get a search going quickly. They’ll ask for lots of detail from the reporter and circulate those around the police that are patrolling the area.

This is the first part of a little tale, based on a true story that demonstrates what Mountain Rescue and the Police deal with when people go missing. There are a few more parts to this, so bear with me as I get them all hashed out.

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