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EDITIONS
Monday, 1 July, 2002, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
A decade of searching
Rough sleepers
Many missing people end up sleeping rough
The National Missing Persons Helpline is celebrating its 10th anniversary on Monday.

The helpline was set up on 1 July 1992 by two south London women, Janet Newman and Mary Asprey.

It was originally set up in a tiny bedroom in Mrs Newman's house.

But it has grown enormously over the last decade and now employs a paid staff of 57, as well as 123 volunteers.

Mrs Newman said of the early days: "Within the first hour the phones started to ring and we had our first serious missing person case.

Publicity

"In those days it was almost impossible to get publicity and we struggled to get a national newspaper interested in our serious missing person case. The rest is history."

The charity came to the fore in the spring of 1994 when Gloucestershire Police discovered the bodies of several missing girls and women who had been killed by serial killers Fred and Rose West.

The National Missing Persons Helpline (NMPH) had a large database of information on women and girls, some of whom turned out to be victims of the Wests.

Detective Superintendent John Bennett, who led the Cromwell Street inquiry, has become a big supporter of the helpline since his retirement from the force.

In the past 10 years the NMPH has helped 160,000 people.

By no means all of those have been traced, but the charity continues to support families such as Chris and Peter Boxall whose 15-year-old son went missing in 1987.

'Life sentence'

Mrs Newman said: "If you have a serious illness or a death you can grieve.

"To have a missing child or member of your family with no knowledge of what has happened is a life sentence."

If you would like to report a missing relative or friend or would like to make contact with your family after walking out you can contact the NMPH on 0500 700700.

See also:

30 Jun 02 | England
04 Mar 02 | UK
15 May 01 | N Ireland
05 Feb 01 | N Ireland
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