Extract from Interview of Paul Nolan Miralles Association (Anne Ravanona, President) with Cian Taylor, Irish Times

How to search for someone who goes missing

“When you go looking for someone who’s missing, you don’t know how long it’s going to take: you’re thrown into a situation where you’ve no idea what’s going to happen or what to do,” says Anne Ravanona, sister of Paul Nolan Miralles, a 36-year-old photographer from Dublin who went missing in Amsterdam in April 2011.

Five days into the search, his body was found in a canal. (An open verdict was recorded at the inquest.) The search was an ordeal, and the family hope that anyone facing similar circumstances can benefit from their experience. To that end, the Paul Nolan Miralles Association provides an online resource of practical tips and templates to aid missing-person cases at pnmassoc.com.

* When arriving in a foreign city to search for a loved one, as Paul’s family did when he disappeared in Amsterdam, just getting your bearings can consume valuable time. In the Netherlands, it can take 48 hours for a missing-person search to commence.

Once the police and the Irish consul have been notified, however, Ravanona suggests utilising such time to expedite the search . Note the inspector in charge and the case number for future reference. Appeal for information through flyers, posters and social-media networks as well as forming search groups with designated roles, such as media spokesperson.

Retrace any routes home the missing person may have taken, and check for cameras that may have recorded relevant CCTV footage, as many businesses override their footage after four days. Managing your energy levels throughout this process is paramount. 

“The stress level is so high,” says Ravanona, a global-management training expert based in Paris. “I slept about three hours a night during the search. I was on the go all the time.

“Whatever you can do to preserve energy, do it. It’s impossible to relax when you’re looking for someone but to be able to switch off for a few minutes will help you focus again on the task.”

* When assessing responses to public appeals, Ravanona advises treating private investigators with caution. “Such people can approach families in distress and it can cost a lot of money,” she says.

“The other thing to watch out for is mediums. There are people who say, ‘I have a vision of them’ and so on. When you’re desperate, you listen to everyone and everything. The problem is you waste time, energy and resources looking for things that are not real clues. It can give you false hope. That, for me, is the psychological damage.”

* One potentially helpful resource are search dogs who track by scent . In Ravanona’s case, volunteer dog association Signi Zoekhonden came forward and directed the search to a canal near the Hard Rock Café, where Paul was last seen. It provided the breakthrough that led to the recovery of his body. Irish Search Dogs are a similar volunteer group who are available to travel abroad.

* Though taking time out of a search to focus on your own wellbeing may not feel like a priority, but counselling can be helpful in dealing with emotions both during and after the process. “In the first six months after Paul disappeared, I was completely obsessed by what had happened,” says Ravanona.

“Counselling helped me to have a place to talk about it face to face. It’s very important in order to be able to cope with the situation and to live with it afterwards so it doesn’t take over your life, because that’s the risk.”

Read the Full Article here.