Lancashire Constabulary Missing Person Search Manager Course

Every year Lancashire Constabulary kindly offer to the MRTs operating in Lancashire, places on their week long Missing Persons Search Manager Course.

This year experienced Team Member Paul Brain attended this Police nationally recognised course.

Held at Lancashire Constabulary Training centre at Hutton, within the HQ and Training complex of Lancashire Constabulary, the course attracted 16x students, including Neil Woodhead from Rossendale and Pendle MRT, who is also Mountain Rescue England & Wales Insurance Officer, an Officer from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service Urban Search Unit and 13x serving Lancashire Constabulary Officers, mostly of Sgt rank, with everybody present having experience of ’Missing from Home’ search enquiries and operations.

Each day started at 09.00hrs at Hutton with a pleasant mixture of presentations, table top exercises and practical exercises, alongside resource demonstrations.

The whole course was excellently organised by Inspector Neil Sherry (A Police Search Advisor / POLSA) with considerably help from PC Alison Suffield, both of Lancashire Constabulary, with Kim Sturgess (also a Police Search Advisor).

Tuesday 8th November, coordinated by Kim Sturgess, consisted of the obvious course introductions, including an overview of the NPA Guidance on Missing Persons, Grading catagories of Missing Persons, ’Golden Hour’ taskings, Behavioural characteristics and a table top exercise, and that was only the morning sessions!

Tuesday afternoon presentations included two members of LanConStab Communications Data Investigation Unit giving an excellent overview of Cell Phone (Mobilephone) locating during Police enquires, which with the advent of smart phones also includes tracing emails and Facebook messages. An overview of Lancashires (now the North West Air Operations Group, Police) Air Support Unit (ASU), together with the advantages and limitations of the helicopters.

Wednesday morning included a re-cap of the Tuesday table-top exercise, and a visit to Lancashire Fire & Rescue Urban Search Unit in Leyland.

Wednesday afternoon was the first opportunity for the students to get outside, heading over to Mounted Branch to search the area for a “missing girl”. It allowed all students to start working together in a search environment.

Thursday 10th November, saw Sgt Gary Fretwell of West Yorkshire Police give an excellent presentation on the Shannon Matthews search (Operation Paris), probably now and forever more commonly known as the ’young girl found under the bed’ incident.

Before lunch, another table top exercise, based on a search for a missing gentleman in the Padiham area of Lancashire, which Neil Woodhead from Rossendale & Pendle team remembers attending.

Thursday afternoons lectures involved Iain Nicholson, a member from Bowland Pennine MRT and SARDA on the role of search dogs and the different types. He included searches which both Neil and Paul had been involved with, which had benefitted greatly with the input from Iain with his trailing search dog Mij.

The final presentation of the day followed from Phil Brooks on the work, role, resources and experiences of the Police North West Regional Underwater Search and Marine Unit.

Friday morning all course participants at Myerscough Livery yard, undertaking a series of practical search exercises in the surrounding grass pastures and woodlands.

Friday afternoon ended with a very comprehensive presentation by Beverley Page-Banks, Branch Manager of the Central Lancashire and Fylde Branch of the Alzheimer’s Society (, who gave an informed lecture on ’Understanding and respecting the person with Dementia.’ This concluded with a very thought provoking for all present DVD on the effects of Dementia, entitled ’the Edge of Darkness.’

The course extended in to the Saturday where the trainees gathered at Lancashire Constabulary HQ at 06:30 to travel to the Bowland Pennine MRT Smelt Mill base in the Trough of Bowland.

Bacon Buttys were waiting our arrival, before we had notification of two parties going missing, one in the Gisburn Forest region, the second in the vicinity of Bowland Knotts.

As this was a Mountain Rescue led search, both Neil and Paul stayed in the Bowland Pennine MRT recently purchased Control Vehicle running the search.

The first two casualties in the Bowland Knotts area were found by Alison Nicholson (wife of Iain Micholson, who unfortunately was unable to attend as he was in Wales on a SARDA weekend) with her search dog Floss. A team was dispatched to assist with the casualty care and to evacuate.

The second pair of casualties were located by search teams in Gisburn Forest. The Bowland team are equipped with GPS radios, which meant we were able to direct assistance immediately to the location of the casualties to assist with the stretcher carry.

As both evacuations were taking place, a report came in of another casualty on the Western side of Bowland Knotts, as the search dog had finished at the casualty site, we dispatched them to start searching for this other casualty.

Upon finding the casualty with a suspected head and spinal injury, we needed a quick extraction, so called on the services of the North West Air Operations Group (Police) with the result that a helicopter from Lancashire Constabulary Air Support Unit arrived within the exercise to assist with the evacuation. When it reached the site it was found it could not land due to the boulders in the area, so another manual extraction was required.

A short while later another injection occured involving another exercise casualty. Fortunately, this ’casualty’ had forgotten to turn off his radio, so we were able to guide the rescuers into his location directly.

Paul would like to thank Lancashire Constabulary for inviting them to attend and take a full and active part in this course. He would also like to thank Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team for organising a realistic training opportunity, which gave the attending Police Officers a taste of what Mountain Rescue are capable of doing.

And of course we are now happy to report that Paul is now a trained Lancashire Constabulary Missing Person Search Manager.

Last year our Team Leader, Garry Rhodes MBE and Team Training Officer Elaine Gilliland also attended this same course.

Group photo (minus Paul and Neil)