Over 100,000 missing persons cases are recorded annually at the Federal Criminal Police Office. Those affected often complain of insufficient police involvement. The worst is the disappearance without a trace, which consumes relatives forever. Reinhard Schetters is one of them.
In the afternoon of May 19 this year, Reinhard Schetters wakes up on the bed at home. His wife, who also lay next to him to sleep, is no longer there. She left the message on a piece of paper on her desk: "I'm in the cemetery." Schetters thinks nothing of it, since his Petra often visits the grave of her parents and sisters alone. The pensioner begins to cook dinner together. "I got nervous in the late afternoon, but it was long time for me to return from the cemetery," says the man from Essen. This is where the hell begins, which Schetters has been through since that day. Half of them clear up within the first week. This quota is 80 percent within four weeks. Only three percent are missing for more than a year. The publicist Peter Jamin, who has been looking after relatives of missing persons for more than two decades, does the math: with 300 registrations a day, that's over 100,000 missing persons a year. If every missing person had only five people close to him, that would be around half a million people affected, including the 71-year-old Schetters. On that day in May, he walks the path his wife must have taken to the many friends of the sociable 58-year-old. Nothing, not the slightest hint of her whereabouts. At night, Schetters remains alone with his fears. When he goes to the police station the next morning, he can't believe his ears. "Don't worry about it, it will show up again," advises the official, as Schetters says. He does not report a missing person. "Relatives plunge into psychological and organizational chaos" After this shock, he turns to the police headquarters in Essen two days later and receives help there. There, a canal near the cemetery is instructed to be searched by divers and sonar boats. Search dogs and a special unit are also deployed and find nothing. Only this much is clear: the woman arrived at the grave, left the cemetery – after that, her trail is lost. The search for account movements – the doctor's assistant had her wallet with her credit cards with her – does not result in anything. The author Jamin says: "The relatives fall into a psychological and organizational chaos." He receives calls for help once or twice a week, and over the years 2000 relatives have reported missing. The 68-year-old from Düsseldorf has made it his life's work to give the callers consolation and practical help, as well as to draw public attention to the subject.When talking to those affected, Jamin emphasizes that only one percent of cases involve crimes. Or he talks about a spontaneous trip. "That is more positive," explains the journalist. In order to take care of the financial matters – current rental contracts, insurance, installments or maintenance payments, debts – he advises to apply for a leave of absence for himself or a lawyer at the local court. The starting point of his now 25-year engagement was a film project about missing persons for the WDR. The call to report to him was not followed by a single missing person, but all the more relatives of missing people called, and he himself was never affected. "But I saw the need," says Jamin, who traces his social streak back to his time with the scouts. He has published a TV series and has now published four books on the subject. The latest project: a film based on the fate of a mother he had worked on for years, who had been looking for her daughter, who was kidnapped in Ibiza by kidnappers, who had been kidnapped in Ibiza for many years. In 2014, the number of people affected also increased rapidly. , Killing, suicide and missing cases, takes care of the topic. "More and more relatives turn to us in the event of missing persons," says Marion Waade, co-founder and federal chair of the association. Advice and emergency help in the event of suicide risk and depression If there is a risk of suicide: emergency call 112 Advice in crisis situations: Telephone counseling (0800 / 111-0-111 or 0800 / 111-0-222 or 116-123, call free of charge) or child and youth telephone (tel. : 0800 / 111-0-333 or 116-111; Mon-Sat from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.) You can find regional crisis services and clinics at Deutsche Depressionhilfe, as well as tips for sufferers and relatives. In the German Depression League, sufferers and relatives are involved , There is also e-mail advice for depressed people, and local contact points (KISS) provide an overview of self-help groups for depression. Of the 200 to 250 relatives who report to ANUAS every month, 20 percent do so because of missing children, partners, siblings or friends. The rest of those seeking help contacted the association about murder or unsolved suicide cases. Up to 2013, there were around a dozen affected persons who reported to their association because of missing persons, and inquiries have increased rapidly since 2014. In many of these cases, a homicide or suicide later emerged as the reason. "Relatives often complain that the police are not taking sufficient care of their case, referring to a lack of capacity, not taking them seriously and advising them to wait," says Waade, who herself lost the daughter to the murder. The officials showed more commitment only to children, seniors or people who depend on medication. The police leave the suffering largely cold, complains publicist Jamin. Officials would have to be pushed to official missing person reports. Politicians see the sole responsibility of the police, for example in the Stuttgart Ministry of the Interior you cannot understand the criticism of the police. A spokesman for department head Thomas Strobl refers to the procedure to be followed when filing a missing person report: first survey in order to obtain comprehensive information on the background, the facts and the missing person, followed by an assessment of the situation. Then follows – depending on the individual case – search, nationwide alert, investigations in the personal environment, location searches and location of mobile phones via the respective network operator has left their usual circle of life, their whereabouts are unknown and a danger to life or limb can be assumed. These three conditions should come together because everyone can determine their own location. However, if there are indications of a hazard, the police take all necessary measures to avert them. Minors are considered missing per se if they have left their usual area of life and their whereabouts are unknown. Association woman Waade also tries to take a realistic look at the phenomenon and knows the limits of her work. "If there are any indications, we sometimes have to point out to the relatives the painful possibility that the missing person is an adult who has decided not to have anything to do with them." Schetters can't believe that. There have been no disputes or disagreements between the married couple who have been married for 16 years, says the former manager of a company. "You suspect you do everything, it starts with kidnapping about suicide and ends with murder. You go insane." What if his wife were found dead? "That would be the catastrophe par excellence, but I could complete it. The eternal uncertainty would be over." Without a trace, disappearance takes a long time on relatives * Data protection The former technician shares this view with other victims. Jamin: "Sometimes the despair is so great that those left behind would even be grateful if they put the body of their loved one on the doorstep." The uncertainty wears down the relatives. They circle endlessly about their loss and threaten to slip into social isolation and / or addictive behavior. The disappearance without a trace will take away from relatives forever, says Jamin. In the case of deaths, however, there is a clear cause and a body. Relatives counselor Jamin gives the example of a mother, whose daughter never arrived home from an appointment with a friend. For the past five years, the mother has treated the student room like a museum in the same condition in which the resident had left it. In doing so, she maintains the hope of her daughter's return: any change in the room would seem like an admission that she would never see her daughter again – almost like a funeral. Even Schetters did not touch his Petra's things in the common apartment. "I haven't packed a hat away. I'm still waiting for my big love to come home."