A missing girl from Milton Keynes was ‘saved by the media’ after being supported by a missing persons charity who brought her home.
Detective Superintendent Barry Halliday says he would like to thank MK Citizen readers for their help in spreading the word about Cailey-Anne Payne’s disappearance.
The 16-year-old from Fishermead returned home on Monday after being missing for 12 days.
But after her picture was recognised from billboards in Croyden, Cailey-Anne was returned home by independent charity Missing People, which safeguards and supports missing children and adults.
Det Supt Halliday said: “To think we had a child from Milton Keynes whose picture was on every billboard, every bus stop, outside every tube station and at airports - and it was all done through Missing People.
“The media really saved her. I sent a message to the charity to say if it hadn’t been for the charity and the media, I was deeply worried about Cailey-Anne; I did genuinely think we had a problem.
“The good news is she is alive. The difficulty for us is the risk and harm she has been exposed to, which continues to be a priority for us. What we must do is deal with that and the people who have been involved in that process.
“You don’t have to be missing for the Missing People charity to help you, which is nice to know there is help out there.”
Karen Robinson, Missing People senior partnerships manager said: “We’re thrilled to have a formalised working partnership with Thames Valley Police and I’m sure our combined resources will help to benefit even more vulnerable people and their loved ones.
“We will look to complement Thames Valley’s extensive work by issuing appeals to our 60,000 strong social media community, appealing for missing people with poster distribution, supporting families and engaging the public to call us confidentially on our 116 000 helpline.”
Det Supt Halliday added: “Sometimes kids don’t realise the distress they are causing; they don’t necessarily understand the passage of time and one of the things I suspect with Cailey-Anne is that she thinks ‘was it really 12 days?’
“There is a view that we need to share with our youth that you need to pick up the phone and talk to someone.
“We, the police, need to engage far more with the youth; we’re not as engaged as we think we are.
“The day after Cailey was found we held a strategy meeting with key partnerships because we had to understand what she had been doing for that period of time, who she has been with, has she been at risk, what can we do to mitigate that happening in the future both to Cailey-Anne and any other missing person.
“Then we look at the family unit and see what support could we be giving.
“In this case we had to look at what we could do to make sure that family was supported properly and that work is still ongoing as indeed is the intelligence work.”
Missing People provides free 24 hour confidential support, help, advice by phone, email, text and online, including the opportunity to reconnect.
They also coordinate a UK wide network of people, businesses and media to join the search for the estimated 250,000 people who go missing each year.