Always ready to find the missing

WILSAR volunteers with Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Pat Geenty

Always ready to find the missing

First published in News

Ie a loved one goes missing you can rest assured that a dedicated group of volunteers in Wiltshire will do all it can to locate them.

Wiltshire Search and Rescue (WILSAR) has 50 volunteers who assist the police with searching for missing people.

Among the more high-profile missing people WILSAR helped to search for were murder victim Sian O’Callaghan of Swindon and Tom Edwards of Calne who disappeared on his way home from a night out in Swindon. Sadly, neither were found alive.

All of WILSAR’S volunteers have to complete the lowland search technician course over a weekend before they can become operational and members attend training every other Wednesday, while once a month they take part in a simulated training exercise to find a missing person.

All of this training means they are held in such high respect by Wiltshire Police that they operate independently on many occasions.

The commitment of the volunteers was marked publicly when Wiltshire’s Chief Constable Pat Geenty presented WILSAR with a certificate of appreciation in October 2013. WILSAR also received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2011.

WILSAR’s members are on call 24/7 and they pay for their own equipment, such as torches and clothing, which costs about £300 a year, plus fuel to drive to incidents. They are called out about 50 times a year.

WILSAR receives no statutory funding and has to raise about £12,000 a year to cover the costs of running its control van, plus team insurance and other costs.

WILSAR also has four collapsible mountain bikes and two kayaks. It has a flood response team where members have been trained in flood access and water rescue.

Chairman Gail Leaman, who lives in Devizes, said people volunteer because they want to help keep others safe and support the community.

Andy Peaple, 42, of Melksham, a WILSAR member for seven years, said: “I always wanted to help people and make a difference. It’s challenging and enjoyable work.”

He recalled the search for a 70-year-old man who had been missing for two days. WILSAR members working with the police helicopter found him alive in between a river and a stream in Moulden Hill, Swindon, at 10pm.

“The helicopter spotted him and used its light to shine on the area where he was. It was a relief to see him. He was released from hospital the next day.”

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