On the hunt for missing persons with South-East London Search and Rescue

Left to right: SELSAR volunteers Keith Francis, Tom Hannath, Dave Ryan and Dan Sparks.

Left to right: SELSAR volunteers Keith Francis, Tom Hannath, Dave Ryan and Dan Sparks.

First published in News
Last updated
News Shopper: Photograph of the Author by , reporter

After two agonising minutes straining at the leash, Misty the Border Collie is off, bolting into the woods like a bat out of hell.

The 11-month-old youngster is one of South East London Search and Rescue’s seven dogs, and she’s picked up the scent of one of the group’s volunteers.

It doesn’t take long for her to root out 19-year-old Tom Hannath, of Croft Road in Sundridge Park, from where he’s hiding in Jubilee Country Park, Petts Wood, during a training exercise on August 21.

Group chairman and search planner Dave Ryan, 58, watches on as Misty is put through her paces, with the hope she will soon be sniffing out a real missing person.

As Dave tells News Shopper, the buzz of going on a live search is special.

He said: "There’s always the adrenaline bit and it’s the same with all emergency services.

"The team kicks in and it just works. When you have found someone and it’s not necessarily a happy ending it’s still an ending for the family.

News Shopper:

Keith Francis and Misty. 

"It’s not always the result they want but at least they know where they are."

Since SELSAR was founded in 2012 they have been called out 40 times to assist police, with 10 of those coming this year.

Dave and his compatriots helped co-ordinate the rescue of a 17-year-old anorexic girl found on Hayes Common in January 2012 after she had been missing for several hours and was suffering from hypothermia.

Dave said: "It’s a good job a search dog found her and not a police dog as they can be a bit rougher.

"Ours are more likely to lick someone to death."

Search dogs are often more capable than their police counterparts as they are trained only for search missions and can catch on to scents which are older and less fresh.

News Shopper:

Border Collie Teddy. 

Dogs like Misty and one of Dave’s own, six-year-old Border Collie Teddy, have to go through rigorous training before they can become level three dogs, capable of searching 50 acres of woodland for missing persons in an hour-and-a-half.

Trainers such as Keith Francis, 63, gradually increase the range and the time the dogs have to wait before heading on their searches to get them ready to help the Met with a real operation.

Tom is on a gap year after finishing at St Olave’s Grammar School.

He said: "If someone I knew or loved went missing it would be nice to know there’s someone out there looking for him.

"If I can help other people should they lose someone then that’s a worthwhile thing to do."

SELSAR has an open day for potential new members on September 21 at a venue yet to be confirmed.

Visit facebook.com/SouthEastLondonSearchAndRescue or selsar.org.uk to find out more.

Man, 58, charged with murder after body found in Deptford

News Shopper:

11:19am Saturday 22nd November 2014

A 58-year-old man has been charged with murder after a body was found in Deptford.

Is this Britain's worst family? Deptford killer's drunk sister smashes car into bus

News Shopper:

4:09pm Friday 21st November 2014

A member of a notorious Deptford crime family, which includes the convicted killer of two French students in New Cross, drove a car into a double decker bus full of passengers while drunk.

Mottingham residents claim they are living 'in the dark ages'

News Shopper:

4:56pm Friday 21st November 2014

A growing number of residents are hitting out over what they claim is dangerous street lighting which is sending them "back to the dark ages".

Anerley man charged with raping 15-year-old schoolgirl and two other sex offences

News Shopper:

3:35pm Friday 21st November 2014

A 23-year-old Anerley man has been charged with raping a 15-year-old schoolgirl.

What's on this weekend (November 22 and 23)

News Shopper:

3:30pm Friday 21st November 2014

Vibe's Angie Quinn guides you through the best of what's on this weekend in south east London and north Kent.

 

Comments

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree