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.

CCTV: Dartford man jailed for 12 years after shooting police officer in Bexley

News Shopper:

10:30am Saturday 28th March 2015

A Dartford man who shot a police officer has been jailed for 12 years.

Sky customers experiencing problems across south east London

News Shopper:

9:44am Saturday 28th March 2015

Sky has reported connection problems affecting customers across south east London.

PICTURED: Duchess of Cambridge dazzles Deptford and Sydenham in pink

News Shopper:

3:10pm Friday 27th March 2015

The Duchess of Cambridge dazzled in pink in Deptford and wowed Sydenham crowds as she carried out her last public events before the birth of her second child.

Man charged with rape after two women report being attacked

News Shopper:

6:30pm Friday 27th March 2015

A man has been charged with rape and a series of other offences after two alleged attacks in Gravesend.

UPDATE: Man charged 37 times after Met Police make dozens of arrests in dawn raids

News Shopper:

1:20pm Tuesday 24th March 2015

Hundreds of Met police officers raided flats and houses across Bexley this morning, as part of a crackdown on organised crime in south-east London.

 

 

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