Last updated:
May 16, 2023

How to locate suspects or key witnesses

Locating individuals or entities can be a daunting task. Often their identity and location may be crucial in progressing legal and civil matters as well as assisting in personal and business concerns. This can be a time-consuming and frustrating process, and knowing where to start can be overwhelming.

Successfully locating a key individual often requires extensive research, access to a wide range of databases, and the use of investigative techniques to gather accurate and reliable information to locate the desired party.

There are also many practical challenges that can arise. The first is identifying the correct person or entity; this can prove difficult if their name or location changes, or they have a common name or there are limited identifiers (such as date of birth). Additionally, privacy concerns and legal restrictions can limit the access to personal information.

Another challenge is evaluating the provenance and reliability of information ascertained from publicly available data, as often such information can be outdated or incorrect. In some cases, individuals do not wish to be found, and deliberately have a limited digital footprint.

Finally, locating individuals and companies from other jurisdictions and countries can present various limitations due to cultural differences, language barriers and legal restrictions. Despite these challenges, locating individuals or entities remains a priority for many.  

When it comes to finding individuals or entities there is no 'one size fits all’ approach, and each case requires a bespoke solution. While there are no guarantees in finding individuals, there is always a trail to follow, which can lead to further lines of enquiries being identified and ultimately increase the chances of success.

When would you need to discover a person’s location?

There may be a myriad of reasons why it becomes necessary to locate an individual or entity, whether for personal, business, or legal purposes.

Previous cases we have worked on have included:

  • Identifying a suspect or known person involved in illicit activities towards an individual or corporation. This involved locating their addresses, as well as with their personal and business networks and associates, and identifying links with premises, companies and other assets. Surveillance also provided evidence of criminality, and the location of stolen goods.
  • Conducting enhanced due diligence and in-depth background checks on a prospective investor who was suspected of being involved in illicit activity, locating their headquarters, residential addresses, and conducting covert investigations to identify potential risks.
  • Finding an individual to establish jurisdiction, to demonstrate the links with the UK to support litigation.
  • Locating a defendant to facilitate service of process in legal and civil matters, to ensure the successful service on multiple defendants was coordinated.
  • Identify personal identifiers that can aid in communicating with the third parties, such as locating contact information or verifying identify.
  • Locating missing persons or family members.
  • Locating individuals as part of wider asset tracing, to corroborate residency at identified locations, links with companies, and to identify additional potential assets (such as properties and vehicles).

What does this involve?  

To locate an individual, it is imperative to collect evidence from various sources and piece them together to form a comprehensive picture – multiple sources of information also assist in corroborating the findings and giving the best chance of success.

In most cases, the starting point is using identifiers provided by the client; this can consist of personal details such as full names, dates of birth, email addresses, phone numbers, and most recent address. Any known or suspected links with other jurisdictions will also be useful.

From reviewing this information, an investigation strategy can be completed – this should be jurisdiction specific, outlining the nature and extent of each enquiry.  

In most cases, this will start with a desktop research phase; this will be using publicly available data, a wide range of closed source datasets, and using conventional investigation techniques.

Each case is different, but in general this will consist of:

  • UK based credit and consented data research – this identifies current and historic addresses, linked email addresses and telephone numbers, and identifies close associates.
  • Land Registry or equivalent searches – this aims to corroborate ownership and links with a property.
  • Open and closed source research, including deep web searches – this aims to identify additional information on the subject, potentially identifying other key information to identify their whereabouts.
  • Social media analytics – careful review of social media profiles, and those of close family and associates, can give key information as to a person’s whereabouts – this can include reverse engineering social media photographs to identify their location.
  • Corporate records searches and aggregators – careful analysis of corporate records can identify commercial premises and other assets, which may assist with locating an individual.
  • Checks on sanctions, enforcement, Politically Exposed Person (PEP), and other watchlists – this provides additional information and can provide additional jurisdictions.
  • Mainstream and local media searches – this can provide additional information, including new potential locations and jurisdictions.
  • A detailed and comprehensive evidential report, and accompanying evidence, that adheres to the highest standards of both civil and criminal law.

In many cases, this desktop research will identify the most likely residential address, and additional locations of note where the individual could be found – even starting with the smallest amount of information.

Covert Investigations

As detailed above, there are situations where the subject has a limited digital footprint, is deliberately trying to evade detection, or their patterns and behaviours are unpredictable.

As such, while the desktop research will yield a successful result the majority of the time, this may require taking the investigation into the physical world, such as conducting surveillance on individuals or premises, or making on-the-ground enquiries across the globe.

Furthermore, desktop research will only take you so far - the only way to categorically locate and ‘house’ an individual is to have a physical sighting.

If required, additional overt and covert enquiries can be conducted to confirm this – the exact methodology will depend on the background to the matter, and the intended outcome. For example, locating a missing family member will be more overt than the techniques used in tracing assets of an international fraudster.

Techniques employed in such cases may include:

  • Conduct discreet site visits to locations, or covert ‘door knocks’ to identify the occupants of premises.
  • Overt enquiries with neighbours, and other local individuals.
  • Conduct covert surveillance on individuals, companies, and locations.
  • Deploy covert technical equipment to assist in the identification of individuals.
  • Utilising local covert human operatives to conduct on the ground enquiries across a multitude of jurisdictions.
  • Parallel information gathered from desktop research with tangible evidence such as photographs, videos, or even physical objects such as property or vehicles.

At times, techniques such as open-source and deep web searches may suffice to provide clients with the necessary information to proceed. However, in other instances, employing additional tactics such as conducting surveillance becomes imperative to complete the overall picture. It is worth noting that there is no universal approach to investigations, as each case is unique and requires a tailored strategy.

At AnotherDay, we work closely with our clients to create a bespoke and layered approach that focuses on their desired outcomes. If you require help locating an individual, contact our team today.

Steffan Evans
Consultant, Investigations

Steffan provides a bespoke and client focused approach to criminal and civil investigations.

As a former detective on the Flying Squad, an elite unit from New Scotland Yard in London, Steffan has first-hand experience investigating serious and organised crime. This expertise is fully utilised when investigating complex criminal and civil investigations.