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How are missing persons identified?
The process of identification can begin even before an actual body is found - as soon as a person or group is reported missing or presumed dead. Initially, this involves collecting antemortem data. Ante-mortem data refers to any information or document collected for a person during their life that could assist in identifying them after their death. This includes a physical description of their sex, age, hair colour, stature etc; medical and dental records (including radiographs); individualizing traits like tattoos; and recent photographs. If available, antemortem information also includes details of how a person was dressed at the time of their disappearance and what personal effects they might have been carrying. Any piece of evidence that might identify the person is relevant. Once collected, the data can be compared to similar information obtained from unidentified dead bodies in an attempt to find a match. Whether a single individual is missing or whether multiple fatalities are involved, antemortem records are an essential component of the identification process.