Missing persons website success
Stephen PullingerSince the early days of the internet - long before the Facebook revolution - a website launched by a Great Yarmouth businessman has been responsible for thousands of happy reunions.Stephen Pullinger
Beneath the veneer of Christmas merriment it can be a desperately sad time for people missing people.
But since the early days of the internet - long before the Facebook revolution - a website launched by a Great Yarmouth businessman has been responsible for thousands of happy reunions.
Mike Murr, 52, now the internet director for TMS Media, based on the town's Gapton Hall industrial estate, admitted the inspiration for his pioneering venture - www.missing-you.net - had come partly from a desire to trace the best man from his wedding.
He said: 'At the time I did property development, but I decided the internet was going to be the next big thing and the missing you website was one of three projects I did to get myself going.
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'At the time it was quite ground-breaking because people could post directly on to the site with their messages. Within two weeks I had received quite a lot of replies and found my best man.'
Nowadays, there are more than 40,000 messages on the site with new ones being posted every 10 or 15 minutes. While the person being sought must live in the UK, messages come from all corners of the world.
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Mr Murr, of Ludham, near Yarmouth, said: 'In the early days the messages were completely random, but two particular groups quickly stood out - parents trying to trace children they had given up for adoption and adopted children seeking to find their real parents, and people trying to trace old comrades from the armed forces.'
The website is a time-consuming labour of love - it is free to use - but Mr Murr said the heart-warming success stories posted on the site were sufficient motivation to keep going.
Just in the run-up to Christmas, Dennis Taylor shares his elation at tracing his son and discovering he is a grandfather, and Nick Everson tells of his joy at finding his birth mother after 40 years of trying and discovering he has 'three fantastic sisters'.
Mr Murr said: 'The site is a last resort for many people and the information they have about the person they are searching for can be very vague. However, it works on the basis of someone knowing someone who knows someone else.'
Messages like one from Aoki-Mari - searching for her father Albert with no knowledge of his whereabouts or even his full name - have added poignancy in the approach to Christmas. 'I love you and want to come back home,' she signs off.
As the website maintains its popularity into a second decade, voluntary donations are to be suggested to meet the costs of running it.
Mr Murr, who confesses to having lost contact with his best man again, said half of any proceeds would go to the charity Shelter.
He said: 'For people who have lost touch with their family and don't know how to get back in touch, it can be easy to fall down the slippery slope to homelessness.'