SUSSEX families have welcomed new measures to make it easier to take control of the finances of missing people.
The Ministry of Justice has announced new powers which will allow families to stop direct debits and rent payments being taken out of the accounts of missing relatives.
The Government will also introduce certificates of presumed death from October 1 to let families resolve the affairs of loved ones.
The move has been welcomed by Hannah Sherriffs whose parents Pauline and Tim Velten had to endure a “hideous” two-and-a-half year battle to gain control of the finances of their son Christian, who went missing in Mali 11 years ago.
Christian left Brighton in 2003 to go on a five-month expedition retracing the steps of the 18th century Scottish explorer Mungo Park but never returned.
Mrs Sherriffs said it cost her family more than £1,000 in legal costs to get control of Christian’s finances.
She said: “It took a long process to get the death certificate but without it, they couldn’t do anything about his finances.
“It cost a lot of money to get it through the court and it just added to the stress and trauma.
“If this new power had been in place then, it would have been sorted out straight away.
“For families who have people go missing in the future, this should make it much easier.”
Hove’s Eddie Gibson went missing in Cambodia in October 2004 and his father Mike Gibson told The Argus that his son had about £3,000 in his bank account.
He said: “It’s the not so much the amount of money involved but we would not want the bank just putting the money in some sort of orphan account and it never be reclaimed.
“We would rather put it to a good cause of our choosing.
“Even some sort of halfway house with a death certificate would mean we would be able to draw a line under it. It is very unsatisfactory if somebody is murdered and there is no body to bring back and no grave you can go to.
“I hate the word closure, but we know we have to face up to the fact that Eddie was murdered and he is not coming back, without having to put up with too much bureaucracy.”