Police attempt to solve mystery of the canoeist who came back from the dead

John Darwin, the Hartlepool canoeist who went missing five years ago and reappeared at the weekend to declare himself a missing person, was due to face questioning by detectives today as speculation mounted over the circumstances of his disappearance.

Mr Darwin, 57, who was last seen preparing to set out to sea in his canoe in March 2002, walked into West Central police station in London on Saturday, telling officers: "I think I am a missing person."

His family remained behind closed doors yesterday at the home of his son Anthony in Hampshire. Cleveland Police said they remained as baffled as anyone else and would be looking for an explanation when they started interviewing the former prison officer today. All avenues of inquiry would be explored, the force said.

Mr Darwin's elderly father, Ronald, said he had always believed that his son would turn up one day. Blaming a head injury that his son had suffered when he was knocked down by a car in his youth, Mr Darwin Snr, 91, from Blackhall Colliery, County Durham, said he was convinced that John had suffered some form of amnesia. "Now he's got his memory back," he said. "When I speak to him, I will ask him where he has been these last few years and I'll ask 'Why didn't you make arrangements to see me before now?' I'll tell him a lot more too, but I'm extremely happy now."

His brother David, 54, added: "It is the best Christmas present any family could wish for."

Mr Darwin was last seen preparing his canoe for the water near his home in Seaton Carew, Hartlepool, at 9am on 21 March 2002. He had appeared in high spirits only the day before, according to a friend, Bill Rodriguez, who had lived near Mr Darwin and his wife Anne since they moved from the Durham area two years earlier.

Just weeks before he vanished the former science teacher wrote on the Friends Reunited website: "Taught in Derwentside for 18 years before leaving teaching to join Barclays Bank. At present work for Prison Service and have portfolio of properties. Married to a convent girl Anne Stephenson, we have two grown-up sons and two dogs. Recently moved to Seaton Carew where I hope to retire soon."

An oar believed to belong to Mr Darwin's canoe was washed up just off Seal Sands a day after he vanished. Weeks later, the smashed remains of his canoe were found. His wife of 28 years watched from her living-room window as the police and Humber Coastguard searched the area to no avail. They described it as "looking for a needle in a haystack".

Six months after her husband vanished, Anne Darwin, a doctor's receptionist, said: "I think John has met with an unfortunate accident in the sea and has died. That's the only way I have been able to cope with it. I have no reason to think he would have left and stage-managed this.

"All I want is to bury his body. It would enable me to move on. It's difficult to grieve without bringing things to a close, but as it is I'm in limbo and there's nothing I can do."

But at 5.30pm on Saturday Mr Darwin walked into the police station. Inspector Helen Eustace said he had been checked over and was "showing no signs of any illness". "It is very infrequent that a case like this happens," she said. "It's quite a shock really, more of a shock for the family."

He was able to give his name, date of birth and details of members of his family. His son Mark, 31, who moved to north London, and Anthony, 29, who now lives in Basingstoke, were reunited with him though his wife was said to have moved to Panama last year after selling the two properties that the couple owned.

Mr Darwin's reappearance was the main topic of conversation among former friends and neighbours. Alec Dixon, a neighbour, said Mrs Darwin had returned from a summer holiday, talking of moving abroad. He added: "A few weeks later the furniture removals men came and she was gone. She didn't say goodbye or leave a forwarding address. She just seemed to vanish."

Another former neighbour, David Young, a Seaton councillor, said he was not surprised that Mr Darwin had reappeared.

Local fisherman had insisted at the time that if the tides in the area did not wash up a body, "We will either never see him again or he wasn't in the water".

Others, however, were stunned and were speculating as to what he had been doing for five years. Bruce Caswell, 44, said: "It's absolutely astonishing, I remember when it happened."

Thomas Sutcliffe, page 30

By Terri Judd

John Darwin, the Hartlepool canoeist who went missing five years ago and reappeared at the weekend to declare himself a missing person, was due to face questioning by detectives today as speculation mounted over the circumstances of his disappearance.

Mr Darwin, 57, who was last seen preparing to set out to sea in his canoe in March 2002, walked into West Central police station in London on Saturday, telling officers: "I think I am a missing person."

His family remained behind closed doors yesterday at the home of his son Anthony in Hampshire. Cleveland Police said they remained as baffled as anyone else and would be looking for an explanation when they started interviewing the former prison officer today. All avenues of inquiry would be explored, the force said.

Mr Darwin's elderly father, Ronald, said he had always believed that his son would turn up one day. Blaming a head injury that his son had suffered when he was knocked down by a car in his youth, Mr Darwin Snr, 91, from Blackhall Colliery, County Durham, said he was convinced that John had suffered some form of amnesia. "Now he's got his memory back," he said. "When I speak to him, I will ask him where he has been these last few years and I'll ask 'Why didn't you make arrangements to see me before now?' I'll tell him a lot more too, but I'm extremely happy now."

His brother David, 54, added: "It is the best Christmas present any family could wish for."

Mr Darwin was last seen preparing his canoe for the water near his home in Seaton Carew, Hartlepool, at 9am on 21 March 2002. He had appeared in high spirits only the day before, according to a friend, Bill Rodriguez, who had lived near Mr Darwin and his wife Anne since they moved from the Durham area two years earlier.

Just weeks before he vanished the former science teacher wrote on the Friends Reunited website: "Taught in Derwentside for 18 years before leaving teaching to join Barclays Bank. At present work for Prison Service and have portfolio of properties. Married to a convent girl Anne Stephenson, we have two grown-up sons and two dogs. Recently moved to Seaton Carew where I hope to retire soon."

An oar believed to belong to Mr Darwin's canoe was washed up just off Seal Sands a day after he vanished. Weeks later, the smashed remains of his canoe were found. His wife of 28 years watched from her living-room window as the police and Humber Coastguard searched the area to no avail. They described it as "looking for a needle in a haystack".

Six months after her husband vanished, Anne Darwin, a doctor's receptionist, said: "I think John has met with an unfortunate accident in the sea and has died. That's the only way I have been able to cope with it. I have no reason to think he would have left and stage-managed this.

"All I want is to bury his body. It would enable me to move on. It's difficult to grieve without bringing things to a close, but as it is I'm in limbo and there's nothing I can do."

But at 5.30pm on Saturday Mr Darwin walked into the police station. Inspector Helen Eustace said he had been checked over and was "showing no signs of any illness". "It is very infrequent that a case like this happens," she said. "It's quite a shock really, more of a shock for the family."

He was able to give his name, date of birth and details of members of his family. His son Mark, 31, who moved to north London, and Anthony, 29, who now lives in Basingstoke, were reunited with him though his wife was said to have moved to Panama last year after selling the two properties that the couple owned.

Mr Darwin's reappearance was the main topic of conversation among former friends and neighbours. Alec Dixon, a neighbour, said Mrs Darwin had returned from a summer holiday, talking of moving abroad. He added: "A few weeks later the furniture removals men came and she was gone. She didn't say goodbye or leave a forwarding address. She just seemed to vanish."

Another former neighbour, David Young, a Seaton councillor, said he was not surprised that Mr Darwin had reappeared.

Local fisherman had insisted at the time that if the tides in the area did not wash up a body, "We will either never see him again or he wasn't in the water".

Others, however, were stunned and were speculating as to what he had been doing for five years. Bruce Caswell, 44, said: "It's absolutely astonishing, I remember when it happened."

Thomas Sutcliffe, page 30

News
newsVideo targets undecided voters
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
News
Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat, dropped out of Stanford University just before graduation to develop his app
techAnd yes, it is quite a lot
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Retail Business Architect

Flexible for the right candidate: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: I have a fa...

IT Developer/Analyst

£35000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A market leading financia...

Pricing Manager, Finance, Edinburgh, £250-350p/d

£250 - £350 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is cur...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis