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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen