'Miracle rescue diver planned his disappearing act to the mainland'

Man wasn't at death's door on the high seas - he was on weekend break in Dorset
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The Independent Online

It was heroism worthy of a Hollywood film script. Diver Matthew Harvey, missing in heavy seas for 56 hours last week, was practically written off after a two-day search of the area by air and sea failed to find any trace of him. And then came a near-miracle: news of an unidentified diver found off the coast of Guernsey by a couple out in their yacht. The only problem was, it wasn't true.

The rescued diver's epic account of how he had endured freezing temperatures for two and a half days soon began to unravel. The police had noticed inconsistencies in Mr Harvey's story and details began to emerge of how, far from having spent days at the mercy of the sea, he had been safe and sound some 80 miles away in Poole, Dorset.

It became clear that 35-year-old Mr Harvey had taken the ferry from Guernsey to Poole at around the time that his wife, Katie, had reported him missing on Saturday. He had then returned by ferry to Guernsey on Monday evening, around 90 minutes before Steve and Anne-Marie Westwood discovered him in the water.

Yesterday details emerged to suggest that his trip to the mainland had been planned.

Nicola Allmond, manager of the Poole branch of the storage company Lok'nStore, said Mr Harvey had turned up there last Sunday, when the search was at its height, leaving his diving equipment and returning the following day.

"He wasn't the slightest bit wet and he didn't have a head injury," she said. "We'd seen on the TV news that somebody was missing but we didn't realise it was Mr Harvey until we had a call from the police."

In numerous interviews with the media last Wednesday, Mr Harvey, from Guernsey, spoke to the press at length about his "ordeal" and how, after being knocked unconscious by a passing boat, he ended up stranded in a tidal gully, where he spent two nights passing in and out of consciousness. He then described how he had returned to the water hoping the tide would carry him to safety, shortly before his eventual rescue.

Guernsey Police issued a statement on Thursday saying Mr Harvey had not been "missing at sea or on the coast of Guernsey as had been suggested". Duty Inspector Jean-Pierre Le Breton said yesterday that no charge had yet been brought against Mr Harvey but confirmed that the case had been referred to the island's prosecution service.

Mr Harvey's father, Dan, 66, suggested his son's behaviour was a cry for help. Speaking to the Daily Mail, he said: "He just flipped. He just lost his mind. It was some sort of breakdown. He just decided to get on that ferry in a moment of madness. To get back into the water like that at twilight was a cry for help. The balance of his mind was disturbed; he told me that he has no recollection and cannot account for what he did."

The museum worker had begun his scuba dive at Fermain Bay off the east coast of Guernsey, alone, despite heavy seas and force 7 winds. The rescue mission began at 4pm on 2 September after Mrs Harvey reported her husband missing. Three lifeboats and Guernsey's marine ambulance found no sign of him by nightfall and so resumed the search the next day, with larger boats, the Herm ferry and the Brecqhou helicopter. The £10,000 operation was called off on Monday afternoon. Mr Harvey was found the same day at 7pm, just 200 metres from where he had begun the dive.

Both Mr and Mrs Harvey refused to comment last night.