The Canoeist

I find it hard to believe what is happening in Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, in the UK – all investigative journalists worth their salt should be heading there straightaway. 

Seaton Carew is the home of the mysterious “Canoeist” John Darwin, who ‘disappeared’ in the North Sea in March 2002, only to apparently come back from the dead in early December 2007, when he presented himself at a police station in central London. Besides the ease with which he obtained a false passport and travelled apparently unrecognized to Panama and Gibraltar, the strangest element to this story in my opinion is the number of people who didn’t think he was dead. Darwin’s 90-year old father told the Evening Standard newspaper that there might be more to his disappearance than was first thought: “When his canoe was found but he wasn’t, it didn’t seem right.”

Some of his former co-workers were also sure that John Darwin was alive. One former colleague was convinced that he recognized Darwin in the street, although the ‘missing’ man was trying to disguise himself in a fairly comical way, by wearing a hat, limping, and walking with a cane. All he needed was a parrot and a piratical accent and he could have been a character from a local pantomime. Despite the doubts, Darwin’s erstwhile colleague did nothing to find out if his suspicions were correct.

According to the newspapers, Darwin stayed in his own home with his own wife, even sleeping in their own bed. When anyone called to the house, Darwin merely went next door to another property he owned, via a wardrobe, which sounds like something out of Narnia. Their sons were apparently kept in the dark about the insurance scam that will likely lead to a spell in prison for Mr and Mrs Darwin.        

The house next door angle intrigues me. Who else is living there? Should American special forces stop searching the darkest recesses of Central Asia and instead head to Seaton Carew, where people haven’t said anything to anyone about a certain 6ft 5 inch tall male called Osama bin Jones, who walks to the shops wearing a hoodie and who has regular kidney dialysis at the local hospital. Should the Metropolitan Police be interested in the noble gentleman with the cut-glass accent, known as Lord Jones, who sits in the local pub and sneers at the regulars, calling them lower-class scum? A few years ago, an old woman called Amelia Jones died in a local nursing home – she was thought to be insane, as she babbled incessantly in an American accent about crashing in an airplane near the town in the late 1930’s. She claimed to have flown all the way from the Pacific, but no one ever believed her.   

Finally, reports of a plesiosaur in the local swimming-baths have never been properly investigated. Whenever Loch Ness was being scoured by the latest Nessie-seekers, locals would often see strange shapes in the swimming pool after closing time. Given recent events in Seaton Carew, this doesn’t sound that far-fetched any longer.  

Published by Julian Worker

Julian was born in Leicester, attended school in Yorkshire, and university in Liverpool. He has been to 94 countries and territories and intends to make the 100 when travel is easier. He writes travel books, murder / mysteries and absurd fiction. His sense of humour is distilled from The Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. His latest book is about a Buddhist cat who tries to help his squirrel friend fly further from a children's slide.

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