Page last updated at 13:33 GMT, Monday, 3 December 2007

Rescuers recall hunt for canoeist

Dave Cox
Dave Cox was among those who searched for Mr Darwin

Lifeboat crewmen have been recalling the search for canoeist John Darwin, who walked into a police station five years after being presumed dead.

Dave Cox was part of the RNLI search team from Redcar who spent 16 hours searching for the 51-year-old in 2002.

He said: "I remember it very well. It was a very dark, cold March morning.

"There was a massive RNLI response to the news that he was missing, with six lifeboats involved in the initial search operation."

He added: "Lifeboats launched from Hartlepool, Teesmouth, Redcar and Staithes and in total we covered something like 200 sq miles of the North Sea.

The gentleman must have had reasons to do what he did and hopefully there will be a good outcome from it all
RNLI crewman Dave Cox

"We also had a Sea King helicopter from RAF Boulmer and the police aircraft with its infra red equipment, as well as shore parties searching the coastline for any sign of Mr Darwin."

Mr Cox said searchers feared the worst when wreckage of Mr Darwin's red canoe, named Orca, was discovered.

He added: "Lifeboat crews thrive on finding a casualty and bringing them back to shore safely. But that night we did not find anything - there was no person to find.

"It was very frustrating for all of us."

He said he and colleagues were "flabbergasted" when news of Mr Darwin's reappearance emerged.

He said: "We had all perhaps resigned ourselves to this story having an unhappy ending, but perhaps now there is going to be a happy ending.

"I have been involved with the RNLI for 30 years and this is the first time we have had an incident like this.

"The gentleman must have had reasons to do what he did and hopefully there will be a good outcome from it all."

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