Daniel Entwistle went missing on 3rd May 2003. The significance of this date escaped me for a long while: it is, of course, the same day of the year Madeleine McCann was to disappear on 4 years later. There the similarities between the two cases end; while Madeleine has become one of the most famous missing children in the world, Daniel’s story has been all but lost to the mists of time.
In spring 2003 7-year-old Daniel Joseph Entwistle was living on Copperfield Avenue in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, with his father David, mother Paula and brothers Antony, 10, and John, 2. The family were originally from Burnley in Lancashire, but had moved to the Norfolk area 3 years earlier to be near members of Paula Entwistle’s family.
Daniel attended Greenacre First, Middle and Nursery School and was described by his headmaster as being “a delightful little boy, always with a ready smile and a ready quip”. He had been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), limiting his attention span and possibly affecting his ability to judge levels of risk.
On Saturday 3rd May 2003, the start of a sunny Bank Holiday weekend, Daniel was captured on CCTV visiting a local shop (pictured). The time was around 5pm and he was wearing a distinctive blue Adidas T-shirt. After returning home with the milk he’d bought, he vanished. His red and white bicycle was found on Trinity Square, off Southgates Road, an area less than a mile from his home he’d been known to play in in the past. Yards away was a harbour wall and, beyond that, the fast-flowing River Yare.
A large-scale search ensued, involving a press campaign, hundreds of interviews with potential witnesses, and sonar examinations of the riverbed. Nothing was found; no clothing, no clue, no trace of the boy except his abandoned bike.
The relationship between Daniel’s parents deteriorated, allegedly due to the stress of their son’s disappearance, and Paula Entwistle obtained a court order banning her husband from having contact with her. David Entwistle made headlines for breaching the order twice.
The active police investigation into Daniel’s disappearance was brought to a close in August 2003, a little over 3 months after he’d gone missing. The assumption appeared to be that he had fallen into the river and drowned. On the balance of probabilities, it was the likeliest explanation for his disappearance, especially given Daniel’s dangerous combination of ADHD and his inability to swim.
However, on rare occasions real life defies the cold hard logic of probabilities. Daniel was known to dislike water; what if he hadn’t fallen into the river after all? What are the other possibilities?
Followers of true crime stories will be aware of cases where children have been abducted and “hidden in plain sight”. Famous US victims include Elizabeth Smart, Shawn Hornbeck and Steven Stayner, who were abducted and kept from their families for 9 months, more than 4 years, and more than 7 years respectively.
Let’s ignore the theory of accidental drowning for a moment and assume that Daniel was abducted. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he’s still alive. What factors about the circumstances he’s in could we make educated guesses at, based on previous cases? I would think it likely that:
He is known by a different name, but may still have the same first name.
He is living as the “son” or other relative of a single man.
He may give his birthday as being on or near his actual birthday (28th July 1995).
He has apparent “freedom” to come and go as he pleases, while remaining under the complete control of his abductor.
He is either enrolled in school under false documents, or he doesn’t attend school at all.
He has been sexually abused by his abductor, and hasn’t told anyone.
He will lie/not want to talk about his family history.
He has some sort of online presence, and may have made/will make pleas for help over the internet.
After this many years, the situation he’s in would be incredibly difficult for him to escape from without outside intervention. Past cases show us that the abduction of another, younger child could prove to be the key to his rescue.
The late Steven Stayner, as someone who’d been forced to live through it, provided insight into what an abducted child goes through, and invaluable advice on how to spot one. Click here for the major points, in his own words, on the Steven Stayner & Missing Children’s Memorial. This statement by him, in particular, sticks in my memory:
“Today, no one knows how many missing children are dead or how many now live as I did. But if you’re going to help, you have to be aware of the real nature of stranger abduction and be committed to helping children. While it may be hard for you to tell an abducted child from an abused child, it’s not hard to tell a child in trouble. And it’s not hard to do something about it.”
Madeleine McCann has proven that the plight of a missing child can capture the attention of a sizeable community. Her name and likeness are known around the world, and that situation is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. During my research for this post I haven’t come across a single news article about Daniel that’s dated after 2003. If he were still alive, he could be forgiven for thinking he’s been forgotten about.
Blog courtesy of www.truecrime.co.uk