5th September 2006
A “dead” diver resurfaced in Fermain Bay
Matthew Harvey’s family assumed the worst when he disappeared in the sea off Guernsey. He had entered the water wearing a wetsuit, buoyancy aid, oxygen tank and regulator in early September 2006… and then wasn’t seen again for more than two days.
His family alerted authorities who started an extensive search for the missing diver. Then the media got involved. The story wasn’t only covered locally across the Channel Islands; it attracted national – and then international attention.
Then, a miracle happened – or so it seemed. On 5 September, Matthew Harvey was spotted in the water off Fermain Bay. He was wearing his wetsuit and buoyancy aid but there was no sign of the oxygen tank and regulator he’d been wearing when he disappeared.
A good news story
His emotional reunion with his family was televised. They’d assumed he was dead, after all. Such a happy story deserved to be shared far and wide, which is exactly what the BBC did, publishing it on its website.
Unfortunately for Harvey, the story was spotted by a Bournemouth resident, who recognised him from the pictures. He was the man she’d seen touring the town at the very time he was meant to be missing.
So what had happened? By 35-year-old Harvey’s own account, he had struck his head and blacked out after heading out for his swim. He’d had periods of consciousness during which, he claimed, he’d kept swimming so he wouldn’t drown.
However, CCTV footage from Bournemouth revealed that while 20 boats and a helicopter were looking for him, he was wandering the town. He’d taken the ferry from St Peter Port to Poole and put his diving equipment in a locker. A couple of days later, he’d returned to Guernsey and got back into the water roughly an hour before he was discovered.
Harvey’s family later told the police they believed he had suffered a breakdown. Although questioned by the police, himself, he didn’t face any charges.