Transcript: 151. The Strange Disappearance of Alan Addis | Falkland Islands

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Hey there Evidence Locker listeners, just a quick note about today’s episode. Due to Covid restrictions here in Sydney, Australia, Sonya and I were unable to get together at our recording studio at this time. But we still wanted to bring our listeners a regular episode, so I’ll be recording at home for a while. We will try to get the best audio quality possible, but if it’s not on par with our other episodes, kindly understand. 


Our cases have been researched using open source and archive materials. It deals with true crimes and real people. Some parts are graphic in nature and listener discretion is advised. Each episode is produced with the utmost respect to the victims, their families and loved ones. 


The 8th of August 1980 was a mild mid-summer’s morning in Bakersfield, North Lincolnshire, but inside Ann Addis’ home, a dark cloud of panic had set in. She received concerning news the night before about her son, a Royal marine serving in the Falkland Islands – on the other side of the world, it seemed. 19-year-old Alan was noted ‘missing on patrol’, and Ann was beside herself – how could this be?


Alan was sent to North Arm in the south of East Falkland, to pick up fellow marines and equipment and take them to Fitzroy. They were conducting training and the local forces were grateful to have the Royal Navy on their shores. Alan had two other marines with him, and the sea journey was one they had taken a couple of times before. With no conflict in the area, and time to spare, Alan’s mission was a simple errand; there was no real risk. So, how did he disappear?


After a sleepless night, Ann saw two local police officers walking up to her house. She knew that this wasn’t a good sign and opened the front door with trepidation. The officers told Ann that Alan was missing, presumed drowned and that, in the icy water, he would certainly have succumbed to the elements.


Ann refused to accept that this is how her son met his end. She vowed to find out what happened to her only son, and spent the rest of her life, pursuing the truth. Today, 41 years later, no trace of Alan Addis has been found. The role-players and witnesses are still alive and there is the sense that someone, somewhere knows what happened to Alan on that fateful night, in the dead of the Falklands winter.


>>Intro Music


Before we start today’s episode, we’d like to encourage you to listen to CBC’s David Ridgen’s new podcast, The Next Call. If you haven’t had a chance, listen to my conversation with him about this exciting new series, in our episode feed. And if you’re between Evidence Locker episodes, make The Next Call, your go-to true crime podcast. Here is a short trailer, that will pique your interest for sure…



Alan Addis was born in Croydon, England on the 14th of July 1961. When he was eight, the family moved a to Catford, London. It was only a short distance away and Addis adjusted quickly, making firm friends. He met Paul Clarke on the first day at his new school, and they remained friends. In fact, they were so close, some people thought they were brothers.


By the time Addis was 14, his parents had separated, and he moved with his mother to North Lincolnshire, to be near her family. They were a family, the two of them: Ann and Alan. They were very close and always communicated openly with each other. He had his aunts, Ann’s sisters who doted on him and Alan was a happy kid. Ann’s whole world revolved around her son. And as he grew up, Alan became very protective of his mother. They were all each other had and appreciated and nurtured their strong bond. 


At the age of 17, Alan was set for a career in agriculture, but unfortunately his college application was turned down. He was a bit unsure about what to do next, but Alan was never going to let things get him down, so he looked for other options. When an opportunity came to join the Royal Marines, Alan lapped it up.


Ann wasn’t mad about the idea, but she knew she had to let him go. He promised he would stay in touch, and she agreed. She recalled her sentiment at the time:


“I was going to miss him so much, but I put on a good face, all the time hoping and thinking he may change his mind.”


Alan took to marine life like a fish to water. By this time, everyone knew the jovial soldier as Addie, and he was a valuable asset to his troop. After a stint in Norway and serving in the military for two years, Addie let his mom know that he was going to be deployed to the Falkland Islands for a year. Ann was immediately concerned. Addie had never been that far from home, and the Falklands were so remote. And it was in the southern hemisphere, so, her summer was his winter and vice versa. Ann could not imagine NOT seeing her son for an entire year, but she understood that he had to do what was required of him.


Addie’s 12-month stint began in March 1980. Military transport took the platoon of 120 marines to the desolate, British territory of the Falklands. It is located about 400 miles off Cape Horn, at the southern tip of South America. The archipelago of islands that make up the Falklands spans about 4,700 square miles. It’s a windswept landscape with expansive grasslands and rocky outcrops. In 1980, the population was just about 1,800 people. Overland travel was limited, due to a lack of roads, so people mainly made their way between settlements on horseback or off-road vehicles. An islander aircraft was used to transport supplies, but the most popular way of getting around was by boat.


Located a stone’s throw away from Antarctica, the Falklands boast a cooler climate. The Falkland Islands Times noted that the average temperature in August 1980 ranged from minus six to nine degrees Celsius, with an average of only 1.9 degrees. The sun only made its appearance for two-and-a-half hours a day and gale force winds were common. 


Naval Party 8901 had been assigned to the Falklands in 1966 and rotated the contingent of marines on the islands every year. The purpose of their presence was to provide military defence and to train the local Falkland Islands Defence Force, teaching them battle skills, in the event of invasion. The relationship between the marines and the local community was a close one. Every new year brought new blood to the otherwise uneventful island. In a desolate settlement like Stanley, people rely on each other. Some soldiers ended up marrying local girls and settled on the island or took their brides home to England with them.


When marines arrived in the Falklands, the peace and quiet of the place was the first thing they noticed. A few buildings with bright coloured roofing dotted the barren landscape. There was only a handful of vehicles puttering around on unmarked roads. Addie’s platoon was based at Moody Brook Barracks, just about six miles outside of the capital settlement of Stanley. Stanley was a far cry from the suburbs of London or Hull Addie was used to. He wrote home, telling his mom:


“Still haven’t watched telly, listened to Radio 1, been on a train, gone to a disco, gone to a Wimpy Bar, or read a paper the day it was published. Haven’t had milk either. Haven’t been on taxi’s or a bus – I could carry this on all night, it’s great.”


In Addie’s platoon were 42 men, split up into five eight-man sections, and Addis was under the command of a Corporal Jim Fairfield. 


In August, there was a scheduled trip to North Arm, Lafonia on East Falkland. Three marines from Moody Brooke were heading down to collect three other marines and their equipment after they had conducted a week-long training operation at the FIDF unit at North Arm. From there, the six of them were set to travel back up north to Fitzroy, not far from Stanley, to conduct another week of training to local volunteers. 


Addie was not scheduled to take this trip, but after five months on the islands, any variation from routine was a welcome one. He asked Corporal Fairfield if he could go to North Arm. Fairfield agreed, saying that he could go, if he found someone to cover his shift in Stanley. Addie found a replacement in no time, and it was on. He was excited and wrote a letter to his mother, Ann, saying:


“Only tomorrow to crack and I’m off sailing to Fitzroy. It should be a laugh. Will write again in two weeks when I get back. Bye for now. Love, Alan.”


And so, on the 7th of August, he set off, not knowing that those would be the last words he’d ever write to his mom. Addie and two other marines sailed to North Arm on the MV Forrest, a small trawler. Ironically named, North Arm is located near the south of East Falkland, about 90 miles from Stanley.


They arrived in North Arm at 5:30pm. The troupe was on schedule and things were going according to plan. Addie was overcome with a bout of seasickness, so he stayed on the boat, while the others went to the barracks, where they packed up equipment and weapons to take to Fitzroy. By 8pm, Addie had eaten something and felt a whole lot better. Together with his two mates from Moody Brook, he decided to spend the Thursday night in North Arm and set off to Fitzroy the following morning.


As luck would have it, the North Arm village hall was open that night. The hall doubled up as a social club – a welcome bit of entertainment for marines who have not had much opportunity to socialise. They played cards and darts and enjoyed catching up with 40 local residents, who came and went in the course of the evening. Alcohol flowed freely; everyone had a bit to drink, and they had a royal time. Addie, a tall, dark and handsome young man, was as good looking as he was gregarious. His friends knew that he had a way with women, and it was not uncommon to see him in a lady’s company.


As the night progressed, the six marines all left the social club at different times. The three marines who had been stationed at North Arm, spent the night on shore. The two marines who arrived from Stanley with Addie that day, left around midnight and went to sleep on the MV Forrest. When they left, they didn’t see Addie, and assumed he was invited to someone’s home. It was not uncommon as the community opened their doors to marines. 


No one could say for sure what time the party ended, or when the last drinks were served, as the last people to leave were heavily intoxicated.


In the darkness of the morning, as per schedule, the MV Forrest set off at 7am. Hungover and tired from the night before, the crew failed to check if everyone was there before they left. About 10-minutes into the journey, the marines noticed that Addie was not on duty. At first, they thought he was still sleeping, but after looking everywhere, realised that he was not onboard. They assumed that he had spent the night on shore and decided to leave him to make his own travel arrangements, overland, later that weekend. 


It was not till mid-afternoon that the crew made a ship-to-shore call to the base at North Arm. This is when they realised Addie was missing. No one had seen him since the previous evening at the social club.


In the confusion of events, the crew speculated that Addie had made it to the MV Forrest and had fallen overboard. But when no one recalled actually seeing him on the boat, they had to consider the possibility that he had disappeared earlier. Perhaps he had fallen off the jetty at Bay of Islands. It was a dark mid-winter’s night and if Addie had fallen into the water, he would have gone into hypothermic shock.


News about the missing 19-year-old soon reached Moody Brook Barracks in Stanley, and the Royal Navy launched an immediate investigation, but ultimately it fell to the Royal Falklands Islands Police (or RFIP). They set out to question everyone who attended the social gathering at the North Arm social club on that Thursday night. However, eyewitness accounts were inconsistent and vague, and investigators put that down to a night of heavy drinking.


The best estimation of Marine Alan Addie’s last known whereabouts was inside the social club at 1:30am, August 8th. Witnesses claimed they saw Addie having a heated discussion with a local landowner. When investigators asked the man about the confrontation, he said they were just having a conversation, not an argument. 


Back in England, Ann Addis received a phone call on Saturday night 8 August, informing her that her son was missing on patrol. Ann was beside herself – what did that even mean? How could he vanish while he was supposed to be on duty? From his correspondence, Ann knew that there weren’t many places one could go on the Islands, so she couldn’t understand how he could vanish from plain sight. The following morning, police paid Ann a visit with more clarity: they told her that Addie was presumed dead, due to drowning. 


None of it made sense to Ann. Addie was a marine – young and capable, and a strong swimmer. He spent many hours on boats, and Ann didn’t believe he fell overboard. There was also speculation that he never made it to the MV Forrest, and that he had fallen off the jetty. But as a marine trained in survival, surely he would have been able to make his way to shore? 


Addie’s platoon also struggled to believe the drowning story. They leaned towards another theory. There was a chance that Addis never made it down to the jetty or the HV Forrest, and that he had had an accident on his way back from the social club. One story went that Addie, having had too much to drink became disoriented and wandered into the Falklands hinterland. In the dead of winter, he would not have been able to survive and most likely succumbed to hypothermia. 


Then there was a darker possibility, that no one wanted to consider at first. Did Addie meet with foul play? But who would want to kill him? At the time, North Arm’s population consisted of only about 40-50 people. Could one of their own be a murderer?


Questions were also raised about the fact that his crew set off without Addie, or without being able to definitively say whether he was onboard or not. It is highly unusual for any military operation, big or small, to NOT account for all crew members. Leave no man behind, the saying goes. So, why did they leave Addie? Or was there an accident that they needed to conceal? Was there a fight among them, that inadvertently caused Addie’s death? 


The Royal Marines launched an air and sea search as soon as news of Addie’s disappearance broke. Local landowners assisted where they could. While troops scoured the landscape on foot and on horseback, divers searched the water. They searched every square inch of East Falklands, before making the difficult decision to call the search off three days later.


The local police force conducted interviews with landowners and military personnel, but they were not quite up to the task of investigating a major case. They did not have the experience, resources or people power. At the time, there was only one full-time constable and a couple of part-time, volunteer constables. Ann Addis was concerned if a proper investigation had been done when they stuck to the theory that Addie had drowned. 


A Coroner’s inquest began on the 22nd of September and ended on the 5th of October – weeks after Addie’s disappearance. At the inquest it was noted that, on the night he went missing, Addie was Quote/Unquote ‘under the influence of alcohol to a marked degree.’


In the end, the Coroner returned an Open Verdict. This means that they found the circumstances of his disappearance suspicious, but there was not enough evidence to consider any other verdict. The best explanation they could offer Addie’s mom was that his death was due to an accidental drowning.


In November of the following year Ann Addis went to the Falklands in a desperate bid to find answers about her missing son. She was taken there by military transport. During her time on the Falklands, Ann became convinced that Addis’ disappearance was no accident. She contacted the Ministry of Defence and pleaded with them to investigate the matter further.


The Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police initiated an investigation. They had more resources and equipment than the Falklands police force, so they had a better chance of solving the puzzling case. An SIB officer was sent to the Falklands and investigated the case, compiling a report on his findings. His report, however, was confidential and Ann Addis never learnt what the investigator uncovered during his time on the island. The information has been released in recent years, and it brings some interesting aspects to light, mainly pointing out the loose ends regarding the Coroner’s inquest.


Firstly, divers were brought in to search the bay at North Arm, as soon as it was light enough to do so. The divers, all experienced marines, were confident that, if Addie had fallen overboard or slipped off a jetty and drowned, they would have recovered his body. Their search was extremely thorough, conditions were mild, and the visibility was as good as it gets. In later years, locals did speculate about the possibility that a current could have taken him out of the bay, and into open seas of the South Atlantic. But then again, his body never washed up. According to the 1981 SIB report, in interviewing the divers, it was apparent that they were unaware of an inland lake, not far from the North Arm settlement. The lake has never been searched. 


The second loose end in the Coroner’s inquest was the story of a North Arm Man who left the settlement early in the morning of Addie’s disappearance. More than one witness reported that the man left the settlement on a motorbike and headed into the hinterland. Others said he left in a car. Although this detail varies, the fact remained: the man left North Arm, by himself, on the morning of the 8th, saying that he was going to inform residents at Goose Green of the missing marine. This solo mission raised many questions. Firstly, how did this person know Addie was missing if the MV Forrest only radioed to enquire about his whereabouts later that afternoon. It was also unusual for anyone to travel alone on East Falkland. Because of rough conditions, and poor road conditions, people typically travelled in convoy of two or more vehicles. Goose Green was at least an hour’s travel away overland, and it was the middle of winter. Travelling into the dark of a winter’s morning was a suicide mission. The man maintained he merely went as a messenger, and could not explain how he knew about Addie’s disappearance before anyone else in North Arm.


Then there was the unfortunate death of and East Falkland shepherd, Jimmy Biggs, two weeks after Addie vanished. Jimmy, who had been at the social club when Addie was last seen, had come to North Arm to testify at the Coroner’s inquest. However, the bunkhouse where he stayed the night before he could testify, went up in flames and Jimmy died. At the time, it looked like a tragic accident: Jimmy had come into town, had too much to drink and did not wake up when the fire broke out, and burnt to cinders.


Speculation among North Arm residents was rife, and they wondered Jimmy had been murdered and if the fire was set to destroy evidence. The story went that Jimmy knew what had happened to Addie, and he was about to inform authorities. Sadly, he never told anyone what he was going to reveal at the inquest. It is believed that Jimmy overheard a conversation at the social club, that implicated a local man in Addie’s death. But of course, this is all hear-say, and when confronted with the story, the man denied any involvement in whatever happened to Addie.


So, at the end of 1981, that is where the case stood: the Coroner’s Open Verdict and the Special Investigation Branch’s report, with some valid concerns. But before police could follow up on any further leads, the investigation was hindered even further. 


For years tensions between Britain and Argentina grew about the Falklands. Britain took control of the islands in 1833, and since that time, Argentina wanted to reclaim sovereignty. Argentina, geographically the closest to the islands, entered years of negotiations with Britain to come to some or other resolution. By 1982, tensions between the countries were heightened, and Britain, under Margaret Thatcher, refused to budge. So, in April 1982, Argentine militant junta forces invaded and occupied the islands. What followed was a 10-week conflict between Argentina and Britain, that became known as the Falklands War. British forces eventually strongarmed the Argentinians and resumed control on the 14th of June 1982. 


It was a violent and chaotic time that left more than 900 soldiers dead. One of the casualties of the war was the investigation into the disappearance of Alan Addis. The case files were lost or destroyed – no one knows exactly – losing vital evidence and testimony forever. During the war, Argentine forces took control of the Falkland Islands police station, and a British missile launched a direct hit on the building, on the 11th of June. Some people think British officials destroyed all files so it wouldn’t end up in their enemies’ hands. Others believed it was destroyed in the missile attack. 


The case seemed hopeless, and Addie’s mom Ann, doubting she would ever learn what happened to her son, wanted to end her own life. She felt that she had failed her son and that there was no way around the brick wall of the Ministry of Defence. When she survived her suicide attempt, she realised that she was the only one who would keep her son’s case alive. Ann vowed to keep up the pressure in the investigation and re-established contact with British authorities in the Falklands. When she visited the island in 1981, Ann met a couple of local residents and maintained regular contact with all of them too, hoping that if information about Addie surfaced, they would inform her.


It would be another decade before Ann received any worthwhile information. In 1993, Ann was told about a rumour going around the Falklands, about a man who had confessed to Addie’s murder. The local man reportedly boasted about killing Addie in a pub one evening. Ann immediately relayed the information to the Royal Falkland Islands Police, who were already on the case.

 

Marine Addis’ disappearance was the biggest unsolved case on the Islands, and police had in fact reopened his case in the months before Ann called with the tip. They were all over the story and had already interviewed and excluded the man in question. Falklands police were convinced that Addie was killed and had identified four local men named consistently in rumours about their involvement in Addie’s presumed murder. They were all at the village hall get-together in North Arm, the last time Addie was seen alive.


However, due to a lack of evidence, they could not arrest the men and the case was threatening to go cold yet again. RFIP knew they needed assistance and reached out to Devon and Cornwall Police. Although that is over 8000 miles away, it was the natural port of call, if one needed help. Devon and Cornwall Police is their supporting force in terms of training and resources.


In September 1993, a team of four Devon and Cornwall detectives were sent to the Islands under the lead of Detective Chief Inspector Bob Pennington. They set up an incident room at Stanley Police Station and set out to learn more about the disappearance of Alan Addis fifteen years before, in an investigation called ‘Operation Lioness’.


In the course of their enquiries, the four men identified by Falkland Islands police were taken in for questioning but released without charge. Due to privacy laws, their names have not been made public.


One of the biggest obstacles in the case was the fact that Addie’s remains were never found. The Devon/Cornwall team, firm in the belief that Addie died as the result of foul play, set out to find any information regarding a possible burial site. Much to the shock of locals in Stanley, an unmarked grave was exhumed in their local cemetery. The unidentified remains were reportedly discovered in North Arm in 1983 and transported to Stanley for burial. During the exhumation, they determined that it was actually the remains of two individuals, but that neither of them was Marine Addis. A new investigation into the unidentified remains were opened, as a separate case. And with that, the Devon/Cornwall team of investigators announced that they had exhausted all possible leads at their disposal and returned home. 


As a side-note, the remains in the unmarked grave were most likely Argentine soldiers that perished during the Falklands War. And article in El País notes that many soldier’s bodies ended up in mass or unmarked graves throughout the isles.


On the 15th anniversary of Addie’s disappearance, Ann Addis made an emotional public statement, pleading with anyone who knew what happened to her son to come forward. 


"All I want is to bring back Alan's remains. I know they may only be burnings. The police have told me that. But it's part of me. I want him laid to rest. I'd also like justice, for Alan and myself. But if it's between justice or Alan's remains, I'd choose the latter. Is that too much for a mother to ask?"


In January 1997, a specialist team from the UK was assembled for the filming of a Channel 4 science documentary series, Equinox, in an episode called Bodyhunters. Renowned forensic archaeologist, Professor John Hunter headed up the forensic team who went to the Falklands to conduct a definitive search. Using ground penetrating radar and the specialist sniffer dog, named Lee (trained to find human remains) and his handler Mick Swindells, they searched tirelessly – a total of 54 locations, but still could not find any sign of Addie. The documentary also included interviews with two of the men who were arrested in connection with the disappearance. Both were adamant that they had nothing to do with Addie’s presumed death.

 

Also, all the rumours that had been floating around the islands since the day Addie vanished, were explored. One story placed Addie in bed with a local landowner’s wife. The man caught them in the act and, in a fit of rage, attacked and killed the marine. The rumour led to a specific man in North Arm. The man claimed that he was aware of the rumour but denied that the incident ever took place. In the end, the documentary could also not give a conclusive answer as to what happened to Addie. 


In 2003, more than twenty years after losing her son, Ann Addis released a book, Missing on Patrol, about her investigation and the frustrations with British authorities. The book kept the case alive, and Ann’s determination to get answers shone through.


Seven years later, in 2010, Ann Addis received news from the Falklands… An anonymous person claimed to know the location where Addie’s body was buried. The story Ann heard was that her son was run over by a car, and that the person who struck him disposed of his body by burying it under a slab of concrete.


In the 2000s, the RFIP had undergone reformation and were far better equipped to deal with bigger cases. But Addie’s case was sensitive, and a lot of time had passed since he went missing. London’s Metropolitan Police sent two investigators to the Falklands, hoping to unearth some evidence at long last. Although their week-long search did not yield Addie’s remains, they did uncover some clues and stated they would return to the Falklands to follow up.


Investigators had the feeling that locals knew what happened to Addie, but they were too scared to speak. After every interview, there seemed to be an unspoken, collective understanding that one would risk one’s own life if you ever came forward. Jimmy Biggs’ death in the bunkhouse fire was a warning to everyone else. Aware of this undercurrent, Falklands police did something they had never done before: they offered protection to anyone with any information about Addie’s disappearance and presumed murder. 


In 2018, British Forces Broadcasting service released a 4-part documentary about Addie’s case. Contributors to the 1998 documentary Equinox, were re-interviewed and the documentary offers a comprehensive look at Addie’s background, his life and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance. The common thread in all interviews is that, to this day, everyone assumes Addie was murdered. One person of interest, a self-elected town chief with two henchmen, is said to be feared by all Falklanders. Fearing their own safety, members of the community closed ranks, and never said a word.


The strongest theory is that Addie was targeted by these men, because of a woman. He was killed in a struggle and his body was transported elsewhere, far away, and discarded there. In the mostly uninhabited, treacherous landscape of the Falklands, chances are, he’ll never be found. 


A plaque commemorates Marine Alan Addis in Christchurch Cathedral, Stanley. It states:


In memory of Marine Alan Addis naval Party 8904, who died at North Arm, 8 August 1980.


Looking at Falkland Islands newspaper clippings of the time, Addie’s case was surprisingly underreported. At a time when one would have expected the whole island to have been on the edge of their seats, periodicals like the Penguin News and the FI Times merely mention the fact of Addie’s mysterious disappearance. They don’t offer theories or interviews, the reports only state that he was gone. Every subsequent visit by Anne Addis or investigators was dutifully reported in a small notice, often under the heading ‘Addis Update’


It is as if the mystery of Addie’s disappearance is a battle scar on Falklands history, something with which locals have made their peace: an enduring, unsolved mystery. Theories and rumours will forever sweep over the islands like the unforgiving westerly winds.


The problem with this case is that it feels solvable somehow. It is perhaps safe to say that Marine Addis did not fall overboard and drown, seeing as the divers did not find him, and his body never washed up either. If he had died of another personal accident, chances are he would have been found.


So, if he was murdered – who killed him, and why? On the night Addie went missing, there was a finite number of people in North Arm. One or more of them should know what happened to this young man, who was only out for a good time while serving his country. Sadly, Ann Addis passed away in May 2011, never knowing what happened to her son. But her friends and family still burn the torch, holding out hope that they will one day know what happened to Alan Addis on that cold winter’s night, at the very edge of the world.


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