Canoes used in search for wildlife volunteer John Harvey missing on Canterbury nature reserve
Kent Search and Rescue
vounteers have been using canoes to navigate the miles of narrow
waterways in the search for missing John Harvey
by Gerry Warren
It is a place of beauty - but even on a crisp, sunny
winter's day it is easy to see the dangers that lurk on the
Stodmarsh nature reserve near Canterbury.
Much of it is water logged and covered in reeds
where wildlife abounds. But when keen photographer John Harvey is
thought to have visited the site three weeks ago, it was dark and
the ground covered in snow.
Although the defined paths are clear to see now, even someone
with local knowledge might have got caught out by the white,
Police believe it is the most likely scenario to explain the
disappearance of 54-year-old Mr Harvey, from Minster, Thanet, who
was a volunteer with the Woodlands Trust and worked as sales rep
And yet more than two weeks and 500 man hours of searching
later, there is still no trace of the wildlife volunteer
(pictured right) on the 600-acre site.
But volunteers from Kent Search and Rescue, who were called in
by police to help, are not giving up.
They were again out in force at the weekend - this time using
canoes to navigate the miles of narrow waterways and reed beds
which criss cross the reserve.
The group's chairman is ex-Royal Electrical and Mechanical
Engineer Paul Lewis, from Herne Bay, who has brought a military
precision to the search tactics.
He said: "We are using national recognised statistics and
techniques and initially searched beside the main pathways which Mr
Harvey could have used.
"We were out looking for him immediately police alerted us that
he could be here somewhere. At that time it was still covered in
snow which made it very difficult. In fact, when the snow melted we
had to go back and re-search those same areas again.
"Now we have expanded the search and are using canoes to naviate
the narrow channels but there are miles of them.
"We have also used specialist search dogs who are trained to
detect human scent and colleagues of ours from Northern Ireland
brought over a high tech bit of sonar kit which we used in the
The group have the support of South East 4x4 response, whose
members have provided their off-road vehicles to help the search
parties and their equipment reach further into the
Kent Search and Rescue
volunteers Darren Wimsett and Jo Kenny survey the Stodmarsh nature
Mr Lewis said: "We have no intention of giving up yet. It
gets to the point where you won’t be beaten. But clearly we are all
volunteers and can only dedicate so much time. But we will continue
working with the police to see how they want to go forward.
"It also works both ways because it is providing valuable
training experience for our volunteers."
The search for the wildlife enthusiast has now become the
biggest operation in Kent for two years.
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