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Dutch cold case team link Herne Bay to body washed up on beach in 1995

By Dan Wright

The body of a sailor found washed up on the Dutch coast in 1995 could be from Herne Bay, investigators believe.

Cold case detectives from Holland have contacted members at Herne Bay sailing club as they continue in their attempts to identify the man.

They think the sailor could be from the town as a sail washed up in the same place was branded with the letters HB.

The HB on the sail led investigators to Herne Bay
The HB on the sail led investigators to Herne Bay

Investigator John Welzenbagh said: “We picked it up as a closed case – we were thinking we would take this one on and see what we could do to solve it.

“The reason I have sent this to the club is because of the HB on the sail. I was thinking maybe it was a member of the club and someone can recognise it.

“It could be that people know this because of the letters.”

The wooden boat found at the scene
The wooden boat found at the scene

The sail was found in June 1995, off an island in northern Holland – almost a month before the sailor’s body was washed up near the same spot.

Mr Welzenbagh added: “We have a DNA profile of the body. Most clues do give a direction to Sweden and the United Kingdom.

“In 1995/96 an investigation in Sweden and the Netherlands didn’t solve the case.

Dutch investigators are trying to find the identity of this sailor
Dutch investigators are trying to find the identity of this sailor

“It was twice on Swedish television, but there was no information given by the public to get the case solved.”

The Dutch North Sea Missing Persons Bureau is a department of the Dutch Maritime Police and works with UK Missing Persons.

Mr Welzenbagh said the boat found was wooden and contacted the Herne Bay sailing club as part of his investigation.

Does this watch hold a clue to the mystery?
Does this watch hold a clue to the mystery?

The club’s honorary secretary, Clare Dunning, says an appeal for information has been put on its website.

She said: “We had an email from the Dutch North Sea Missing Persons Bureau saying can we help, but I think so far we haven’t been able to.

“I don’t know whether that’s because we are not sailing at the moment because of the winter and people aren’t looking at the website. I think it might be the older members who would have suggestions, but they don’t look at the website.”


THE BOAT

The boat found at the scene on June 24, 1995, was made of pinewood.

Mr Welzenbagh said the aluminium mast had a Swedish sticker on it and did not originally belong to the boat.

The sail originally came from a polyester boat called Compis 28.

Parts of the wooden boat found in Holland
Parts of the wooden boat found in Holland

The HB letters and number one stitched on the sail were made by hand or with a home stitching machine.

Mr Welzenbagh said: “This sail was most likely used with the wooden yacht, so it must be used as a second-hand sail.

“We have visited several sail makers in the Netherlands, but none of them recognise this sail or sign.

The mast found at the scene
The mast found at the scene

“According to the pictures, I notice that a lot of things were improvised or repaired: the mast, a shoe repaired with wire and needle, some spare parts mounted with three different screws, the welding work on the steering, the wire at the watch and the way the HB letters were made on the sail.”

EXTRA CLUES

The following things were found on or around the boat:

  • boat heater
  • sheet winch
  • roof window
  • lamp on frontdeck
  • pump
  • buffer
  • fire extinguisher
  • red, blue and green jacket
  • a padlock with the name ‘Alfa Marine’.

THE SAILOR

Mr Welzenbagh thinks the man found almost a month after the boat on July 16, 1995, was aged between 20 and 55.

He had dark, fair hair and was around 5ft 9ins tall.

He was spotted on the Razende bol island – also called Noorderhaaks – by a pilot flying his plane.

Investigators have contacted Herne Bay sailing club
Investigators have contacted Herne Bay sailing club

The man was wearing an alarm-chronograph Seiko watch.

An investigation found the watch was made in Japan in May 1985, for the Swedish market and was sold in Stockholm.

Mr Welzenbagh said: “The body of the person is buried in the Den Helder cemetery.

“Most clues do give a direction to Sweden and the United Kingdom.

“The main idea is that this unidentified person must have a connection with Sweden. It could be a citizen of Sweden who is missed, or a citizen of Sweden that is missed from another place somewhere in Europe.

The man was wearing a Seiko watch
The man was wearing a Seiko watch

“From a professional view of the investigation, and not to use tunnel vision, I cannot exclude any other country, so the man could also come from the United Kingdom or any other country in Europe.

“Most of the people washed up on the coast of Holland are from the UK or the northern part of France or Belgium.”

THE CLOTHES

The man was wearing:

  • A blue sweater
  • A white shirt made in Britain with long sleeves
  • Blue jeans, size 48
  • White underpants from Mark Luigi
  • Blue linen shoes by Mark Gitano.

Can you help? Email hernebaygazette@thekmgroup.co.uk.

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