Family of missing Portsmouth teacher David Cann are hoping the third anniversary of his disappearance may help generate fresh impetus to attempts to solve the mystery.
Mr Cann, 56, was enjoying a week-long break alone in Hisarõnü in July 2019 when he was last seen by fellow holidaymakers staying at The Happy Nur Hotel.
He appeared to be in good spirits and indicated an intention to spend the last day of his visit exploring the ghost town at Kayakõy and then following the rocky footpaths over the surrounding hills to the beach resort at Ölüdeniz.
However, concern for him grew when he failed to turn up for his flight home. Indeed, a subsequent search of his room suggested he had not departed for the airport. His personal items, including his passport, were still there. The holiday reps’ attempts to contact him by mobile phone had also proved fruitless.
Family were on their way to Turkey within 24 hours of the alarm being raised, although local Jandarma were not unduly concerned to begin with. Authorities in Turkey remained open to the possibility that, for whatever reason, Mr Cann had merely decided to extend his stay.
However, the search for him escalated as it become increasingly evident that his disappearance was very much out of character and that, despite numerous calls to his mobile until it eventually went dead, he had made no attempt to pick up.
Rescue experts AKUT were called in and a detailed search of Mr Cann’s likely route from Hisarõnü to Ölüdeniz began. Drones and sniffer dogs were also used in case Mr Cann had somehow wandered off the path and got into difficulty in the summer heat. Not a trace of him was found.
Once the police in the UK were alerted, permission was also granted for authorities to recover DNA from his house and access his mobile phone data which would help to pinpoint its location. As a result, the search was widened to include other remote walks and locations around Butterfly Valley and Faralya. However, yet again, they were in vain.
Mr Cann’s sister Sandra Roberts and her husband Melvyn say, despite a slow start, by now the Turkish authorities were co-operating fully with the family, the British Consulate, with each other and with police in the UK.
As the third anniversary of Mr Cann’s disappearance approaches, they’re satisfied everything that could have been done was covered at the time – but, even three years on, the question about what happened to Mr Cann remains unanswered.
“Of course, the pandemic has prevented us from visiting Turkey as often as we would’ve liked to since 2019,” said Sandra.
“However, it was reassuring to see a thick file on Dave when we arrived which demonstrated to us that the Turkish authorities have been far from idle. It may be that, certainly more recently, we haven’t had a great deal in terms of communication from them but his case certainly hasn’t been forgotten.”
Sandra added the family are also grateful to the Fethiye region’s British community who have also helped to keep interest in Mr Cann’s disappearance alive.
“We noticed one social media group even urged people living here or who visit the area regularly to take part in an informal search for David, which was very kind.”
Melvyn added: “We are also aware speculation about what happened to David is a talking point in the local bars but we see that as healthy as it keeps his memory alive.
“We have come to terms with the fact that we may one day have to reconcile ourselves with the worst news but we still talk about him in the present tense and we know, if other people are talking about him too, then he won’t just be forgotten.”
However, Sandra acknowledged that a difficult aspect of the family’s dilemma is that questions about Mr Cann’s disappearance lead “round and round in circles”.
Mr Cann had no record of depression, he was an experienced outdoorsman who loved mountain biking and skiing in particular, he was healthy and – by all accounts from those who saw him most recently before his disappearance – happy.
Sandra said: “He had decided to leave his teaching post at the international language school in Portsmouth shortly prior to his holiday but the break in Turkey was to give him time to relax and think about his next steps in life.
“He had no debts, he loved his family – particularly his nephews and nieces – he had an active social life, a secure home and even a cat Lily. In fact, his life was the very best that it had ever been so why would he just disappear?
“Of course, we accept that no one can simply vanish; after three years, it seems obvious something has happened to David – but then the fact there has been no trace of him means we are no closer to closure.”
New laws introduced in the UK in the wake of the disappearance of York student Claudia Lawrence meant that Mr Cann’s family have at least been able to take charge of his affairs. For example, they have been able to settle bills, rent his house and even rehome his cat Lily.
“But we have come to Turkey both to reconnect with David, to see the things he saw while he was here and in the hope the anniversary will lead to fresh impetus in the search for him so we can perhaps finally find out what happened,” said Sandra.
“We know it may not be good news; we’re realistic about that. But, at the moment, one of the hardest aspects for us is that nothing makes sense and we need answers – no matter what they are – before we can move on.”
Anyone who thinks they may have information useful to the inquiry is welcome to contact the family either via email or phone. Numbers and contact details are listed on the poster the family have produced for circulation in the Fethiye area (above/below).