Alan Addis (born 14 July 1961) was a British serviceman who disappeared in mysterious circumstances in August 1980 while serving with the Royal Marines in the Falkland Islands. It was initially suggested that Marine Addis had drowned in an accident, but it is now widely believed that he was killed. Police investigations have resulted in arrests, but no one has ever been charged in connection with his disappearance and his body has never been found.
Addis was a member of Naval Party 8901, a small Royal Marines unit which in 1980 was assigned to the Falklands. The unit’s role was to maintain a visible British military presence on the islands and to provide military and civil defence training for the local population.
At the time of his disappearance, Addis was part of a five-man team that had journeyed to the remote settlement of North Arm in Lafonia on East Falkland, approximately 90 miles (140 km) from the Falklands capital Stanley. On the evening of 8 August, Addis and the other marines attended a function in the village hall that doubled as a social club. The marines left the event at different times and Addis’s colleagues reported last seeing him at around 1.30 am. The following morning the rest of the team began the journey back to Stanley on the steamer the MV Forrest. It was not until sometime after they had set sail that it was discovered that Addis was missing. There remains a degree of confusion over the precise sequence of events and uncertainty over when and how word of the disappearance reached the North Arm community (some of whom appeared to be aware of it in advance of the official announcement) has served to compound the mystery.
The initial view was that Addis had either fallen overboard or mistakenly stepped off a jetty into the cold waters of the South Atlantic in the Bay of Harbours. His mother – Anne Addis – was contacted at her home in England with the news that Alan was missing on patrol, but then the following day the Police visited her to inform her that Alan was presumed drowned in an accident. Over the next few weeks a number of other possible explanations were put forward. These included the suggestion that Addis had become disoriented and wandered off into the Falklands hinterland, presumably succumbing to hypothermia (despite being highly trained in outdoor survival techniques and wearing British Army issue winter clothing). An air and sea search of the islands and the waters around them (including an underwater search by divers) failed to find any trace of the missing marine and was eventually called off. Later that year, an inquest on the Falkland Islands returned an open verdict.
In November 1981 Anne Addis travelled to the Falklands by military transport to make enquiries of her own. She became convinced that foul play was involved and asked the UK Ministry of Defence to initiate a new investigation led by the Special Investigations Branch (SIB) of the Royal Military Police. She argued that the SIB were better equipped – in terms of personnel, training and experience – to undertake such an enquiry, than the islands’ own police force which was then tiny and consisted of one full-time and a handful of part-time constables. In response, an SIB officer was dispatched to the Falklands, though his eventual report was confidential and Mrs. Addis was not given sight of it. The situation was further complicated in April the following year when Argentine forces invaded and occupied the islands. The subsequent conflict between Britain and Argentina, known as the Falklands War, saw British forces retake the islands and the Argentines surrendering on 2 June 1982. During the course of the conflict the local police files on the Addis case were lost, possibly destroyed deliberately by the Falklands authorities to prevent information about British military deployments on the islands falling into Argentine hands.
In the years following the war, Mrs Addis continued to pressure the British and the Falkland Islands authorities for a new enquiry and she remained in contact with a number of Falklanders. In 1993 rumours reached her of an overheard conversation in a Falklands pub where an islander allegedly boasted of their involvement in the murder. This information was passed to the now reformed, enlarged and renamed Royal Falkland Islands Police. By that time, the Falklands force had re-opened their investigation and were able to discount that particular rumour. They did nevertheless conclude that Addis had been murdered and identified four local islanders as prime suspects. In 1995, having reached an impasse, they passed the enquiry to Devon and Cornwall Police and a team of detectives flew out from the UK. In September of that year, in an operation involving Chinook helicopters from the newly established Royal Air Force base at RAF Mount Pleasant, officers from Devon and Cornwall Police and the Royal Falkland Islands Police arrested four Falklands men. The men were later released without charge.
In 1997, an attempt was made to locate Marine Addis’s body by a specialist UK team. The group included Professor John Hunter, a forensic archaeologist at the University of Birmingham and head of the highly regarded Forensic Search and Advisory group (set up to advise and assist police in locating human remains). The team also included experts with ground penetrating radar and a specially trained sniffer dog from Lancashire Police led by Sergeant Mick Swindells. Despite searching over 54 locations the team found no trace of Marine Addis. The investigation was filmed by the television production company Lion Films for a documentary programme screened on British terrestrial TV in 1998 as part of the Channel 4 series Equinox. The programme followed the team’s efforts to identify the location of Marine Addis’s remains and recorded interviews with his mother, his former Royal Marine comrades and a number of Falkland Islanders. Interestingly it included interviews with two of the men arrested following the earlier inquiry in 1995. Both men flatly denied any involvement in Marine Addis’s disappearance. The programme considered a number of persistent rumours that had been circulating over the years. The first of these was that Addis had been murdered because he had been found in flagrante delicto with the wife of a local landowner. The man whose wife was alleged to have been involved was interviewed by the programme makers and dismissed the suggestion, though he admitted being aware of such a story. The second rumour concerned the death of a local shepherd, Johnny Biggs, killed in a fire at a bunkhouse in North Arm some two weeks after Addis’s disappearance. In the programme a number of Falkland Islanders voiced their suspicions that the man had not actually died in the fire, but had been murdered and the fire started deliberately to conceal this. The fact that his death had occurred shortly before he was allegedly due to give evidence to the Board of Inquiry, together with alleged shortcomings in the fire investigation, were cited as indicating a potential link with the Addis case. According to the programme, there was local speculation that the man had been killed to prevent him giving evidence because he had information about Addis’s fate, possibly through being privy to a conversation that implicated another islander in Addis’s disappearance.
Metropolitan Police investigation
In December 2010, a Metropolitan Police team visited the Falklands to conduct a further search. This followed a tip off from a former Falklands resident who had contacted Anne Addis with information on where Alan’s body was buried. Though no body was found, it was reported that the search had turned up new clues and that a follow-up visit to the islands was planned. It was further reported that the head of the Royal Falkland Islands Police had taken the unusual step of offering police protection to anyone prepared to come forward with information.
A memorial plaque commemorating Alan Addis is on display in Christ Church Cathedral (Falkland Islands) in Stanley. Anne Addis established a memorial fund in honour of her son, but in May 2010 she announced that she was to wind this up and donate the monies raised to the Help for Heroes fund for British servicemen.