Belfast Telegraph

Missing man's family fearing the worst after kayak is found

By Allan Preston

After a normal September school day finished, Carrickfergus man Robert Hanna was expected to arrive as usual at the schoolgates to pick up his son.

Five weeks later his family are still waiting for him to come home.

It is believed Robert decided to spend the Monday afternoon out on his kayak, setting out from Portmuck in Co Antrim around 1.30pm with the plan to be back at the school for 3pm.

But as the hours went by Robert never returned to shore.

His kayak turned up near Campbeltown in Scotland two weeks ago. Now his heartbroken family have said they don't think he will be found alive.

Robert's partner Donna Hanna said her family feared the worst.

"It's been so long now, we definitely don't think he will be found alive," she said.

"We would just like him to be found so we can get some closure, especially for the kids. It is unbelievable. It's like a bad dream that is neverending."

His daughter Rachel said the past five weeks had been a "nightmare".

When the alarm was raised after Robert's disappearance a massive team was assembled to search along the coast. Helicopters were provided by the PSNI, Irish Coastguard and the Royal Navy as well all-weather and inshore lifeboats from Larne, along with Coastguard rescue teams from Portmuck, Larne and Bangor.

Around 24 hours later the decision was made to stand down the search team.

Although the Coastguard promised to stay vigilant, the search officially became a missing person investigation and was handed over to the police.

Speaking to the BBC, Donna said she wanted to respond to rumours she had heard in Robert's home town of Carrickfergus about the disappearance.

"They haven't a clue what this family is going through. He was not depressed and he has not done a runner. It has been an accident," she said.

"I have a feeling in my mind that he must have had a heart attack while he was in the water. He had not been feeling well the day before."

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough Billy Ashe said there had been great concern for the Hanna family in the area.

"We can all sympathise with them as they live with the unknown," he said.

"It's a situation where people need closure. There's been a number of people in Carrickfergus who hoped that perhaps Robert hadn't taken to the water at all, but that's dying out now.

"People are just genuinely concerned for the family, the Carrickfergus community are a caring community."

As the investigation continues, PSNI Superintendent Ryan Henderson added: "We remain in close contact with Mr Hanna's family and will continue to do so during this very difficult time.

"I would ask anyone who has any information that may assist us with our enquiries to contact the PSNI on the non-emergency number 101."

Belfast Telegraph


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