Updated 6am Thursday: Royal Cayman Islands Police officers have located a cell phone believed to belong to missing teaching assistant Nathan Clarke.
The phone was found Wednesday afternoon in the ocean waters off Public Beach. It was about 50 metres offshore and in about ten feet of water, officers said. An examination of the phone revealed that it did belong to Mr. Clarke, police said.
No other property was found during Wednesday’s searches by police and volunteer groups.
Police had scheduled a press conference to discuss details of the find at 11am.
Mr. Clarke’s fiancée Lisa Beck and her family made a fresh appeal to the public to help with the search for the 31-year-old British national.
Mr. Clarke was last seen around 8.30pm on Saturday night on the waterfront by Calico Jack’s bar on Seven Mile Beach.
At a joint news briefing with police on Wednesday morning, an emotional Ms Beck thanked the scores of volunteers who were helping with the search and said many people who did not know her fiancé had also come forward to offer assistance.
Ms Beck’s parents Philip and Elizabeth flew to Grand Cayman from London on Tuesday night to be with their daughter.
“It’s hard not to like him, he’s a very easygoing character, so I think the number of people that Lisa’s referred to who are helping is a reflection … of Nathan’s own character and how much he is a friend of those people,” her father said.
The family asked for anyone with spare time to come to Public Beach where a mobile police command unit has been set up and help with the search.
“Cayman is a small island, but there’s quite a lot of space to cover so the more people we have, the more area we can cover. Any volunteers are very welcome,” he said. “We remain as positive as we can be, under the circumstances.”
Mr. Clarke’s parents, with whom police have been in daily contact, also plan to come to Grand Cayman this week.
Ms Beck said she and her friends called Mr. Clarke on his phone around 9.10pm on Saturday after last seeing him alone at the water’s edge near Calico Jack’s around 8.30pm. That call went straight to voice mail.
“At first we did not think it was anything strange. We just thought he was somewhere nearby. We were just waiting to see where he was and we thought ‘we still can’t see him’ so we called,” she said.
On Tuesday, the police coordinator of the search, Jack Horner, said the cell phone signal from Mr. Clarke’s black Samsung phone was last picked up around 1am Monday morning, after which the battery may have died.
Mr. Clarke had been at Calico Jack’s with Ms Beck and other friends. She said the bar was relatively quiet at the time.
Ms Beck said her fiancé had been drinking, but was not drunk.
“Everyone was just enjoying a drink, watching the sunset, the people who were there. It was pretty quiet,” she told reporters.
She said when she lost sight of Mr. Clarke, after less than five minutes, “I just wondered if he’d walked on a little bit further, so we just started walking on a little bit further as well and by then it was quite dark.”
She had been considering walking along the beach to the couple’s home in West Bay, but said she and Mr. Clarke and their friends had not made any final plans to walk or whether to take a taxi or go elsewhere.
“I still at that point was not sure what Nathan was planning to do,” she said.
Police are checking one possible sighting of the missing man around midnight and are showing the person who made that report various photographs of Mr. Clarke to double check if the person the witness saw was him or not.
Police Detective Superintendent Marlon Bodden, who is overseeing the investigation, said police remained “very hopeful that we can find Nathan. We know miracles still happen and we continue to ask the public to provide us with information that may assist us to try to find Nathan”.
Mr. Bodden said there was no evidence of “criminal activity” surrounding Mr. Clarke’s disappearance.
Mr. Bodden appealed for anyone with recent photographs of Mr. Clarke to send them to the email address [email protected], as there were currently several photographs of the missing man circulating with some show him with longish blonde hair, although his hair is now shorter.
He also asked for anyone who was at Calico Jack’s on Saturday who may have taken photos that included Nathan to also forward those photographs to the email address. Police also want anyone who visited the bar following the Off The Beaten Track running event who may have seen Mr. Clarke or witnessed anything unusual to come forward.
Mr. Bodden said 25 police officers were dedicated to the investigation and more than 60 volunteers were assisting with water and land searches. Four marine vessels, carrying qualified police divers, were also taking part in the search, along with the police K-9 unit.
The detective superintendent said speculation circulating throughout Cayman on what could have happened to Mr. Clarke was not helpful.
“We are asking individuals to be very objective during this time. This is a very,
very serious line of inquiry that we are conducting,” he said.
He said such speculation could have the effect of taking the investigation “in directions that we don’t necessarily need to be taken” and he appealed to people to remain “factual and sensitive” about the inquiry.
Addressing the absence of the police helicopter in the search, Mr. Bodden said it was off island undergoing pre-scheduled maintenance and that police were using the fixed wing mosquito spray plane from the Mosquito Research and Control Unit to help with the search.
Family members and friends of the missing man are also paying for a private helicopter from Cayman Islands Helicopter to do air searches.
A Facebook page set up to alert people to Mr. Clarke’s disappearance, to share information and to help fundraising efforts to pay for a reward and to hire the private helicopter had attracted more than 1,800 members from Cayman and overseas by Wednesday afternoon. British media picked up on the story of the missing man Wednesday morning, with the tabloid Daily Mirror and the BBC running prominent stories on his disappearance.
Mr. Clarke is the third person to disappear in Cayman in just over a year. Jamaican nurse Kerran Baker, 25, was last seen in July and Caymanian Department of Environmental Health employee Anna Evans disappeared from the George Town landfill in January 2011. Police said there was no evidence to show the disappearances are connected.
Mr. Bodden said there was no new information regarding the disappearance of the two women.
Police said marine units have covered the areas between the Kittiwake site and Governor’s Beach, extending more than 400 yards out to sea. Search teams made up of volunteers and police have also covered land areas from Governor’s Beach to Salt Creek and the Dykes.
Turned to teaching
Mr. Clarke, who had worked in water sports, in recent months had made a life change, taking up a job at Cayman Prep’s primary school and returning to university at UCCI to study.
Ms Beck, who has been with Mr. Clarke for eight years, said he worked as a water sports instructor in England before coming to Grand Cayman with her when she got a job as a teacher. She also works at Cayman Prep.
She said he worked with children and youth groups in England.
“He was amazing at what he did. He was very gifted at kayaking, windsurfing, sailing,” she said.
On arriving in Cayman, he began work with Resort Sports on the beach, where Tiki Beach is now located.
“He really did enjoy being out there and being on the water and still dealing with people but he missed … teaching and being around the kids because he’s so good at all that. So, we made the decision over the summer holidays that we really wanted to stay here and we wanted to get something that was more of a career for him, so this September he managed to get a job at Cayman Prep and High School where he was doing a fantastic job,” she said.
Mr. Clarke is white, with tanned skin, blue eyes and blonde hair and is 5 feet 7 inches tall. He was last seen wearing slim fitting beige broad shorts, and carrying a black Samsung phone and his wallet. He may also have been wearing black Quicksilver flip flops with a red square logo.
Police have set up a major incident room in West Bay police station. Anyone with information is asked to contact the incident room on 949-3999 or 949-3990 or email information to [email protected]
Description of missing man
White with tanned skin
Blue eyes and blonde hair
5 feet 7 inches tall
Last seen wearing
Slim-fitting beige broad shorts
Carrying a black Samsung phone and a wallet
Posssibly wearing black Quicksilver flip flops with a red square logo