Cold Case Explorations

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A Great Yarmouth Mystery: The Vanishing of Daniel Entwistle

This case has remained unsolved for 20 years, 7 months, and 4 days.

Daniel Entwistle’s disappearance is one of the most well-known child disappearance cases in the United Kingdom (UK). It was May 2003 when 7-year-old Daniel went out to play and run an errand for his parents. It was a Saturday, a bank holiday, and many children were out and about. However, when it got later into the evening and he hadn’t returned, his parents contacted authorities.

What followed was an intensive and extensive search, with police following over 2,500 tips and collecting about 580 statements from potential witnesses. The search was also one of the most expensive, costing more than £300,000. Despite all these efforts, Daniel has never been found and over 20 years later, the case remains unsolved. What really happened to Daniel Entwistle?

Table of Contents

About Daniel Entwistle

Daniel Entwistle was born to parents David and Paula Entwistle. They had two other children who were Daniel’s older and younger brothers, and the family started out in Burnley, Lancashire.

Daniel Entwistle (right) with his brothers and father.
Daniel Entwistle (right) with his brothers and father (Mirror UK).

At some point, Daniel was diagnosed with ADHD. He was reportedly picked on a bit by other children and was described as very quiet. Still, his mother described him as a “pleasant” little boy who “can be mischievous like a lot of children.” At the time of his disappearance, he was a student at Greenacre First and Middle School.

Daniel also reportedly had a number of friends in the Great Yarmouth neighborhood they lived in. The family had moved to Great Yarmouth from Burnley about three years earlier, and Daniel knew a number of other boys in his neighborhood and surrounding area. For that reason, it wasn’t uncommon for him to go out and play with the other children… until he didn’t come home one day in 2003.

The Day of the Disappearance

It was May 3, 2003 when Daniel headed out from his home in Great Yarmouth. It was a holiday weekend and he took his small red BMX bike with him to go and play in the surrounding area, likely with some neighborhood friends. 

A photograph of Daniel Entwistle’s red BMX bike that was recovered by authorities.
A photograph of Daniel Entwistle’s red BMX bike that was recovered by authorities (Great Yarmouth Mercury).

Daniel’s parents also told him to run an errand: pick up some items from a local shop before he headed home from playing. The convenience store was reportedly close to home — only a few minutes’ ride by bike from Daniel’s house on Copperfield Avenue. This wasn’t a difficult task and Daniel agreed to make a trip to the store at some point that afternoon.

Daniel Doesn’t Come Home

When Daniel failed to return for tea later in the day, his parents became concerned. They began searching around the neighborhood and enlisted the help of neighbors and friends in the area to help search for the missing 7-year-old. However, they found no sign of him.

By 8 PM, and with no sign of Daniel, his parents called authorities and reported their son as missing.

The Search Begins

Perhaps because Daniel was so young at the time of his disappearance, Norfolk Police took the case very seriously from the start. They immediately began searching around the areas where Daniel was said to have been and interviewed neighbors about what they might’ve seen.

Daniel Playing with Other Boys

There were some reports that Daniel was seen playing with some other boys near the Trinity Quay around 3:30 PM on the day he disappeared. (Some sources report that he was last seen playing around 4 PM.) Regardless, Daniel was alive and well sometime in the mid-afternoon on the day he disappeared.

CCTV Footage

Surveillance footage was obtained by authorities that showed Daniel shopping at a local convenience store called Blencowes. It was close to his home, and the timestamp on the footage revealed that he’d been in the store around 5:05 PM that day

CCTV footage from Blencowes showing Daniel Entwistle shopping around 5 PM on the day he disappeared.
CCTV footage from Blencowes showing Daniel Entwistle shopping around 5 PM on the day he disappeared (Norfolk Police).

On the footage, Daniel is seen wearing a blue Adidas shirt with striped sleeves and an Adidas logo on the chest. He also was wearing blue sweatpants and grey shoes. Authorities no doubt hoped that this detailed description would provide more information for the public to help locate Daniel. 

There is some debate about what Daniel purchased at the convenience store, but there is no debate that this was the last time that he was seen alive.

High-Tech Search Effort

Police utilized helicopters and search dogs early on in the search, along with boats and sonar later on. The fire service used hydraulic lifts to check on top of nearby buildings, just in case Daniel had somehow managed to climb onto one of the roofs. 

In a public plea on television, Daniel’s mother said, “Daniel, if you are watching, please come home, for you are not in trouble. Please come home!

David and Paula Entwistle at a news conference regarding Daniel’s disappearance.
David and Paula Entwistle at a news conference regarding Daniel’s disappearance (Great Yarmouth Mercury).

Red BMX Bike Located

Daniel’s red BMX bike was located near the River Yare close to Trinity Quay on the morning after he went missing. Many suspected that perhaps Daniel had fallen into the water and drowned, so authorities searched the water with sonar and divers. Unfortunately, they didn’t find anything else belonging to Daniel: no clothes, no items, no body.

Police also searched up and down the river, checking beaches and coastlines for any signs of Daniel’s body being washed up onshore. They were unable to find anything, though. 

The distance between where Daniel Entwistle’s bike was found and his home, less than half a mile away.
The distance between where Daniel Entwistle’s bike was found and his home, less than half a mile away (Google Maps).

Local Pedophiles Interviewed

In addition to searching the River Yare and surrounding areas, authorities interviewed registered pedophiles living in the local area regarding Daniel’s disappearance. No additional information was gleaned about the 7-year-old’s whereabouts from them.

A Thorough Investigation

Over the course of the investigation into Daniel’s disappearance, authorities followed more than 2,500 tips and leads and took over 580 statements from people. According to one newspaper article, the investigation had cost upwards of £300,000. Unfortunately, despite the cost and time spent by the investigating officers, none of these measures led to the discovery of Daniel.

Authorities searched the river near where Daniel Entwistle’s bike was found.
Authorities searched the river near where Daniel Entwistle’s bike was found (Great Yarmouth Mercury).

After two months of investigation, the Norfolk Police called off the search. Detective Julian Gregory stated: “On the investigation side, we are still going on, but as we conclude lines of inquiry, we scale back accordingly.” And that’s where Daniel’s case has stayed for over two decades now: no answers, no clues, no Daniel. 

Theories on What Happened

There are a number of theories about what might’ve happened in this case. Despite the fact that it’s been almost two decades since Daniel’s disappearance, there are few clues and fewer answers. 

Daniel’s Parents Had Something to Do With His Disappearance

There have been many rumors in the years since Daniel went missing that his parents may have had something to do with his disappearance. These rumors were further fueled when it was revealed that David Entwistle, Daniel’s father, was a convicted pedophile.

In 1987, David Entwistle was convicted of having intercourse with a girl under 13 years of age. He would have been around 25 years old at the time of the offense. A document released by order of a judge stated:

“David Entwistle was upon his own confession convicted upon indictment of sexual intercourse with a girl under 13 years on March 26, 1987, at the Crown Court at Preston. He was sentenced to six months.”

Court Document (Source: Mirror UK)

Despite the conviction, it should be noted that authorities never named David as a suspect in his son’s disappearance. There is also no publicly-available evidence that suggests either parent was involved.

A newspaper article on the disappearance of Daniel Entwistle.
A newspaper article on the disappearance of Daniel Entwistle (Great Yarmouth Mercury).

Daniel Fell into a River and Drowned

One of the primary theories in this case is that Daniel fell into the River Yare and ended up drowning. This idea is bolstered by the fact that Daniel’s BMX bike was found near to the bank of the river

The family of Daniel Entwistle (or those who claim to be his family) have stated on Facebook that they believe he ended up drowning in a nearby river: “We as a family do believe he went in the river and met his end. CCTV evidence leads to that conclusion.”

Some suggest that Daniel was pushed into the river, perhaps an unfortunate result of him being bullied. However, there is no publicly-available evidence to support this claim.

A Stranger Abducted Daniel

Perhaps the most frightening theory in this case is that Daniel was abducted by someone with nefarious intentions for him. Stranger abductions in the UK are exceedingly rare; only about 4% of child abductions are the result of a child being taken by an unknown offender. Still, it’s possible that Daniel’s disappearance was a result of one of those rare cases.

What Do I Think Happened?

This is one of those cases where it’s so hard to sus out what really happened. Many of the theories are plausible and there is not really any evidence that points to one theory being more likely than the rest, save for Daniel’s bike being found close to the river. 

Drowning Certainly Possible

The idea that Daniel fell into the River Yare and drowned is probably my most likely theory in this case, simply because his bike was found near the river’s edge. Of course, the bike could have been placed there by an abductor to throw police off the chase, or Daniel could have dropped his bike there and then been abducted, but given that this is the only piece of physical evidence we have, I’d have to go with this theory as being the most likely.

What troubles me, however, is that police divers were quick to search the area once Daniel’s bike was located near the River Yare and never found anything. If the 7-year-old had indeed fell into the water and drowned, shouldn’t his body have been found? It wasn’t like it took authorities weeks to search the area; it was only a day since he might’ve fallen in. That being said, the river is 20 feet deep in places and the current may have carried Daniel’s body downstream and out to sea before police could find him.

Abduction Also Possible

The fact that nothing was ever found of Daniel besides his bike lends credence to the idea that he might’ve been abducted. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he was potentially abducted by a pedophile ring as some people have suggested, but it’s certainly possible that someone saw a young boy on his bike by the river, snatched him and drove off with him. This is, of course, an extremely unlikely scenario. In the UK, about 50 children under the age of 16 are abducted by strangers annually. It’s much more likely for a child to be abducted by someone they know, like a family member, relative, or friend of the family.

A missing poster for Daniel Entwistle.
A missing poster for Daniel Entwistle (Great Yarmouth Mercury).

Parental Involvement Unlikely 

Despite the fact that David Entwistle was a convicted pedophile, I don’t think that he or Paula had anything to do with Daniel’s disappearance. At the time of his son’s disappearance, David would have been around 42 years of age; he was convicted for an offense that occurred when he was around 25 years old. 

Additionally, police would have known about this previous offense and no doubt thoroughly investigated David. If he had anything to do with it, I believe that authorities would have found some evidence pointing in that direction. 

Case Outlook

Unfortunately, I don’t think this case will ever be solved, barring someone finding Daniel or his remains. If he fell into the river and drowned, his body will be been long gone after so many years. If he was abducted, though, and is still out there somewhere, then perhaps someone can will recognize him (or he’ll recognize himself) and come forward. This is a very sad case for all parties involved, and I sincerely hope that there is some resolution for the family someday.

As the late David Entwistle said of his missing son:

“I don’t know if he’s alive, I don’t know if he’s dead. He could be still alive, somebody might have taken him. He could have fallen into the river. We just don’t know, we’ve got no closure.”

David Entwistle (Source: BBC)

Case Updates

Despite the fact that there have been a number of updates in this case, Daniel — nor any evidence pointing to his whereabouts — has ever been found.

January 2015: David Entwistle Passes Away

In January 2015, Daniel’s father, David Entwistle, passed away. He never learned what happened to missing son.

October 2015: Episode of Donal MacIntyre: Unsolved Released

In October 2015, an episode of Donal MacIntyre: Unsolved was released regarding the disappearance of Daniel Entwistle. A number of theories were explored in the episode, including the idea of a prank-gone-wrong and a pedophile ring being run in the area.

2018–2023: More Searches Carried Out

The Norfolk Police told news outlets that they’d carried out a number of searches for Daniel in the last past decade or so: “In the last six years, officers have conducted further searches in Great Yarmouth and received several new pieces of information which have all been investigated.” Unfortunately, it seems that none of these searches have borne fruit.

Norfolk Police searching for Daniel Entwistle along the River Yare.
Norfolk Police searching for Daniel Entwistle along the River Yare (Mirror UK).

May 2023: 20-Year Anniversary of Daniel’s Disappearance

On the 20th anniversary of Daniel’s disappearance, unsolved case review manager Andy Guy stated: 

“We recognize the enormity of two decades passing since Daniel went missing, and the impact this has had on his family in that time. We have continued to explore new lines of enquiry in this case in response to new and credible information.”

Andy Guy (Source: Great Yarmouth Mercury)

Do You Have Information?

At the time of his disappearance, Daniel Entwistle was 7 years old, about 3’2 with light brown hair and a pale complexion. He had a strong northern accent. If you have information about the whereabouts of Daniel, please contact the Norfolk Police at 01953 42 4520 or 01953 42 3819, or email 

A missing poster for Daniel Entwistle.
A missing poster for Daniel Entwistle (Facebook).

Cold Case Questions

  • What do you think happened to Daniel Entwistle?
  • Do you think Daniel will ever be found?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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