Family of Seaham kayaker Shane Smith say inquest brings no closure without recovery of his body nine years after he disappeared in North Sea

The loved ones of a man who drowned when he capsized in a kayak out at sea say his inquest brings them no closure - nearly nine years since his death.

Shane Smith, 30, from Dawdon in Seaham, died on the evening of April 22, 2010, when his kayak was hit by a wave 400 yards out at sea near to the North Pier in Seaham.

A photo taken of Shane Smith just moments before he went into the sea off Seaham in a kayak.

A photo taken of Shane Smith just moments before he went into the sea off Seaham in a kayak.

Shane, who had not been wearing a life jacket but was a strong swimmer, was never found.

That was despite searches involving RNLI boats from Sunderland and Hartlepool, Coastguard teams, a boat belonging to a member of the public, an RAF Sea King and police helicopter, police officers and search dogs, with Northumbria Police's marine unit also brought in.

Follwing his inquest, Shane's family told the Echo that rumours he was the "new John Darwin" - a reference to the infamous fraudster who faked his own death in a canoeing mishap - and had started a new life in Tenerife had caused them further upset, with police unable to find any evidence to back up the claim following a second-hand report of a sighting on the island.

With no body to bury, his loved ones say they are struggling to come to terms with letting go of their grief and believe "Jack the lad" Shane is still down on the seabed.

Pearl Smith, pictured with a poster issued by her family as they appealed for help to find the body of her son Shane.

Pearl Smith, pictured with a poster issued by her family as they appealed for help to find the body of her son Shane.

They make visits to the beach on the anniversary of his disappearance, birthdays and Christmas Day.

His mum Pearl, 62, who said the emergency services should have continued to search until they found her son, said: "There's no closure.

"What's the point of a hearing without a body?

"We still think he's down there."

Shane Smith, who was 30 when he went missing off the coast of Seaham.

Shane Smith, who was 30 when he went missing off the coast of Seaham.

Late last year, as her son's inquest date was confirmed, Pearl had spoken of her continuing heartache following the loss of her son, who was stepdad to Chantelle Jobes, 25, and never had the chance to meet grandchildren Leland Childs, three, and Pearl Childs, one.

Read more: Grieving mum of Shane Smith pleads for fresh search for son’s body eight years after kayak capsized off Seaham coast


Outside the coroner's court, his sister Tracy, 32, added: "It might be a death certificate, but it means nothing."

Related: Family of kayaker missing for eight years say they won’t get closure until his body is found

The hearing, held in Crook and heard by Durham and Darlington's senior coroner Jeremy Chipperfield, was told Shane had been drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis in the morning before the incident.

A note left by the Smith family near the beach at Seaham.

A note left by the Smith family near the beach at Seaham.

There was a clash of opinions among witnesses, with his mother and brother Guy, 44, stating he had been sober at the time of the incident, and others who said he had been drunk and was still smoking on the shoreline.

A statement from Guy read to the hearing told how Shane was "game for a laugh and was always the one to get everyone going" and had been happy at the time of the tragedy and in a relationship.

Guy said he had been out in the kayak a short distance before returning to the sand, when Shane then got in and secured the spraydeck, which is used to keep water out the boat.

He said his younger brother had been "extremely excited" to test out the kayak and they had headed to the beach below the old police station after they were told the harbour gates were due to close.

All those involved and a group of teenage witnesses said the friends had started to scream and shout at Shane when they saw he had gone further out than was safe.

When Guy saw Shane in the water after the kayak capsized, he went into the sea and pulled off all his clothes in a bid to get to Shane quicker.

Pearl Smith, pictured on the coastline of Seaham, late last year.

Pearl Smith, pictured on the coastline of Seaham, late last year.

"I could see Shane's head coming out of the water, but every time a wave came I would lose sight of him," he said.

"I saw Shane and I think his eyes were closed.

"I couldn't reach him, I had run out of energy and he was about 10 or 15 metres away.

"I felt so cold, I didn't have any energy left, I was absolutely exhausted and I knew I had to get back to shore because I felt delirious and so scared.

"I got back and curled up on the beach and I can't really remember, but I was wrapped up and taken away by paramedics to Sunderland Royal Hospital."

Shane Dent detailed in his statement that they had warned Shane he was "wasted" but he had wanted to try out the kayak.

He said 999 calls were made from the shore as soon as the group realised Shane was in trouble and described the water as "mindnumbingly cold."

Shane's other brother Philip, 34, broke down as he gave evidence to the hearing.

He said he had been aware Shane had smoked a couple of joints during the day and "hadn't seemed too keen" to try out the kayak earlier in the day, with his brother smoking again while on the beach.

"I was surprised he wanted to go out in the boat," he said.

"Shane wanted to go first and he was quite a boasty character and me and him had a little tiff, so I said 'Here, crack on" and he started to paddle out.

"He did go out a lot further than Guy and we started shouting at him to come back.

"He went to turn it and that's when he capsized, he grabbed hold of the kayak and then another wave had him.

"He let go, went down, came back up again, went down and that was it.

"Shane and Guy swam out and I went out a bit and my legs were so cold, I had mobility issues and I had to come back."

He went on to explain the family had stayed at the scene for some time, with Philip stopped from entering the water again by the police.

The inquest was told the family continued to search for "days and weeks" with Philip adding: "Lots of friends joined us and not just at Seaham but Blackhall, Crimdon, Sunderland, we thought he would travel with the tide and we would search the beach when we could to find a scrap of him or find a piece of clothing."

At the time, Shane's family appealed for divers to help in the effort, with a medium also visited for information as the Smiths looked for answers.

Related: Psychic says missing Dawdon kayaker is trapped under Seaham pier

Detective Inspector Andy Reynolds detailed the police and other emergency service efforts to try and find Shane.

He said Durham Constabulary had received a report from someone who had been told by another person they had seen Shane in Tenerife in 2011.

He said: "The Detective Inspector at the time looked at the information from Shane's brothers, information from his friends and from several independent witnesses, from members of the public and we couldn't agree with that hypothesis.

"The belief was that Shane went into the water and was never recovered and I would agree now it was rumour and speculation and there was no substance to it.

"Shane didn't have passport, didn't have life insurance, financially, it would have been a struggle to start a new life.

"That would have taken considerable money and there was no motivation to do that, he was happy, in a new relationship and it seems particularly unbelievable and elaborate."

Answering questions from Pearl about the search, he agreed with her that the bungee attached to the spraydeck could have caught on a rock below the surface, but said the sea bed was too wide an area to search.

As he gave his conclusion, Mr Chipperfield said Shane had "succumbed to the water and never returned to shore."

He recorded the medical cause of death as drowning, with Shane intoxicated when he suffered an accidental death.

Shane also left dad Guy, 67, and sister Kimberley, 28.

The stretch of beach where Shane Smith went into the sea off Seaham.

The stretch of beach where Shane Smith went into the sea off Seaham.