A CANOE believed to belong to missing man John Darwin has been found washed up on a beach, police confirmed today.
The red canoe called Orca was found in several pieces in the North Gare area of Seaton Carew, Hartlepool, at around 5.30pm yesterday.
Hartlepool's inshore lifeboat, the coastguard and a police spotter plane all attended the scene to conduct a search and a yellow waterproof jacket was also discovered.
Mr Darwin, 51, a married father of two, of The Cliff, Seaton Carew, went missing on Thursday, March 21, when he took his canoe out to sea from the beach in front of his home.
Police, coastguard and lifeboat teams carried out widespread searches but until now only a paddle was found.
Inspector Martin Cook, of Hartlepool Police, today confirmed that Mr Darwin's family had attended to examine the canoe.
He added: "It was in two or three parts. The family have attended. There's no sign of Mr Darwin."
It is believed Hartlepool Police district support unit was attending the scene this morning to carry out a further search of the area.
Mr Darwin, who is understood to have worked as a prison officer at Holme House, is believed to have been seen paddling out to sea from Seaton Carew just before lunch on the day he went missing.
The subsequent search was one of the largest undertaken by Hartlepool Lifeboat crews in years.
But the operation was scaled down after four days when no sign of Mr Darwin was found and rescue workers admitted the chances of Mr Darwin's survival were bleak.