The disappearance of Agatha Christie

1926, December: The Force was alerted to the disappearance of Agatha Christie when her car was found abandoned near Newlands Corner. Deputy Chief Constable, Superintendent Kenward took charge and ordered the local area to be searched but without success. Mrs Christie was later discovered alive and well in Harrogate. The case continues to generate much interest and many books have been written and documentaries filmed about the incident.

1926, 7 December: The Scotsman: The abandoned car contained the missing lady's driving licence but the police had no clues as to what had happened to her. The searchers worked in three sections, about eighty men, under the direction of Captain Sant the chief constable of Surrey, and Superintendent Kenward the deputy chief constable. They covered a good deal of country on both sides of the Downs and searched the water courses in the valley almost into Guildford. They continued until darkness set in.

Searching for missing novelist Agatha Christie.

Searching for missing novelist
Agatha Christie.

1926, 10 December: The Scotsman: the search continues for the missing novelist: The missing novelist was suffering from overwrought nerves and mental depression. Surrey Police (sic) continued their exhaustive search of the country in the neighbourhood of Newlands Corner. Four or five miles to the south of Newlands Corner is one of the largest permanent gypsy encampments in that part of the country and this was visited yesterday by a force of about fifty police who questioned many of the camp dwellers. Features of the search were the use of large numbers of police engaged, two hundred and fifty, and volunteer helpers, and the use of a motor tractor to crush the undergrowth.

Superintendent Kenward (on the left).

Superintendent Kenward
(on the left).

1926, 14 December: The Scotsman: Mrs Christie mystery - diver may search pools: A sectional "comb out" of forty square miles of country and the possibility of a diver assisting in the work are the latest phases of the search for Mrs Christie. For ten days police and their helpers have scoured the countryside.

Surrounded by maps Mr Kenward said the area to be covered was about forty square miles and covered the Downs as far as Ranmore Common at Dorking embracing Albury and Hurtwood. He had received an offer from a London team of divers to search the pools and he would probably accept the offer. It is stated that the search has already involved the police authorities in expenditure of about £1,000.

1926, 15 December: The Scotsman: Novelist Found in a Harrogate Hydro: After being missing for ten days Mrs Christie was found in Harrogate where she had been since the search commenced. She had read of the search but it was maids at the hotel who alerted the management who told the police. Colonel Christie, the novelist's husband travelled to Harrogate and was reunited with his wife who was suffering from a loss of memory. Great credit was due to the police to whom he expressed his thanks.

1926, 16 December: The Scotsman: Cost of the search: It is believed that the expense falling upon the county rates will be trifling. This is some measure due to the generosity of people who considered it a public duty to assist in the clearing up of the mystery.

1926, 17 December: The Scotsman: Medical opinion confirmed that Mrs Christie was suffering from memory loss – particularly the last three years. Colonel Christie said that he had never called the police. "I suppose they were only doing their duty, although they must have been egged on by the newspaper headlines. I never wanted them to search for my wife on so big a scale. I had no doubt at all she was suffering from a los of memory".

The Standing Joint Committee which has control of the Surrey Constabulary stated that the chief constable had informed them that the only out of pocket expenses incurred was the provision of tea on one or two occasions for Special Constables who had volunteered to assist the police. The Surrey Constabulary have had no assistance in their area from any other police force in this matter.

1927, 5 January: The Scotsman: The public have sent so many contributions to the cost of the police search for Mrs Christie the total would be enough to build a house. One man wrote offering to meet all the expenses. Mr Kenward said all the contributions which were unsolicited would be returned.

2007: The Times October 3: The most intriguing part of her life is of course, the mysterious episode in 1926, when, having been told by Archie that he wanted a divorce, Christie drove off alone from their Sunningdale home, abandoned the car, then took a train to Harrogate where she registered herself at the Hydro Hotel as Mrs. Neale (the name of her husband's mistress, which she later gave to one of her intelligent police inspectors).

She spent twelve days in Harrogate, shopping, lunching in tea rooms, having beauty treatments and even singing with the hotel's dance band, while all the time following the story of the police hunt for the missing Mrs. Christie in the Daily Mail and the Daily Sketch. It is the incidental detail however, that has the odd fictional quality.

Christie left her car, with her fur coat and driving licence, on the edge of a quarry; it was found early the next morning by "a gypsy boy". Ponds were dragged and the surrounding countryside searched by police and volunteers, because bungling Superintendent Kenward of the Surrey Constabulary was convinced that Archie had murdered his wife; sightings were reported all over the country.

Return to main text.

 

Surrey Constabulary badge