Fresh hope in hunt for British backpacker, 20, who vanished in Canada 31 years ago as new university cold-case unit investigates his disappearance amid fears he was beaten to death

  • Leeds Beckett University to launch cold-case unit for the case in September
  • Charles Horvath-Allan disappeared backpacking in Canada 31 years ago
  • He was officially declared dead on August 14 this year at High Court of Justice hearing
  • Mother Denise, 71, fears she will ‘go to her grave’ without knowing her son’s fate

The mother of a British backpacker who vanished in Canada 31 years ago has been given fresh hope after a cold-case unit revealed it was investigating the disappearance.

Charles Horvath-Allan, who would be 52 this month, was last seen in May 1989 on the Tiny Tent Town campsite in Kelowna, British Columbia.

His mother, Denise, 71, who fears she will ‘go to her grave’ without knowing what happened to her son, has made 16 trips to Canada to uncover what happened.

Charles Horvath-Allan (pictured), who would be 52 this month, was last seen in May 1989 on the Tiny Tent Town campsite in Kelowna, British Columbia

His mother, Denise, 71, (pictured with Charles) who fears she will ‘go to her grave’ without knowing what happened to her son, has made 16 trips to Canada to uncover what happened

Three years after Charles went missing, Denise (pictured) received an anonymous note saying that Charles had been beaten to death on the campsite he had been staying at

Three years after Charles went missing, Denise received an anonymous note saying that Charles had been beaten to death on the campsite he had been staying at, but his body was never found and no arrests were ever made.

Under the Presumption of Death Act 2013, Charles was officially declared dead on August 14 after a High Court of Justice hearing.

However, Leeds Beckett University in West Yorkshire are launching a cold-case unit to investigate the disappearance and try to uncover new leads.

After hearing about the new investigation, Denise said: ‘I’m absolutely thrilled and privileged that they are taking on my Charles’ case, I hope it will provide me with answers on the fate of my son.

‘To not know has been cruel, it has been the worst part.

‘Families of missing people will never get closure, you will always have lost a loved one, but if I can get some answers I think it will ease some of the torment I have suffered for the last 31 years.

‘The brain never rests, it is always asking questions. When did this happened? Why? Who stole my son from my life?

‘If he’s dead, you can’t change that fact, but at least you have the answer and the case is over.

‘Some parents go to their grave never knowing, I always thought if I fought hard enough and long enough, I would eventually know what happened to him. 

Charles’ grandmother died 17 years after he disappeared and Denise said that she has reserved a resting place for her son and one day hopes to bury him with her mother in Cambridge. 

The last time Denise heard from Charles was May 11, 1989, when he sent a fax to heir home in Sowerby Bride, West Yorkshire.

Under the Presumption of Death Act 2013, Charles (pictured) was officially declared dead on August 14 after a High Court of Justice hearing

The last time Denise heard from Charles was May 11, 1989, when he sent a fax to heir home in Sowerby Bride, West Yorkshire. Pictured: Charles as a youngster with mother Denise

He had planned to fly to Hong Kong and meet his family for a joint celebration of his 21st birthday and Denise’s 40th in August that year.

Denise sold her beauty salon so she could afford to search for her son and she also ran up a £4,000 phone bill.

She believes that Charles could have been murdered by a gang similar to Hells Angels, who were said to have moved to the same campsite as Charles shortly before he went missing.

Denise said that although a body was found in Lake Okanagan, it hadn’t been Charles and she hopes that the students at Leeds Beckett can dedicate more time to the cold-case than police have been able to.

Denise (left) sold her beauty salon so she could afford to search for her son and she also ran up a £4,000 phone bill

Kirsty Bennett, a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, is launching the cold case unit from September for criminology students.

They will work alongside Locate International, a community interest company set up to help the families of missing people.

Ms Bennett said: ‘It’s really important to showcase that we should not forget these cases and we owe it to the victims’ families to do something.

‘In working on these cold cases, our students are providing a service to the families of the missing, looking for opportunities to progress the cases that might not otherwise get the focused attention that they need.

‘This isn’t a promise that we are going to solve the case, it’s to offer families and police forces the opportunity for other people to have a look at the case in different ways, do a review, and potentially offer a new line of inquiry.’

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