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Daniel James Nolan: Just The Foot

In 2002, 14-year-old Daniel James Nolan went missing from Hamble in England after fishing with his friends on the evening of January 1st. The reason for his death is unknown and the conditions surrounding his disappearance remain unsolved to this day.

Daniel Dan

Daniel, known as Dan, had gone out fishing at 8 pm with three friends Joe, Thom, and George, (whose names have been changed due to being minors at the time), and was due to return home at 2 am. Dan’s mom, Pauline, had stated before that it wasn’t rare for teenagers in the fishing community to be out this late at night and that she didn’t have any concerns as Dan would be with a group of friends. The four boys set up their fishing gear on the pontoon on the Hamble River.

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They had brought a bottle of vodka, unknown to their parents. Dan, Joe, and Thom drank some of the vodkas but George didn’t drink at all. After the boys had eaten some snacks, mucked around, and settled into fishing, George was picked up by his father at 10 pm. It is remembered by George that his father was quite strict and wouldn’t let him stay out late.

He regrets not staying, stating in an interview with playwright Mark Wheeler – “Just the fact I was there on the night he disappeared makes me think it was partly my mistake. I could have told him to come home with me.”

After some time had passed, Joe was sick on the pontoon and the other two boys recommended he lie down for a bit. At around 10:30 pm Dan decided he needed to head up to the local shop for some chocolate, stating it would be open until 11 pm. Thom decided to join Dan and they left Joe on the pontoon.

Nonetheless, when they reached the shop it was shut. Dan saw some friends at the bus stop and went over to talk to them. Thom went back to Joe on the Pontoon. Joe was feeling very unwell and had been sick another time. Thom and Joe decided to pack up their fishing things and they walked up to the high street.


Meanwhile, at the bus stop, the friends asked Dan the time. Due to the fact he was able to read his analog watch with no difficulty, it was assumed that despite drinking some vodka earlier in the evening, Dan was still capable and conscious. After some time passed and acknowledging the bus might not be coming, the group of friends left to walk home and Dan walks back along the high street towards the pontoon. On his way he was seen by a party leaving the Bugle Pub and a woman who knew him, driving in her car.

Here is where Dan meets Thom and Joe, now leading the way home. They saw Dan outside the Victory Pub in Hamble around 11:40 pm. Thom tells Dan he has packed up his and Joe’s stuff and needs to take Joe home. Dan asks Thom to assist him to pack up his stuff, but Thom declines, stating he wants to get Joe home.

At this point by his admission, Joe was having to lean against the windows for assistance and was repeatedly being sick. Thom has also stated he guessed Joe was more in need of his help at that time. Dan makes his way down to the pontoon to pack up his fishing gear, stating he would be just behind them. This was the last time he was noticed.

When he failed to return home by 2.45 am his mum, Pauline, went down to the pontoon that he had been fishing from to look for him and discovered his fishing gear there but said that Daniel Nolan was nowhere to be seen. She portrays the scene to playwright Mark Wheeler here -“Dan’s tripod stand was like fell in the corner like he was packing it away then unexpectedly stopped or, I don’t know. been stopped.


One of them must have fallen in and then he possibly tried to. . . his backpack was.. like it had just been chucked down. It was in the middle, you had to go round it to get to his other things. His gloves, they were there as well. It was spooky.”

She hurriedly went to check at the other boy’s homes to see if Dan was staying with them or if there had been some kind of incident. She then called the police and by 4.30 am there were emergency services on the water looking for him. The police said that all the CCTV cameras in Hamble that might have captured footage of Daniel Nolan or anyone else were either turned off or shattered.

For the following three months, the river was scoured every day, on both tides. Every yacht was fingertip searched and had divers under in case Dan had become trapped. Two big army sonar units discovered nothing. Bits of a headlamp were found out in a field around 3000 meters from the pontoon and Pauline and Greg (Dad) Nolan are adamant it is the one Dan was wearing the night he vanished. This has never been substantiated.

21 months after Daniel’s disappearance, human remains were found by a dog-walker in an area of beach known as Chapmanā€™s Pool near Swanage, Dorset, on May 15. A left foot inside two pairs of black socks and a DC trainer (Daniel’s last described clothing) was discovered and DNA positively matched this to belonging to Daniel Nolan. To this day, Daniel’s left foot is the only proof that has been found in his case. An article in the Daily Mail states that the foot had detached from the body naturally.

Daniel’s parents accept that he is dead but still have the impression that something else happened to their son. Pauline Nolan told the Daily Echo -“Therefore on this evidence, we must accept that the likelihood is that our Dan is no longer alive. Nonetheless, as a family, we must underline that this does not tell us the circumstances surrounding Dan’s disappearance. We think that this has posed a lot more questions than given answers. We are fully knowledgeable that the police investigation into Dan’s disappearance is still ongoing and we would like to state that as a family we have complete belief in the Major Crime Unit and thank them for all their actions in trying to answer our questions. While hopefully, the pain of losing Dan will fade we know that the pleasure of having him in our lives and memories will strengthen. The search for Dan may be over but I can ensure you that the search for the truth encircling Dan’s death will continue. “

To this day, there have been no further outcomes made public surrounding Daniel’s disappearance/death.

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