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Students to investigate disappearance of Halifax man who vanished 30 years ago

Leeds Beckett University students look set to investigate the disappearance of a Halifax man who ­­vanished without trace 30 years ago as part of a new cold case unit launching this month.

Charles Horvath-Allan, who would have celebrated his 52nd birthday in August, was last seen on a campsite in May 1989 while backpacking across Canada.

His mother Denise has made more than 15 trips to Kelowna, in British Columbia since but help is essential to ensure the search for her son goes on.

Charles, who lived in Sowerby Bridge, was officially declared dead on 14 August following a hearing at the High Court of Justice Chancery Division under the Presumption of Death Act 2013.

Criminology students at LBU are now set to start reviewing his case to try and potentially identify any new lines of enquiry for police to explore.

Kirsty Bennett, Lecturer in the Leeds School of Social Sciences, is launching the cold case unit at LBU to help victim’s families.

Working alongside Locate International - a community interest company set up to help the families of missing people - students will be looking for opportunities to progress police investigations by reviewing long-term unsolved missing person cases.

Kirsty, who previously worked at West Yorkshire Police after joining the homicide and major inquiry team as a civilian, said:

“Charles’ case presents a real challenge for the criminology students given the geographical complexities of his disappearance. Yet, students will have the chance to understand all aspects of his case by following the processes of a cold case review.

“Using established police processes and the expertise of volunteers from Locate International, students have the opportunity to explore the case file, provide reports, and generate further lines of inquiry from their own research.

“The unit will follow the same format as a major incident room, and the skills the students will bring can hopefully identify possible areas of development in Charles’ case.”


Charles’ mother Denise Horvath-Allan, who lives in Richmond, London, has been emotionally and financially ¬≠devastated by three decades of searching for her only child.

The retired beauty salon owner, who starred in the Missing People Choir on Britain’s Got Talent, said:

“The lives of my family have been devastated, surviving thirty-one years without answers; it's been like living on a rollercoaster to hell.

“The torment, loss and pain of a child missing is unimaginable, especially thousands of miles away from home across the ocean at the other side of the world.

“Regardless, one has to keep going, fighting for justice and truth. How can you not stop until you know the fate of your child?

“I always believed if I fought and worked hard enough, I would find the answers to my young son’s demise, as yet I have not been successful but my search for Charles will continue as long as I can stand, walk and talk I will search for my young son until the day I die.

“I am fortunate there have been kind people along the way who have helped me, sadly it doesn’t get easier, it gets harder with each passing day.

“The long thirty-one-year search for Charles has taken me to my physical, mental and financial limits. Help is essential to ensure the search for Charles goes on.

“Having lived with Charles in Yorkshire for most of our lives, it is wonderful to receive the investigative support of the team at Leeds Beckett University and specialists at Locate International to continue the search for years to come.

“Their support will be invaluable to me and my family. I hope their work will grow to assist so many other families whose missing loved ones need to find their way home.”


Dave Grimstead, Co-Founder at Locate International, said:

“Even thorough investigations often remain unsolved, sometimes a fresh pair of eyes or more time than the police can give it can be the difference between success and another unsolved case.

“The reality of demands on the police service means that not every investigation is complete or accurate. This is where the team at LBU can make a difference, but the challenge should not be underestimated. These investigations require dedication and creativity.

“Denise Horvath-Allan has been searching for her son for over 30 years. However, we know that even after that time our teams can find ways to help improve the investigation working with both families and the police.

“Our teams apply the methodology used by major crime review teams and former detectives work side-by-side with the teams at Leeds Beckett University.”

For more information or if you have a case that you need reviewed or assistance with, visit

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