Inside the search for Dr Michael Mosley on Greek island, as key questions about his death remain unexplained

10 June 2024, 09:53

Dr Michael Mosley died on the island of Symi
Dr Michael Mosley died on the island of Symi. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Dr Michael Mosley's body was found on Sunday on the Greek island of Symi after he vanished four days earlier, but his death remains shrouded in mystery.

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Rescuers from several emergency services scoured the island 25 mi² island for several days before he was found after being spotted - seemingly by chance - by the island's mayor and a TV crew.

Dr Mosley, 67, had been on the island with his wife Dr Clare Bailey for about a day, having arrived on Tuesday.

They spent the morning swimming and relaxing at the Saint Nicholas (Agios Nikolaos) beach on the east side of the island.

He set off from the beach on Wednesday at about 1.30pm on Wednesday for a journey to their villa in Symi town.

Read more: Dr Michael Mosley's body 'found 100m from safety', as last hike revealed, with wife Clare saying 'he nearly made it'

Read more: 'We had an incredibly lucky life together': Dr Michael Mosley's wife pays tribute after body found on Greek island

Dr Michael Mosley
Dr Michael Mosley. Picture: Alamy

The trip should have taken around 20 minutes - but Dr Mosley never arrived, and his wife raised the alarm at around 7pm.

Local police didn't turn anything up, so they asked for help from authorities in Athens, the Greek capital, around 250 miles away across the Aegean Sea.

The Greek fire department arrived on Thursday afternoon and began searching with firefighters and a drone.

Later on that evening, a helicopter joined in with the hunt for Dr Mosley.

On Friday, divers began searching in the seas around the island but didn't find anything in the water.

The area of Symi where he went missing
The area of Symi where he went missing. Picture: PA Graphics

On Saturday, the emergency services search continued. Dr Bailey, Dr Mosley's wife, said she would not give up hope, and thanked the searchers for their efforts. The couple's children flew out to the island to help with the search.

On Sunday, the island's mayor Eleftherios Papakalodoukas had travelled to help with the search in Agia Marina, a resort area in the north-east of the island in the opposite direction from Symi town if someone was coming from St Nicholas Beach.

He was leaving via boat with a TV crew when they spotted something on the cliffs that looked unusual.

Mr Papakalodoukas alerted a local restaurant manager, who found that it was a body by the perimeter fence of the resort - and it turned out to be Dr Mosley's.

Dr Mosley had come within 100 metres of safety.

Agia Marina in Symi, Greece, where the body of TV doctor and columnist Michael Mosley was discovered
Agia Marina in Symi, Greece, where the body of TV doctor and columnist Michael Mosley was discovered. Picture: Alamy

Why did it take so long to find him?

The search initially focused on the coastal path from St Nicholas beach to the village of Pedi, which is on the way to Symi town. The path is a steep set of steps that usually takes about 12 minutes to walk.

But when nothing was found, emergency service staff turned their attention to Pedi, which is where they found their first clue.

Dr Mosley was spotted on CCTV - holding a distinctive purple umbrella to shield him from the scorching 40C heat - walking in Pedi.

It was clear that instead of getting a bus or taxi into Symi, he then turned right up a dangerous and steep mountain path, where poisonous snakes have been known to roam.

This path leads to Agia Marina, the resort close to where he was eventually found. But most locals wouldn't use the path, especially in the extreme heat; visitors to the resort usually take a water taxi.

It remains unclear why it took so long to find him in this spot. The helicopter is said to have hovered over the area on Saturday.

Ilias Tsavaris, the manager of a local restaurant, said firefighters had searched around that area and had climbed very close to where the body was eventually found.

Firemen and policemen in the area where Dr Mosley was discovered
Firemen and policemen in the area where Dr Mosley was discovered. Picture: Alamy

Why did Dr Mosley take the wrong turn?

It is unclear why Dr Mosley turned up the cliff path to Agia Marina, instead of continuing from Pedi to the town of Symi, where he and his wife were staying.

It may be that he was disoriented by the 40C heat, or simply that he was confused about the right way back to the house, given that they had only recently arrived on the island.

It is unclear whether he took the mountain path all the way to Agia Marina, or whether he veered off at a certain point.

Agia Marina bar manager Ilias Tsavaris, who helped discover the body
Agia Marina bar manager Ilias Tsavaris, who helped discover the body. Picture: Alamy

Did he know he was close to safety?

Dr Mosley came with 100 metres of Agia Marina and safety, a fact that his wife said gave her comfort.

But it is unclear if he knew how close he was, and if he made an attempt to get through the perimeter fence.

Part of the search team
Part of the search team. Picture: Alamy

How long was his body there?

CCTV footage from Agia Marina shows that Dr Mosley was by the perimeter fence of the resort about two hours and fifteen minutes after he left St Nicholas Beach.

That suggests that his body lay undiscovered close to the resort for around four days before it was found.

A member of the search team flying a drone i
A member of the search team flying a drone i. Picture: Alamy

Why didn't he have his phone with him?

Dr Mosley set off from the beach without his phone, which is quite unusual in 2024, although it is unclear if it would be out of character for him.

If he had been able to communicate about his predicament, he might have raised the alarm sooner.

Even if he were unable to call for help, rescue teams might have been able to track his location via his phone signal.

Dr Mosley and his wife Dr Clare Bailey
Dr Mosley and his wife Dr Clare Bailey. Picture: Alamy

Why didn't he have more water with him?

Dr Mosley is said only to have brought a small bottle of water with him for his journey, despite the intense heat.

However, if he was expecting to get back to his holiday house within 20 minutes, he might have thought he didn't need more water to stay hydrated.

Michael Mosley
Michael Mosley. Picture: Alamy

Did he suffer a repeat of the amnesia attack he suffered in 2019?

Dr Mosley suffered a bout of amnesia in 2019, which was brought on by swimming in freezing cold waters off Cornwall.

He said: "I didn’t have any obvious signs of physical or facial weakness, nor was my speech slurred – both telltale signs of a TIA (transient ischaemic attack) and a stroke.

"I was lucid and the only thing that was obviously wrong with me was the fact that I had no memory of how I’d got there, or what had happened to me."

He said he would not go cold water swimming again.

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