Arjen Kamphuis’ effects found in the sea but his phones were turned on 1,000 miles away
Fri 14 Sep 2018 00.00 EDTLast modified on Sat 15 Sep 2018 10.40 EDT
Arjen Kamphuis, a leading Dutch cybersecurity expert, who went missing in the Arctic circle in August. Photograph: Dennis van Zuijlekom
On 20 August, Arjen Kamphuis, a leading Dutch cybersecurity expert, checked out of his hotel in Bodø, northern Norway. He had told friends that he planned to take the train to Trondheim, 10 hours away.
He never boarded the train. Nor, two days later at the supposed end of his holiday, did he catch his return flight to Amsterdam. An intensive search by Norwegian police, and two Dutch investigators dispatched to help them has failed to locate him.
A kayak believed to belong to Kamphuis, who advised governments, corporations, journalists and activists on information security, was pulled from the sea about 50km from Bodø on Thursday, police said, the day after an amateur fisherman found some of his belongings – reportedly including an ID card – floating in the water.
But mobile phone records show that 10 days after the Dutchman was seen leaving his hotel, both his work and personal mobile phones were briefly switched on – with German SIM cards inserted – more than 1,700km from the small northern town, at Vikeså near Stavanger.
Police said on Thursday they were “holding all possibilities open in respect to what might have happened” to Kamphuis and pursuing three distinct lines of inquiry: a “voluntary disappearance” including a possible suicide; an accident; or foul play.
Foldable kayak pulled from the sea by police in connection with the Arjen Kamphuis case the day after an amateur fisherman found some of his belongings – reportedly including an ID card – floating in the water. Photograph: Norwegian Police Handout/EPA
But if investigators have no clear idea of what happened, the internet has plenty – mainly because on 1 September the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks tweeted to its 5.4 million followers: “@JulianAssange associate and author of ‘Information Security for Journalists’ @ArjenKamphuis has disappeared.”
The anti-secrecy organisation has since published several updates and comments on the investigation, describing Kamphuis’s disappearance as “strange” and highlighting the fact that his phone was activated a long way from where his belongings were found.
The site’s followers have suggested variously that Kamphuis, an outspoken campaigner for online privacy rights, was kidnapped or even murdered by the US, British or Russian secret services, or perhaps by Islamists.
Alternatively, they speculated, he may have gone undercover on a secret mission for Assange, the group’s founder, who has been living in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since June 2012.
Police have denied any connection between Kamphuis’s disappearance and the fact that Bodø houses a Norwegian military airbase, and that buried deep inside a nearby mountain is a major part of the Scandinavian country’s secret cyber defense operations.