Mind games, a custody battle, and a broken rudder: the full Alan Langdon story

Alan Langdon calmly walking around on the deck of his catamaran in Ulladulla Harbour.
Milton Ulladulla Times

Alan Langdon calmly walking around on the deck of his catamaran in Ulladulla Harbour.

When the news first broke on Boxing Day it seemed like a normal missing persons story.

Father and six-year-old daughter Alan and Que Langdon had set sail from Waikato on December 17, telling others they were aiming to make the Bay of Islands by Christmas. They hadn't shown up and had been reported missing. Police had "grave concerns" for their safety - particularly as they were sailing on a small six-metre catamaran.

Now, 25 days later, Langdon and Que have been found safe and well in a coastal Australian town, hundreds of kilometres across the Tasman sea.

The over 2000km journey it appears Langdon and daughter Que made on a six-metre catamaran.
Google Maps

The over 2000km journey it appears Langdon and daughter Que made on a six-metre catamaran.

During those 25 days more and more details about Langdon's past and possible plans have emerged, complicating the simple "missing person" story.

* Alan Langdon and his daughter may be in Australia
Alan Langdon threatened to disappear with daughter before
Missing boatie Alan Langdon estranged from close family
Alan and Que Langdon could reach Australia 
Mum hires child recovery expert to search for daughter 

This six-metre catamaran made it across the Tasman.

This six-metre catamaran made it across the Tasman.

Most importantly: the 49-year-old was embroiled in a custody dispute with Que's mother, his estranged wife Ariane Wyler. Speculation indicated there was an impending family court decision at play.

Wyler, who is based in Nelson but was visiting her homeland of Switzerland for the holidays, found out the pair were missing through Langdon's parents, who he is also estranged from.

She believed Langdon was heading for Australia, where he had previously lived. She revealed that Que's passport was being held by a court registrar as Langdon was considered a flight risk.

Ariane Wyler and daughter Que.

Ariane Wyler and daughter Que.

Police took her seriously, alerting Interpol, Australian border control, and looking into Langdon's bank accounts.

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Wyler was confident that Langdon and Que were safe.

"I am strongly convinced that they both are alive, well and safe," she said.

Alan Langdon and his daughter Que Langdon.

Alan Langdon and his daughter Que Langdon.

"I am deeply distressed about this current situation and miss my daughter Que greatly."

Just before the year ended, Wyler hired Australian child recovery specialist Col Chapman - for the second time.

Chapman had helped Wyler find Langdon and Que more than a year ago, when the pair were found living rurally in Australia after their catamaran was destroyed in Cyclone Pam. He was eventually tracked to the New South Wales town of Nimbin, living in a campervan with Que on a large farm.

On January 3, the Police called off their expensive physical search of the coastline. They had scoped the entire west coast of the North Island - from Cape Reinga to Wellington - and down the east coast to the Bay of Island. The search operation had involved several aircraft and many boats. But they hadn't seen anything. 

As the days wore on, Langdon's character began to be questioned. When he was first reported missing, locals were happy to go on the record to speak well of him, describing "Paddles" as a well-respected member of the community.

Now his friends didn't want to use their names - but were happy to talk.

Alan Langdon speaks with Border Force officials at Ulladulla Harbour.
Ulladulla Times

Alan Langdon speaks with Border Force officials at Ulladulla Harbour.

"Paddles was a s... husband," one said.

"Paddles would come over all the time with Que. She adored her daddy. He really doted on her .... But I would hate to be his wife. He used psychological games on Ariane, he would mess with her head quite a bit."

Another friend had a simple message for him.

"Grow up. Look at what you have put everyone through. Bring Que back." 

Wyler told RNZ Langdon had verbally threatened her in the past.

"Not only once, more than once, that I will never see my daughter again and I will not be able to find them."

Everyone agreed on one thing: that Langdon was an extremely competent sailor.

Chapman, the child recovery expert, was sure he had headed to Australia. The small vessel would make it a challenge, but not impossible. Indeed, it would actually help when he got closer to the shore, as coast guards would assume a boat that small could only have come from Australia.

"He doesn't look like he's come from New Zealand in that little thing," Chapman told NZME. 

On Wednesday, Chapman revealed an official source had told him the pair were alive and well in the Australian coastal town of Ulladulla in New South Wales. New Zealand Police put out a press release confirming the find soon after.

The town is over 2000km across the Tasman Sea from Kawhia where the pair set out.

Both are alive and healthy, but the trip didn't seem to go quite according to plan, with a broken rudder forcing them into harbour - and the attention of border officials.

One of their rudders broke four days into their 27-day journey, meaning they only had one rudder to steer with.

"I tell you I learnt a lot about sailing," Langdon said, appearing completely relaxed about the ordeal.

"We had plenty of food and saw lots of whales," he said.

"I'm looking forward to some rest."

 - Stuff

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