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Death: A Pantomime

As I was watching the finale of Sherlock last night, a fun little thought experiment popped into my head and I thought you folks would be the perfect lab to try it out in. I hemmed and hawed for a little while over whether this was too hard or too easy--which is probably a good sign. So. On to one of the more overused tropes in any genre!

How would you go about faking your own death?

Like any good story, there have to be some restrictions, of course.

1. You must appear to die in front of witnesses. No simply sending a mass email from a fake account. The method of death, however, is up to you. You must appear credibly dead for at least a brief period of time.

2. You cannot use anything or anyone you do not actually have access to in your real life. If you don't know someone who is amazing at Hollywood-level makeup and could keep your secret, or aren't besties with a coroner, you can't manifest them out of thin air for this scenario. (If you do, however, knock yourself out.)

Oddly enough, this has come up in my family. The minute I mentioned that I was thinking of asking Charlie's commenters to fake their own deaths, my husband said: Oh, we kind of had to do that back in Russia! He may actually be the child of some kind of Soviet superhero breeding program, given how often he busts out these kinds of stories.

Turns out, in order to immigrate to the United States, Dmitri's father, despite being in his 40s, had to secure either his father's permission or his father's death certificate. They did not have either. Why? Because apparently, "his father's disappearance was a mystery." I'm quoting directly so you will know how very like the beginning of a Holmes story this sounded.

Thus, the family had to bureaucratically fake a death which none of them could be sure had actually occurred and produce a death certificate out of nothing.

Obviously, I'm asking you for a slightly tougher task, with a pesky body to swap or mangle or vanish. But do consider to whom you will be faking your death: who in your life would have to believe you are beyond this mortal coil in order for you to be effectively deceased? Who would keep your secret? This is where the too hard/too easy thing comes in. People are really more likely to believe anything they're told or see that's remotely plausible, I think, than kids in murder mystery shows. But at the same time, if a death is too flashy, in the real world there's usually an investigation, which would sink you unless you were very good.

But I have faith in you! The game is afoot!

Edit: Please be as elaborate as possible--that's part of the fun. Also, no more boating scenarios, we're full up. And as the conversation has evolved, feel free consider how one lives in the world post-death.

91 Comments

1:

Probably the easiest way would be to stage the old boating-after-dark-while-drunk in a body of water that would be too large/tidally-active to thoroughly drag/search for the body, but that the boat would be found anchored/snagged-on-branches relatively near the launch point.

Then it's just a question of hiding out long enough and far enough away from one's usual haunts to accomplish what was to be accomplished by having oneself declared dead.

2:

Hmm interesting question. It would have to be somewhere secluded or where help would be slow to come and the cause of 'death' should probably be environmental so as to avoid complication.

My plan would be to organise a night out with friends somewhere like Brighton. Get together people with a reputation for going too far, after getting drunk (not me, I'll be cheating with alcohol free beers or vodka and mixa sans vodka) I'd suggest going to the beach. Then start a dare to see who is man enough to go skinny dipping. From there I just pretend to drown, in the dark and with drunk swimmers it should be relatively easy to swim "too far out" and then act like I am floundering before finally going under.

Then I'd swim parallel to the beach coming up as infrequently as possible for air. In a more secluded part I'd come ashore, preferably find a bag with some essential supplies and start a new life as a hobo.

3:

As for the requirement for witnesses, your launching point would be from a party with lots of attendees, where you were visibly and thoroughly "drunk", but insistent enough to commandeer a boat and set out on the waves.

4:

Ha! Great minds think alike

5:

Easy enough; I live in Australia. People disappear while swimming here all the time, usually due to strong currents but occasionally due to the various unpleasant forms of sea life of which we have an abundance.

We actually lost the leader of our country to this back in the 60's; Prime Minister Harold Holt went for a swim one morning and was never seen again.

So anyway; all I'd have to do is go swimming with friends after having weighed down my scuba gear somewhere offshore beforehand - I locate it, then yell something about a strong current dragging me under, then dive down, pop on my scuba gear, swim somewhere out of sight before surfacing and I'm free to scam an insurance company or defect to Cuba or whatever.

6:

Reggie Perrin for me. Enough people know I enjoy swimming and have swum alone. One of the areas in which I used to swim isn't immediately dangerous, but swim out a little way into the sea and is very dangerous. It's relatively easy to swim to somewhere to get out of the water unobserved. I have a standing invitation to return to that part of the coast.

Best bit? As long as I can keep quiet, no need to involve anyone else. Tell them I'm going for a swim in the morning when I wake up, leave a suicide note and a pile of clothes. Hide some clothes the night before. Taxi away from scene of death, vanish.

7:

Also, I probably should have refreshed before writing a reply, as it looks like everyone has the "disappear while swimming" idea.

8:

The disappearing-via-water approach could have a variant of a small bladder of blood burst near the surface to indicate being bitten from below. Would only really work in sharky areas, of course.

9:

Bursting a bladder of blood in sharky areas might lead to a *non*-faked death by shark, of course...

10:

Drowning, far out at sea or in an area known for strong tides or current. And I think they completely botched the end of Sherlock. How would you have ended it?

11:

Boating and swimming offer a readymade concealment environment (underwater) and numerous accident methods (apparent / faked drowning, boat sinks, boat on fire). Done at the right place, time of year, and day you have lots of witnesses who will be utterly unable to get involved.

Tom Clancy did a good variation on this for how one of the later-CIA people dissapeared himself - while pursued in his boat by a police boat, cuts too close in front of a freighter and is run over and his boat smashed/sunk. The scuba gear and dive overboard on the far side from the police weren't noticed, and after a while he swims away over to a nearby sailboat with CIA accomplices. Everyone on the police boat and freigher are witnesses and sure he died, as there was clearly no body on the surface afterwards...

Car goes into water is another really good one. Car sinks, ideally in a pre-prepared way (i.e. pre-vent it), and you're on Scuba gear ....

Aircraft are another one, if you can radio control an unmanned aircraft into a crash after making people think you got in it.

Building fire, where you "rush in to rescue someone" and escape out a secretly prepared hidden exit, then trigger large bang / collapse etc.

12:

Greg--

Well, how "I would have ended it" is more complicated than that, because I feel every episode of Sherlock has a good set up (except The Blind Banker, that's just bad all round) and then completely falls apart. The show is so in love with Sherlock himself that no one else can have time to breathe--and this doesn't even get into Moffat's issues with women, which are legion and on full display in Sherlock.

So how I would have ended it depends on what you see as the restrictions of the episode. The creators seem to be confirming Moriarty is dead, which I think is a mistake, since everything up til now was so wrapped up in Moriarty it would seem Sherlock will have nothing to do. If one has to go to Reichenbach this early, well, I suppose winging it off a building is as good a way as any. Too bad the mystery made no sense, Sherlock apparently knows nothing about computers or code at all, the police apparently never investigated the idea that M might have inside help with his heists and/or jury tampering, and Moriarty's motivation got chewed up along with the rest of the scenery. I just would have written a completely different mystery, is the point.

How do you think they blew it, specifically?

13:

To fake one's own death requires either no body, or a body which cannot be identified from physical remains. If the intention is to make the death appear violent, spreading half a litre of one's own blood around a faked crime scene should do it. Maybe leave a bloodstained knife (with some tissue attached) or some shell cases around would also help.

14:

Something to think about if one were to do this would be to make it as simple and plausible as possible. Trying to fake a crime would attract a lot of forensic attention with the police pursuing you as a possible abduction/murder victim. Your picture would be everywhere for weeks-months and every aspect of your life would be picked over with a fine tooth comb.

I think this is why everyone immediately thought of drowning at sea. It's a plausible accident and it gets rid of the need for producing a body.

An alternate idea that comes to mind is a serendipitous natural disaster. If you were on holiday when a Tsunami, Earthquake etc started you could run away and be presumed lost (assuming you survived of course).

15:

I'd pick a third-world country with a poor transport safety record plus corrupt officials, then wait for a fatal crash, preferably a bad fire, ocean crash or sinking ship. Then I'd bribe someone to put my name on the passenger list, or preferably break into their systems and insert my name. I would then never go anywhere I'd ever been before, never contact anyone I knew ever again.

I've heard unverifiable claims that a particular rock band's manager did exactly that in N Africa at the same time their main client's funds disappeared.

Failing that, I've got a mate who is a doctor. If I could persuade them to become a pathologist, and if I had a brother who was something senior in the security services plus I had the recently deceased dead body of my hated enemy, I'd just dress the enemy up as me, chuck them off a roof after phoning a friend who could see "me" from a couple of hundred feet away. Then I'd rapidly abseil off the reverse side of the building and swap places with the body, using some trick to prevent a pulse (squash ball in armpit), while my brother's plainclothes agents distract the witnesses and keep them from further examining my body.

The trouble with being "dead" is that nobody's going to look for you if you disappear later so you're probably a lot easier to murder.

16:

The other problem with being officially dead is that your passport will no longer work.

17:

To be convincing. One would need an accomplice. Borrowing from an earlier Sherlock. I like the idea of removing a pint of blood from one self for later use. A little goes a long way.

This is the setup. Park my car near a good set of surveillance cameras. ( Banks, Traffic cams, shopping malls). Go to a bar or dinner with friends and my accomplice. Alone after the festivities and late at night, I return to retrieve my car unaware of my surroundings. My accomplice dressed as a robber, preferably with a hood, demands money from me. A fight ensues and they stab me many times; faked of course. ( I figure a knife would be easier then getting a gun and blanks.. though those are always an option). They throw me into the trunk of my car an we drive off somewhere prearranged. Spill the saved blood in the trunk and hope they find the car over time. Later in a day or two have my accomplice call the police with information that I went missing and the last night that they heard from me was the night we were all together with my friends. Don't give the police too much information. Just let them find the evidence on their own.

18:

One criminal in America put his own death notice as dying far away in the newspaper. The police stopped looking and the name was taken off the wanted list. He did nothing that would make the news and lasted for years. After ten years or so his finger prints were taken and it was over. Or he could go swimming in Aruba

19:

Oh, getting passports is easy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_marks

20:

Beat me to it, swimming off into the ocean. All these shark alerts really help, as does the fact that they have never found some drowning victims. Heck, just going on some of the riskier parts of the coast might work.

The real problem is what happens next. Living dead means effectively becoming an illegal immigrant with no country, and that's a hard way to live, anyway close to legally.

21:

I think faking the death would be relatively easy for me--I live near the Golden Gate Bridge, so I could just leave a note, leave my apartment and never return. The problem would be what to do afterwards. It would depend on why I was faking my death, but I'd assume I couldn't trust any of my family or friends--even if they wouldn't tell the authorities, it would be way too easy for them to slip up and reveal my existence to someone not in on the plot, and eventually someone would go to the cops. Also, withdrawing my savings (what savings? ZING!) just before my death would probably be very suspicious and throw the whole story into question. Best to just act totally normal until the day in question. So afterwards, I'd have to survive basically as a newly homeless person. Doable, perhaps, especially given that I'm typing this on a 60-degree day in January (SF FTW!) but certainly not fun.

22:

An alternative, much-easier way to fake your own death is to attempt to vote in South Carolina, apparently.

23:

The old-cadaver-from-the-hospital/grave identity swap best tried when a close relative of similar age/gender recently passed away. Would have needed to also have left behind some DNA tissue sample for identity verification.

24:

Changing your DNA samples is pretty easy - retrovirii used for gene therapy will do that.

So you'd need to establish that your DNA was valid proof of your existence, that your new DNA was valid proof of your new existence, and then use the lack of the existence of anyone with the old DNA as proof you were dead.

Seven year disappearance rules - do they still apply?

25:

OK, this is nasty, but I think that it works. First find someone down on their luck who will commit a minor crime for money and keep quiet about it. Someone down on their luck and similar size and build to you. The crime only needs to be big enough for them to be arrested and have their DNA taken - they give your name, and use your credentials. You just want them to get a fine or community service or something. You'll need a credible story as to why you can't take the wrap and they should.

What that achieves is getting their DNA in the police database with your name on it.

Then, wait a while. 6 months should do it. Then (sorry, this is the nasty part) kill them. An accident that doesn't leave much to identify would be best - a big fire, for instance.

Job done, and as a bonus you can take over their identity after the dirty deed.

26:

I know someone who recently rather convincingly faked his own death.* And it was pretty easy: he got stinking drunk one night (which had been his habit for the past few months), drove out to the Louisiana marshland and abandoned his car. Hasn't been seen or heard from since.

With a fake identity (which is actually not that hard to get. One of the rare truth in television facts that a few grand and a couple of passport photos can get you the right papers) you could just hop a cab to the airport and fly off to anywhere in the world and start a new life.

As long as no one suspects you are using a fake identity, no one is going to look into the matter.

The way this works is because you've created a bureaucratic black hole in the middle of the scenario. The Louisiana police think you were dragged away by a gator, so you're a missing person cold case (and if you happen to be a dead beat philanderer with two ex wives, no one is really going to spend much effort trying to prove otherwise). Meanwhile, your new friends and acquaintances in Prague have no reason to think that you're not an American expat with no family to speak of back to in Louisiana.


*it's also possible that he really did get drunkenly eaten by an alligator. That's what makes the scenario so plausible: verisimilitude. While it doesn't happen often, it occurs just frequently enough to be a real thing that happens.

27:

The witnesses are the issue. People who see something catastrophic happen to another human usually want to help, or at least pick up the remains so that building demolishers/scuba divers/innocent wanderers don't encounter bleaching bones. So you don't want to be leaving a body behind, particularly with the state of modern forensics.

Which leaves one with the body-of-water solution or its equivalent. Predators: alligator or grizzly bear or mountain lion in North America, a broader spectrum of choices on other continents. Mysteriously vanishing on a hiking trip is good...but hard to have a witness to that. Do other hikers finding a shredded tent and some bloodstains count?

There was a case in California a few years back where a fuel-oil truck was involved in roadway accident. The resulting fire consumed at least one body to the point where positive ID was made from the deceased's engagement ring: the diamond was the only thing that survived the fire. Unfortunately, 2000 degree blazes are difficult to arrange, and even harder to plausibly arrange.

28:

Move somewhere where I have no family, later on forge a death certificate and the like and leave a will stating I was to be cremated immediatley. Not having life insurance to investigate or warrants to dodge makes the whole thing less messy, as long as nobody hires a PI to look into the death.

I'm not sure where to get ashes, but I don't think it's unachievable, could always steal them.

29:

I no longer have the necessary access but during my PhD could easily have done this, with an accomplice or two. Order up a batch of Insulin, or more likely steal it from the lab next door - this avoids a paper-trail and they used to have it in the fridge we shared.

Inject self with rather carefully prepared dose. Have stored own blood - although this is a pain to store without clotting and making it look right actually.

Take insulin aiming for rapid crash to coma. Look very sick and dial accomplices to say "go" then 999, hanging up. Finally collapse first to strike head on a convenient corner, spilling blood. Hire two actors, one ambulance, one of actors to be a first aider (this can be filtered via Equity and would require a small amount of money). Into ambulance "still possibly alive" then glucose injection and disappear en route to hospital. Somewhere like the marketplace, outside a bank etc. would have lots of witnesses but unless you're unlucky no friends/colleagues to follow you to hospital.

Once out of ambulance, vanish. False passport, nice new country ideally. NZ would be a lovely place to live, but reading the NZ Herald it seems a very hard place to get a false passport for. Oh well.

30:

I think the hardest part by far would be getting a repalcement identity, anti immigration laws make getting a job after faking my death pesky.

31:

I would go to the Northern wild lands of Canada in that part of the winter season where the bears are known to be more hungry than usual, after having made very public my desire to become a world famous photographer of arctic wildlife.

I would make several hierachies of camps: A first base camp, an exploration camp and other lesser lookout points each one futher away from the other, deeper into the desolate territory. I would give each one of them a lived-in look. Then, a few hours before a massive snowstorm (one big enough to hide any tracks) I would take out the snowmobile and gas tanks I would have hidden in the back of my track-converted

http://cbt.com.my/cbt-story/track-conversion-system

pickup and head for the first of a series of gasoline caches I would have hidden previously. The caches would make it possible for me to return to a large town without going through any of the villages I would have previously visited, bragging about my future as a famous wildlife photographer and exposing my innocence about bears and other aspects of nature.

P.S. I had started thinking up a sailing boat scenario but too many others got to the boats first.

32:

BigHang53 wrote:

Unfortunately, 2000 degree blazes are difficult to arrange, and even harder to plausibly arrange.

Easy to arrange, even plausibly, but hard to make look like an accident for most situations.

Fuel tankers of some sort on the freeway are the most common one, though propane tank fires or natural gas fires are not unheard of.

Saw a fuel tanker on freeway fire a few years ago, from a distance of (according to Google Earth) 3,400 meters. Full tanker full of gasoline went into a freeway exit curve too fast, turned over and broke open. Driver got out and ran, fire started, went "Kaboom". Several hundred foot tall fireball, in the middle of Petaluma, California. It happened to be the 4th of July... My and my inlaws first impression was that some num-nut had lit a large static propane tank on fire as a stupid July 4th prank.

33:

Though looking back at the original requirements, it doesn't seem like an absolute requirement that you need a death that will pass official scrutiny. So: add remote control to personal automobile, be seen entering it and driving off, swap in mannequin and drive vehicle off cliff, into large river, active volcano, etc. Expense should be under US$1000 for vehicle modifications. Examination of wreck will certainly expose ruse, though confederates could possibly remove evidence. No body, though...

Other scenario: engage in home-cloning fun and frolics, growing several kilos of own flesh. (Liters of blood can be self-sourced and refrigerated.) Join radical political movement, rant about government, conspire, large explosion destroys house, self. DNA analysis of shreds left behind show folly of home chemistry, etc. Downside: large fatal explosion will be investigated by forensic experts...

The problem with surviving your own existence is that you can't take it with you. Any degrees, qualifications, and experience die with your old identity. As a newborn, you have to choose a field of employment (or have enough hidden assets to not have to work) with a very low entry bar...which means you will be competing with recent high school graduates or other slumming expats. Though if you have a hobby that you're good at, this is the time to make it work for you.

34:

"Though if you have a hobby that you're good at, this is the time to make it work for you."

I think we could call this the Breaking Bad scenario.

35:

Actually, now that I think about it, I wonder if the Zetas could use a marketing analyst? It's got to be better than bumming for change, right?

36:

Find someone similar to yourself who has an incurable disease -- last stage of cancer and obviously undergone chemo - with little time left to live and no next of kin. Offer to take him out of country for a last vacation, and why.

You tell your employer, neighbors, friends (online and local) that you're distraught as you've just been diagnosed with something (unspecified) serious, need to think things out, so have decided to travel. You're uncertain how much time you have left.

You and your co-conspirator switch identities upon boarding the plane, using fake passports - basically just switch photos on the passports. He and you (now using the other's name) arrive at the destination and check into a beach-front hotel. He enjoys a few glorious sunsets and dies happy. You, as his 'best friend', get a local death certificate and arrange for immediate burial/cremation, post an obit in the local paper (therefore discoverable on the web) and have the death certificate forwarded to your nearest embassy.

Grief at your best friend's passing causes you to remain longer than 'originally' intended. You check in with the local authorities to legally arrange residency. After a couple of years, you decide to move back 'home' with a verifiable recent history.

If you planned this well - moved accounts offshore, multiple online trading accounts, etc. -- you should be able to afford this. Your own diagnosis would need to set up: send your accomplice's medical history/diagnosis to an out of town M.D. for a 'second opinion'.

As both of you had few ties back home or severed them with a credible story, unless someone investigates using photos etc., it might work.

37:

Damn, the boating situation immediately came to mind, since it's so nice to not have to deal with bodies.

How about a magician's cabinet sort of thing involving a garbage truck? Either I fall into a dumpster or a gang of masked desperadoes chuck me in the back of a truck, in front of witnesses. While I slip through the trapdoor, the crowd gasps in horror as the crusher squeezes down. Chuck a couple of roadkill deer in there for blood and guts, and that's a hell of a scene. I'd have to make sure there was some further destruction to throw an investigation off (fire?), but storing up a few pints of saved blood to chuck around the trash would help.

Since deep water is so appealing, how about, as a change from the boating scenario, a skydiving misadventure over Loch Ness? (Or some similarly deep, dark body of water.) One option would be tossing out a dummy with a malfunctioning parachute, but that's not elaborate enough for your game. I suggest a skydiving session veering off course to land on a deep body of water. Spectators watch helplessly as I struggle to free myself from my chute, but, hopelessly tangled, I sink in no time. And just below the surface of the water is my confederate with either a spare scuba outfit or (more elaborately) a two-man submarine.

38:

The simplest method is to park your car at a large park somewhere, leave a suicide note and sufficient "tool" (loose bullets, wrappings of a tranquilizer package, etc, etc) remainders, then hike overland to the nearest public transit location. Scatter your wallet, cell phone, at least 1-2 clothing items on the way. If you're knowledgeable enough, some blood helps-only do this if you can do a blood draw safely. You want a transit with a minimum of cameras, make sure to change clothing-not only items but type (i.e. if you're a polo shirt and slacks guy, it's time for jeans and a T-shirt). Avoid looking like the Unabomber-yes a hat, no a hoodie.

Get at least 150-200 miles away from your furthest known friend that can identify you on sight (further if they travel for work). You want to find a mid-sized metropolitan area (not a big city, not the middle of nowhere, either) that is relatively ethnically close to what you are, and ONLY do the research on public computers or such. This is the most important-DO NOT check out your electronic or personal contacts. Forget your e-mail, Facebook, LJ, etc, exist-don't read them, don't log in, don't call Mom or Dad to see if they're okay. If you need to have somebody to serve as a contact...paygo phones, disposable, and bought as far apart as possible.

Employment is going to be difficult. Ironically, it'll be easier for women to do this-hint that you were in a "really bad" relationship and you want to do everything you can to avoid the ex. Try to find cash-only jobs, hard to do but possible.

Avoid getting in trouble and avoid old habits-if you like Starbucks, learn to enjoy (insert other coffeeshop chain here). Change your grooming a bit-different makeup, different hair cut, maybe some facial hair, and a shaved head hides many sins (except scalp tattoos). Don't use any "customer loyalty" programs, etc, etc. Learn to try and like different food.

There's ways to get false ID. It is up to you to find them.

39:

As far as Sherlock is concerned, it looks as though too many people might be involved, though it helps a great deal to have a hyperintelligent brother with a track record for faking deaths.

What worries me is that the build-up means he can't come back.

40:

Suppose it doesn't help that I actually have a sailboat and spend quite a bit of time on it. With a boat, you can merely tell people you are heading out to a remote but hazardous destination for a couple of months (in my case the Queen Charlotte Islands or the Aleutians would do), then spend those months heading in the opposite direction. Somewhere along the way repaint and rename the boat. Bonus points if you can figure a way to get someone to drop an EPIRB in the middle of nowhere for you - or perhaps put one on some sort of hydrostatic time release that will start beeping in a month or two (put it in a crab trap that will open and release the EPIRB at a certain time maybe - the trap stays on the bottom forever, the EPIRB floats away bleeping away, perhaps with some bits of identifiable wreckage).

By the time they started looking in the North Pacific I would be in the Cook Islands or something.

All of the ideas that use wild animals as the 'vanishing' explanation assume the critters are going to hide the remains. For the most part, people who are eaten by bears or other wild things tend to have little bits of the them left all about the place. Anyone investigating such a scene would know fairly quickly that something was amiss.

Really, the ocean is one of the last places most of us could hide our own bodies without too much suspicion.

For that matter, if the purpose of faking a death is to accomplish a goal while 'dead' then to miraculously 'come back' then a trip abroad and no messages home would suffice. Take a trip to somewhere foolish (like tenting in Kandahar), then drop off the grid, change passports and come back again in disguise. People will assume you are dead or captured and you will be able to accomplish the goal.

Perhaps a woodchipper and a bunch of carefully hoarded blood and other bits of flesh. Rent a woodchipper to 'clear out the brush in the back of the yard' on a rainy day. Have a few carefully preserved pints of your own saved-up blood, and a change of clothes stashed nearby. Wait until a good moment (preplanned with friends if you have co-conspirators) then throw some of your clothes and the blood into the chipper. The rain will help explain any questions about the volume of material left on the ground. If you could get some bits of bone or other maybe teeth in there that would help a lot I'm sure. When the 'accident' is discovered you are already away in a non-connected vehicle, perhaps with a changed appearance.

41:

Working in a chemical company, there are plenty of accidents waiting to happen. The biggest problem will be getting a body, as I do not think I will be able to kill someone for that.

Then we need to consider the reasons for the disappeareance. Am I so fed up that suicide is a good option? Then a note and the sulphuric acid/steam/giant blender should keep forensics to a minimum. If I want less emotional harm and the insurance money, then an accident will be needed.

Fortunately there are only two people at night in a huge plant, and they take their break together, so that would be a good moment. Prepare a bad batch so I have to go up at night, pass the security with a body in the trunk (graverobbing a small town graveyard is a possibility, though if I am willing to arrange a 500 ton spill of sulfuric acid, just a gold ring might be needed), dress the body previously in part of my work clothes, leave a set of clothes in the locker, drop the body, and leave on foot through a small irrigation channel that crosses the fence.

The later the accident is discovered the less likely any forensicis will be possible, even if there was any doubt. Just take the (small) bone pieces collected in a sieve and give them to the family. They will finally get those safety rails installed, at least.

42:

I would row out to sea on a canoe.

43:

As a variation on the "Reggie Perrin" method, start taking walking holidays in glaciated regions, "fall down a crevace" and reappear with the false papers (already covered). You should now have 1_000 to 50_000 years before your body turns up (or well doesn't actually).

44:

I'd take my time about it, if possible. Every time at the ATM, withdraw 10€ more than I need, and stash those, until there is enough to last a couple of weeks. Keep a low profile otherwise.

Pack a tent, sleeping bag and pair of boots in motorcycle panniers, and park a couple of blocks down the road. Prepare a blood sample.

On a Sunday night, rough up my place to make it look like there'd been a struggle (which is not a lot of work, in this case). Put on old pair of boots, spill the blood (needs to be a realistic spatter pattern, as if from a knife wound), making sure to get some of the blood under the boots. Walk out, leave bloody footprints with your soon-to-be-unidentifiable boots.

Swapping the old boots for the ones stashed on the motorcycle, drive off into the morning, dumping the bloodied boots somewhere far enough from the staged crime scene.

Pass the Danish, then the Swedish border that afternoon -- the border guards will wave through anyone going that way (especially on busy days like Mondays), and won't even look twice if I manage to look like a middle-aged German on his midlife crisis trip up north (again, not a problem).

People would definitely notice my failing to show up at work, but hopefully would not make any inquiries until Tuesday, by which time I'd be most of the way to Finland -- no border guards at all, there.

A full-scale police investigation would be launched on Wednesday, but without witnesses *or* suspects, they'd have to stab around in the dark for a while, following the false leads I'd left at the crime scene. Meanwhile, I'd be busy building a new life and identity in a remote area of Finland, to await the passing of whatever threat had forced me to run.

There -- no body. This would probably be easier to pull of in the continental US, and almost impossible on the British Isles.

45:

Now that I think about it, that's not *actually* faking a death. Bit of a cheat. ;)

46:

Okay, being a Russian citizen I can wholeheartedly confirm — yes there are shady but relatively easy ways to procure a proper-looking death certificate. There's still a paper-loophole (i.e. quite a bunch of civil registries still not computerised), so your way in is not a hacker in your employ but a rather simple bribe.

That leaves the question of relatives and friends — also easy if you're a proper Russian and thus you're great at simulating severe depression. The part with blood trails suggested by several commenters is quite easy.

If my life would depend on it, I guess I'd be willing to lose a few chunks of skin and flesh alongside a litre of blood — we're entering a very dark and uncanny territory here, but you'd rather be alive than picky about the details.

Coming from a family of doctors, I'm still under impression that it's not that hard to bribe your way into a morgue during wintertime, pick a relative lookalike, move it someplace remote and uninhabited, leave for a few days to be bitten by wildlife, make sure the face is unrecognizable, spray the corpse with your blood and personal effects, add some alcohol and make sure that it's a remote rural location so no one would bother to go into details examining the corpse — here's the passport, there's the blood, another case of sad drunken man lost in the woods and frozen to death.

Sorry if all of this sounds like a not-so-funny Dexter episode, but the less romantic it gets , the closer to reality it looks like.

47:

"Find someone similar to yourself who has an incurable disease" makes me imagine a rather macabre personal ad in Private Eye!

48:

$age, $sex, $build WLTM similar with $time prognosis to death from incurable/inoperable condition for purpose of faking own death - $box_no.

LOL!

49:

Faking my own DEATH?
BTW: not read any other posts.
Doyles's Holmes (sorry didn't catch the last bit of the beebs) engineered a situation where there was reasonable doubt that Holmes's body could be missing, and therefore because of circumstances it became plausible that he had died. You would probably have to follow the same route. The easiest would be to go missing on a cross channel ferry, where you have been logged as entering a monitored space (i.e. the ship), and not exiting. The only trick to this one would be getting off the other end without passing through customs and leaving your car on board so it's immediately noticed by the crew during offloading. So you would probably need an accomplice (to smuggle yourself off). Do they have suicide monitoring cctv (fore and Aft) on ships the days? And how heavily are movements monitored on board. I feel a disguise coming on.

50:

Firstly, in the original story, Holmes took advantage of knowing that Watson had seen him fall but not seen him land on the ledge.

Moving on to your ferry idea, my thoughts:-
1) Why do you have to board with a vehicle?
2) Depending on the crossing, you may not have to hand in a "boarding card" when disembarking. In this case, wait a couple of days and then say that you were "last seen boarding $vessel". If you do have to hand in part of a boarding card when disembarking, hand in 2, one i na false name, when boarding, and only hand in the one in the false name when you disembark.

51:

Um, no: Watson was called away from the walk up to viewing point at the Reichenbach Falls to treat a sick woman, as engineered by Moriarty. When they went looking for Holmes, they found Holmes' footprints and an unknown (Moriarty's) set going up and none returning. They got to the end of the path and found signs of a struggle, the alpstock Holmes had been carrying, and his cigarette case with an "I am most likely dead" note inside.
He faked his death by climbing up from the viewing point to a higher path - dodging Colonel Moran throwing rocks on his way up, of course.

52:

hmm,

two things spring to mind.

1. Reggie Perrin

2. That bloke who paddled his canoe out to sea.


If someone has two passports, from different countries, can't they leave on one passport, wander around europe and come back on the other one?

it's not that hard to get two passports - from commonwealth countries at least. (you have to live there for a bit of course).

53:

Its about creating a paper trail and no reasonable doubt, the first thing that any coroner would do in any suspected death/disapearance is to investigate any available materials, IE video, and any other evidence, they would have to be satisfied that the individual had died, its their job to be suspicious, especially if you have a good reason to fake your death, which is spose you would have if you were doing it. The problem is with any missing persons case is that its just a missing person, until theres a body. Unless theres a death certificate, your just missing. The Car is all about making sure that there is an immediate investigation, not a where has he got to by the nearest and dearest a few days later.

54:

Paper trail says that GoodPaws and EbilPaws both booked on $ferry and boarded same. Only EbilPaws disembarked. The simplest conclusion is that GoodPaws fell overboard.

55:

Sorry Didn't quite get to the post script on that one, oops maritime scenario. Alternative ways to imply death without a body:
House Fire, with a replacement corpse Cons(Dental Record, where does the corpse come from)
Get caught in a natural Disaster(Cons: how to predict it (unless you create it)) and making sure you don't get dead for real.
War Zone: Disappear in Afghanistan or Syria these days, and you'd be assumed dead fairly quickly. (cons: have to get there in the first place)
Get Murdered: Now this is complex, you would have to create evidence that someone has done you in, even to supplying forensic evidence.

Living afterwards: Problems (Money and Identity documents) as to Money just change a lot into small valuables (How to hide that from investigators, wish I had that sort of Money). Identity papers (know any good Forgers, I don't). I conclude I could not convincingly fake my death nor survive afterwards. Nor would I want to.

56:

Alternative ways to imply death without a body:

Disappear, then get someone to confess to killing you and destroying your body. If there was evidence that he'd done the same thing to other people, then I think he'd be believed, even in the absence of other incontrovertible forensic evidence.

First find your convicted serial killer, though. Then find some way of persuading him to do you a favour.

Alternatively, you need a body that looks similar to yours, and an accomplice. You can sidestep all the problems about forensic evidence and dental records and so on if your widow is willing to stand there, look at the corpse and say "yes, this is definitely my late husband". Police probably wouldn't bother doing any further checks if there was nothing suspicious about the death.

57:

So long as the number of people at the initial incident is at least 3, I can rig it up pretty easily for myself. The parties involve me (of course), a witnessing friend, and another friend that is, in fact, a trained nurse. While the latter necessitates being sworn to secrecy as to the endeavor, it is then no problem at all to fake suicide by means of an opened bottle of powerful tranquilizers, a quick bath in ice-cold water, some vodka, a couple rubber tourniquets, and perhaps one fresh onion.

Now, the masquerade can't be kept up indefinitely - not if there is any reason to be suspicious of your continued involvement in living affairs - but it'll convince witnesses long enough, or ward off their questions long enough, for you to then break out of the hospital and make a run for things, leaving behind a co-conspirator painfully weeping to tell sincerely of how cold, clammy and lifeless your skin was to the touch.

58:

Should be fairly easy. I'm in the Navy, so whilst deployed, I could act somewhat depressed, then one evening whilst in foreign waters, and within a mile or two of land, hop over the arse-end with a waterproof sack with a change of clothes, my passport, and a wad of local currency; this would obtained through a money-changer at my previous port of call. Swim ashore, then hop on public transport -as far into the middle of nowhere as possible- get accommodation, then do casual work for as long as it takes to be presumed dead. After that, I could get unofficial work on a civvy seagoing affair(a shoddy one which wouldn't bother to check up on my passport properly), and work my way to a more preferable country, then live out the rest of my days there. I think that even though no-one witnessed me going over the side, I see 200 or so people on a daily basis, and my disappearance would be noticed within a couple of hours.

59:

So how will Moffat resurrect Holmes? Unlike the book, our modern day Watson saw him fall to the pavement and briefly examined the body before it was removed. He wouldn't be fooled by a substitute. A mystery worthy of Penn & Teller to construct.

Or is Moffat going to do a Dr Who on us? And if Holmes didn't die, why should Moriarty in apparently similar circumstances?

The coolest fooling of death was Hugh Jackman's Robert Angler in "The Prestige", but the duplication of a person is out of bounds for this thought experiment.

As most of commenters have suggested, the best solution is using the illusion of logic, implying events that seem to be the best explanation, even though untrue. A missing body, presumed drowned, avoids the problem of increasingly detailed examination and testing.

60:

The comment about the British Isles is crucial. Given our esteemed host, I think the terms of the competition should stipulate that you are starting with a British passport and in Edinburgh. It does strike me that this whole exercise would be a great deal easier with a European passport, a couple of languages and starting in continental Europe.

There does seem to be a big emphasis in the comments on faking the death and not much on creating the alternate identity. ISTR fairly recently seeing somebody talk about the typical Macleod/Stross Scottish near future. The suggestion was that part of responsible parenting would be the creation and maintenance of a set of identities for your kids. Then when they hit problems as adults they had an alternative but fully complete identity or two to step into.

61:

If we assume Sherlock's POV is accurate (and Holmes is being fooled by Sherlock by some means that we will see eventually), then I'm pretty sure (as in the ACD) that Moriarty is dead.

Holmes witnessed him putting a gun into his mouth and pulling the trigger. OK, I'm pretty sure with the time and effort you could fake a crowd out that way. But in the context of the series, faking Holmes out at arm's length... stretching the point a little.

OK, we are told that Moriarty can fake Sherlock out with the "few lines of computer code to invade anywhere" but by that time we have no idea what Sherlock knows, has deduced etc. Is he playing the game that he's "got the code" to string Moriarty along, knowing that getting him to feel like he's won will make him boastful? Is he actually fooled? Is he suspicious (I certainly was and was relieved when it was revealed to be a hoax by Moriarty, but then I do code for a living) and trying to get a confirmation - if anyone could do such a thing, Moriarty would be one of a very short list after all.

If you want to know my predictions for how Holmes survived follow the link to my blog. It's still pretty near the top. Seems wrong to link to my own blog on an off-topic post.

62:

Just book passage on the Mary Celeste.

63:

Alex--

I think it's fairly clear Molly was heavily involved, and so, I suspect, was the truck full of soft things that pulled away after the fall. The homeless network, the squash ball, and most probably the rhodedendron plant (which causes paralysis and can be used to fake no pulse) all likely figure in. Moffat has said the big clue is something Sherlock did that was out of character. I think it's this: he cried. I found myself quite surprised at that in the moment--why would he cry if he knows he's faking, as we know he must?

Well, that rhody plant? Side effect: tears.

64:

"not much on creating the alternate identity"

True. I think most of us are going to end up unemployed in Greenland.

65:

Reading both yours and Cat's explanations, plus looking at the sequence again, I think there is a possible explanation.

I agree that the truck in front of Sherlock, leaving as he is examined on the sidewalk is suspicious. The camera cuts suggest a clean fall, but was it? Also the cyclist hitting Watson and concussing him is relevant, preventing him from being able to examine the body correctly. Holmes also positions Watson to stage the jump.

My guess is that Holmes jumped and landed on the truck. Then either he drops to the sidewalk, or the possible dead double is dropped there. Watson sees what he expects to see, Holmes on the sidewalk, and is too discombobulated to detect that it isn't Holmes, but is either a close double, or that Holmes is using drugs to simulate his death, and is subsequently revived.

Very much an illusion done in plain sight.

66:

Witnesses needed, right?

What I would do is pretending to be drunk on a cruiseship a few miles from land and "fall" overboard with witnesses and have a black wetsuit under my clothing. Preferably while raining. After I hit the water I would sink the clothes and swim to shore. The chances of any rescue team finding me before I reached shore are very slim. With an extra t-shirt, shorts and some cash blending in wouldnt be hard when I reached shore if I chose my spot reasonably well.

Barring any boat scenario -

Will video count as a witness?

I think I would take my time, starting with buying a small farm far from family and friends and isolate myself as much as possible. Buy clothes that all look exactly the same (increasing the chance of any neighbours identifying those clothes with me). Get hold of human bones of equivalent size to my own. Get a pint of my own blood.
Start breeding pigs and put out stashes in the forest along my planned escape route.
Put up a surveillance camera, in the pigsty. Dont let the camera cover the area near the entrance.
After some time passes start mistreating the pigs, only feed them a few days a week till they are really starving.
Put up a rope at the edge of the cameras view and stitch together meat, human bones my own hair in a set of blood drenched clothes dropping it so the "corpse" dangles into view above the pigs.

Leave along planned escape route.

If all goes as planned the pigs will eat up everyhting but a few pieces of bone, my blooddrenched clothes and some hair. For anyone watching the tape it will look like a suicide which would seems likely considering my behaviour (isolation, mistreating the pigs). I would probably also be gone for weeks before anyone would discover the "suicide".

67:

Checking out my vacant rental property when a gas leak explosion vaporizes the whole place down to the slab. If it's good enough for Dean Keaton, it's good enough for me.

Or an ammonia pipeline mishap...

68:

There is a local story of a farmer whose wife disappeared--ran off with another man--but he happened to keep pigs.

There have been a few deaths at the local steel works: no body, but witnesses seeing a tragic accident when tipping hot slag onto the slag heaps. I can't arrange a conspiracy to provide the witnesses.

From an account of work at Scunthorpe Steelworks


Two accidents that had happened not so long ago had perhaps triggered this move.

One was where a two men on a platform would shovel a substance that made the slag float to the surface of the orange hot liquid metal in the huge cast steel containers below the platform.

One day one man slipped and plunged down into the liquid metal.

there was a sudden burst of flame and he was gone.

The vat was taken to the tip and as the local vicar read the burial service the vat was emptied down the slag heap.


69:

Personally, I'm starting from a disadvantage. I'm over 2m tall and over 180 kg. I've also had extensive dental work. A body double seems impractical.

I do live in Florida, though. If I waited for a major hurricane (high cat III or more, once a decade), then vanished, I expect that might work. The key is to vanish plausibly when the authorities are overloaded and can't spare the resources to investigate.

70:

Play a long game. Arrange your fake identity *before* you dissapear. Make sure there are photos, DNA samples, dental records, in your name that are in fact not yours. Then emigrate under a second fake identity. Use any of the above-described methods to produce plausible accounts of your own death. Then take up life in Peru or Polynesia or wherever you in fact are now. Your biometrics do not match those of the missing person, presumed dead, who used to be known by your original name. Because that person never really existed.

Or else just be an army commander accused of war crimes in a minor Balkan statelet. Your mates will hide you.

71:

Wired magazine had an article a while back about tracing people who wanted to disappear, as a competition to locate them. I doubt most disappearances would work unless they resulted in moving to a new country, at least.

The internet is going to make it harder and harder, especially with face recognition, random public surveillance video, etc.

72:

Alex Tolley wrote:

Wired magazine had an article a while back about tracing people who wanted to disappear, as a competition to locate them. I doubt most disappearances would work unless they resulted in moving to a new country, at least. ... The internet is going to make it harder and harder, especially with face recognition, random public surveillance video, etc.

The particular competition limited the disapearance vector, and the guy kept in contact with people during the disappearance.

Faking a death eliminates most search activity, and dropping all contact with prior people / places / events / activities will cut off likely vectors for ID. If you live a quiet low-profile life in new location the odds that anyone will connect the dots with today's technology are very small.

Some people are further out of luck. I have my complete fingerprints on file due to prior government permits and having worked at a couple of large investment banks. I could disappear away from North America to somewhere unlikely to fingerprint me perhaps - but the odds are high that within my natural lifetime someone would print me again, and that eventually that database would be shared and cross-compared with the US FBI central database, and some flag would pop.

73:

Like a lot of people have said the hard part isn't so much faking your death but maintaining the illusion over time. No more posting on AntiPope for a start... Even so it'd be very difficult given the increasing interconnectedness of various law enforcement agencies, and the factors George William Herbert mentions.

Makes you wonder how Lazarus Long, the Wandering Jew, Longinus, and Flint manage to keep such a low profile...

74:

'Makes you wonder how Lazarus Long, the Wandering Jew, Longinus, and Flint manage to keep such a low profile...'

everybody else died.

75:

Mmm. Shave my head, drain some blood, and burn down my house with the DNA inside of it?
Either that, or go out kayaking, ditch the kayak, (along with my lifejacket and something that could be identified as belonging to me, such as the necklace I wore,) and assume a fake identity.I'd bring a reliable accomplice with me who could swear to investigators that the kayak tipped as we went through a rough spot and I went under and was lost from sight.
As practical as they'd be, though, neither of these options leaves my inner actress fully satisfied. I'd prefer something extremely dramatic involving packets of fake blood, a persistent cough, and swooning in a crowded eatery... oh, well. I suppose when you're faking your own death, melodrama can't be the highest priority...

76:

Yeah there's a lot to be said for yachts (especially in the UK, with all that nasty North Sea so handy).

Steal one, leave it on autohelm at an idle on a fairly calm day, take your own boat out to it, set the latter on fire, send the Mayday 10 minutes late and sail away. If the (say, Dutch) coastguard pull up and ask why you didn't help, hey, you didn't hear the call, but you're willing to wear a wig and fake beard and sail around looking for a bit... =)

And yes, I could do this one myself.

77:

There was John Stonehouse who tried this in the 1970s (1974 wikipedia). The accomplice seemed important to the plan.

78:

I'm breaking the rules.

I'm assuming that, for whatever reason, my current identity has to become dead or stop acting in the world.

1. Build alternate identity

2. Convince people around current identity that current identity is actually assumed because of obscure happenings long ago. Either spy 'workname', drugs cartel avoidance, or obscure political past. Need to disappear now. Swear people to secrecy.

3. Switch to alternate identity somewhere marginal (North, second world type megopolis).

Devious enough?

79:

"starting with a British passport and in Edinburgh"

If I can start near Edinburgh, that's a great opportunity to leave a note saying

"Tired of Inverkeithing. Tired of Fife."

80:

While I am not a public figure (which may break rule #2), the good old Salinger / Howard Hughes method seems like the easiest way to go: after being conspicuously present for some period of time, become conspicuously absent in such a way that people are drawn into believing that you have indeed died (without so much as going through the legal rigoromole of getting a death certificate, though I hear such things are not terribly difficult to forge). In other words, the easiest way to fake your own death is to do such a conspicuously terrible job of faking your own continued life that people become suspicious. Extra points if you can leak disinformation about some terminal disease beforehand and then str

81:

I think Agatha Christie attempted a similar disappearance.

I can't tell whether she was attempted to pantomime a suicide, pantomime an abduction, or pantomime a murder-with-a-hidden-body, or merely cause police trouble for a wayward husband...

Anyway, a few thoughts about pantomiming my own death. (Like our guest host, I'm from the USA. But I'm from the Midwest, not the Northeast.)

Since I've spent a little time hunting, I'd likely go for the lost-on-a-hunting-trip version.

The best candidate would be grizzly-bear-country, during a late-fall or early-winter hunting season. Since that mostly overlaps with mountain-lion territory, I could choose to frame a mountain-line rather than a bear.

I would tell a friend or two when I would be expected to come out, and where to come if I didn't drive back home by the appointed day. I'd probably have to find a way to draw my own blood and scatter it on the hunting jacket, with believable tearing on the hunting jacket and coveralls.

This would work best if winter would make the search hard, and if winter would also obscure tracks left by bears. However, I would still use special shoes to leave predator foot-prints on the ground nearby.

The torn/bloody clothing, the rifle, and some field-gear would be found near a hunting-stand. The empty camp, with equipment ready to be used in preparing the evening meal, be nearby. So would my 4-wheel-drive truck.

The escape would be by a different off-road-vehicle, stored a few miles away across a river. That vehicle would have been purchased for cash from someone at least 100 miles away from both my home and the hunting area.

To thrown off any tracking dogs sent to look for my remains, I'd have to bring waders for the escape and travel upstream by walking in the water.

The new life might be made by driving into Canada with the appropriate forged ID papers. Probably a burner-set for travel across the border, with a different set for use once I arrive at the destination.

It would be a daunting proposition: impossible for me to do tomorrow, extremely challenging to accomplish in a month. But possible given more than 6 months of preparation...and enough funding, as well as proper motivation.

82:

A couple of suggested methods of faking your death, could easily end up with you really dead.

Jumping off a cruise ship. Passenger accessible decks of most cruises are fairly high off the waterline. The fall alone could kill, break bones, or render one unconscious. Not to mention the more obvious dangers of hypothermia and being dragged under the ship.

Being shot with blanks. Being shot with blanks--especially at close range--can be fatal. See the Wikipedia entry on Blanks and Safety for more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blank_%28cartridge%29#Safety

Be safe when plotting your fake death!

83:

This is not a boating scenario; it is a boat maintenance scenario. Don't do this lightly — someone close to me watched a friend of his die this way for real. Simply pick up a power tool on an extension cord, mention you need to work on the outside of the boat, and absent-mindedly wade into the water. Keel over. This should satisfy the credibly dead for at least a brief period of time requirement. Longer term you will need accomplices so your seemingly dead body goes where you planned, and not to the wrong hospital or the morgue. Also they can help get rid of the rubber hose with the plugs clamped onto the ends so it looks like an extension cord.

84:

just ask your self ... what would jesus do?

85:

It's very hard to attain a new first world identity. It's easy to lose one. The cheapest way to attain new identity (and simultaneously disappear) would be to fake being an illegal immigrant, and get deported. At that point, it would take serious legal battle to get back.

86:

A. With inspiration from Harold Shipman.

Pretend to be ill. Call your accomplice, who is a Doctor. Cough, cough. OMG, he's dead*. Here's the death certificate. Bye. I'll call the undertakers (accomplice #2).

*actually he's in a drug-induced coma.

B. With inspiration from Alien.

Play with some really hazardous chemicals in your local lab/nuclear research facility, which all happens on low-res security camera.

a. Oooh, he's getting woozy.
b. Oooh, he's spontaneously imploded, drowned in aicd etc.

Naturally a) is your local homeless person you've dressed as you and drugged.

87:

Locate someone who superficially resembles me, drag them off somewhere without witnesses and repeatedly hit them in the face with a lump hammer. Relieve them of their valuables while leaving my front door key or something else that's identifiable as belonging to me on the body, then dump it in a skip or a large wheelie-bin, wrapped in a black binliner as camouflage.
If and when the body is found (and if it's in with general waste going to landfill then I sincerely doubt anyone will bother to notice), there's no record of my fingerprints or DNA on the Police National Computer and I can't honestly imagine my relatives being upset enough to ask too many questions.

88:

I wrote a song around this idea once ... not an in-depth exploration ... wrinkle was that eventually the protagonist has second thoughts and for various reasons no one will help him "return" to "life".

89:

Okay, I'm in Edinburgh, I have an out-of-date British passport, and I want to fake my own death.

I can't actually imagine wanting to do this.

One: I'd set aside over a period of time enough extra cash - as someone says upthread, the basics would be to always withdraw 10% more than you actually need for a number of months.

Two: I'd need to get a fake passport to establish another identity. Using that fake passport - probably Irish - over the months I'm building up my stock of cash, I'd buy both euros and dollars, too.

Three: I'd learn how to *safely* take a pint of my own blood.

Four: I'd set up a cache of supplies - clothing, luggage, etc - all bought piecemeal over the period of months, which no one but me knows I have. I'd leave the cache in an inconspicuous place near Seafield, which is on the route out to Musselburgh.

Five: I'd leave the house the day after depositing the cache, with my cats locked outside it (as frequently happens when I'm just going to work). Then I'd call into work to say I'd been unexpectedly delayed and I'd walk to the deserted Leith Docks, stopping on the way to buy a cup of coffee in a shop where they know me. I'd stop somewhere out of sight, but still on the public footpath, and spill the pint of blood somewhere it could look like my body had fallen into the water.

Six: There is a footpath which is literally completely out of sight and technically unusable which leads from Leith Docks to Seafield. I say "technically" because it's not maintained, you're not meant to use it, but it's there and it's indestructible: I've walked that route several times. Once at Seafield, I'd make a complete change of clothing from the skin out, pack up the clothes I was wearing and bag them for later disposal somewhere far away.

Seven: I'd walk from Seafield to Musselburgh along the footpath by the beach, relying on no one noticing me particularly. No reason why they should, or why they'd pay close enough attention to me to identify me. In Musselburgh, I'd catch a bus to Dalkeith, and from Dalkeith, to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where I'd catch the ferry as a foot passenger to Belfast.

Eight: From Belfast, by local buses, I'd travel to Dublin. I'd set up a bank account in Dublin using my Irish passport, and use that to get a credit card and other means of establishing my new identity. I wouldn't stay in Ireland - too much risk over the years that I might casually encounter someone who knew me: I'd fly out from Dublin to somewhere it looked likely I could drop out of touch and live semi-legally for years.

To the perception of people who knew me in Edinburgh, it would seem most logical that I did just fall over, bleed a bit, fall into the water, die. Unlikely, but there's the blood, there's the fact that I left the house normally on my way to work, there's the absence of body and the lack of any evidence that I would have been able to go anywhere else. It would not seem likely I committed suicide. The key point would be being able to get away from where I was last seen alive to where I cached the escape gear - and do so in such a way that I had a way back if it turned out some toerag had lucked on the cache and I now had nothing.

Also, I wouldn't want my cats locked in the house to starve... though I can't imagine wanting everyone who knew me to think I was dead.

90:

I think I see a minor flaw in your plan - There is no ferry from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Belfast!

91:

Damn.

Well, either I'd have to set up a new ferry as part of my future planning, or else get another bus from Newcastle to Liverpool.

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