Missing children: bodies recovered

'Better drowned than duffers': the words that sent four children to a watery grave

The search for three children who went missing in the Windermere area ended last night amid drama and bitter recriminations.

The bodies of four children, all from the same family, were recovered from lake Windermere last night. The search, which began last weekend, has captured the imagination of a nation of people to whom the idea of a rich white child going missing strikes at the sacred heart of all we hold to be dear and British. Things looked grim from the start for the children lost in the harsh, unforgiving landscape of Windermere, populated only by a million teashops, Wordsworth tours, mint cake and golden dancing daffodils. Waves of sympathy radiated towards the distraught parents, John and Mary Walker.

However, public sympathy rapidly dissipated as it was revealed that Mr. and Mrs. Walker had left their children unattended. Most unbelievable of all, it was revealed in a terse press conference last night held by the local police that the Walkers had left their children unattended in a small wooden boat on the largest natural lake in England. As part of the conference, the police, who are looking to prosecute the negligent parents, produced a telegram sent by Mr. Walker to his wife. The Chief of the Kendal police read the following out to reporters and well wishers in the overcast evening ‘Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers, won’t drown.’

The meaning of the cryptic message quickly became clear. Mr. Walker, 49, a naval captain who was known among his colleagues for an eccentric outlook and who named two of his children ‘Titty’ and ‘Roger the ships boy’ with no apparent trace of irony, appears to have adopted a Spartan attitude to his children, whom he hoped would follow him into the Navy. In a case of tough love taken to extremes, Mr. Walker in this message ordered his wife to abandon their children’s survival to the elements.

As the bloated corpses, weighed down with tins of ‘pemmican’ and bottles of ‘grog’ were retrieved from the grasp of the merciless Lake Windermere, Mrs. Walker was observed staring into the undying camera flare chanting ‘If not duffers, won’t drown.’