Margaret and Alex

Margaret and Alex Cooper

Real Name: Unknown (at the time of the broadcast)
Nicknames: Alex Cooper (false identity), David Cooper
Location: Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada
Date: April 4, 1987


Occupation: Salesman
Date of Birth: Unrevealed
Height: Unrevealed
Weight: Unrevealed
Marital Status: Married
Characteristics: Unrevealed


Details: Sixty-five-year-old Alex Cooper of Cranbrook, British Columbia, was an accomplished musician, much-loved husband and family man. He had five children and several grandchildren. He was a local businessman who worked in the cleaning industry from 1974 to 1983. In 1986, he took a job as a salesman and began to spend some of his time on the road.
On the morning of April 4, 1987, Alex's daughter Liela and her husband Pete left Cranbrook to go on a shopping trip. After driving across a bridge, Pete saw Alex's car parked off the side of the road. They decided to stop near Alex's car and talk to him. They walked past his car and down to the river bank because they assumed that Alex was fishing. However, when they got to the river, they saw no trace of him. Liela was concerned because of her father's heart condition; she called her mother Margaret, who said that she had not seen Alex in over twenty-four hours. They contacted several hospitals, but he had not checked into any of them. The Coopers then called the police and reported Alex missing.
Authorities found no footprints or other evidence around the car. Alex's car was locked and there was clothing and fishing equipment inside. An extensive air and land search began, but no trace of Alex was found. Authorities and Alex's family soon learned that on the day of Alex's disappearance, he ate lunch at a restaurant less than a mile from where his car was found. Margaret noted that Alex always paid with a large roll of cash; she feared that someone may have seen this and decided to rob and kill Alex. Liela imagined a different scenario: she believed that Alex had went down to the river, had a heart attack, fell in and drowned.
Newspaper reports and television broadcasts picked up Alex's story. Witnesses came forward as a result; they had seen a man matching Alex's description hitchhiking in the area of Alex's vehicle. Authorities suspected that Alex may have left voluntarily. His family, however, did not believe this because Alex left his heart medication and credit cards at home. They could not accept the possibility that Alex staged his disappearance. A year passed without any word from Alex. Margaret petitioned the Supreme Court of British Columbia to have Alex declared legally dead; the request was granted.
Later, Margaret tried to acquire Alex's birth certificate, but discovered that there was no birth certificate issued in Alex's name. She could also find no record of Alex Cooper prior to their marriage in 1952. No high school transcripts, military records, or medical history could be found. The Cooper family was shocked to realize that "Alex" was not his real name and that for unknown reasons he had hid his past from his family.
For four years, the Cooper family were in a constant state of uncertainty. Then, on May 27, 1991, the mystery of Alex Cooper began to unravel. Halfway across the country in Toronto, another man was reported missing. He was also a traveling salesman; his name was "David Cooper" and he bore a striking resemblance to Alex. David had lived in a boarding house in Toronto for approximately a year. He sold meat products to families over the phone. During one of David's business trips, a friend reported him as missing. When searching through David's room, authorities found a photograph of Alex Cooper holding his grandchild. The photograph confirmed that "David Cooper" and "Alex Cooper" were the same individual.
On the May 29, 1991, David/Alex returned home from a business trip; when returned to his room, he found fingerprint dust and other evidence that the police had been there. He asked his landlady about it and she told him that he had been reported missing. By the time police returned to the boarding house, Alex Cooper had vanished once again. Authorities and his family believe that something happened in Alex's past which made him have to disappear.
Suspects: At first, Margaret Cooper believed that Alex may have been robbed and murdered by an individual who noticed that he was carrying large bills with him. However, foul play has not been suspected after police learned of his fake identity.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the September 25, 1991 episode.

  • Margaret, Alex, and their family reunited
  • Margaret and Alex in 1991

Results: Solved. A viewer from Hamilton, Canada, recognized Alex and contacted authorities. On January 10, 1992, Alex was located and he told police that his real name is Albin Arsene Arsenault. In 1948, when Alex was twenty-six-years-old, he was falsely accused of robbing an office of the Union Pacific Railroad, where he was employed at the time. He did not want to be arrested for a crime he didn't commit, so he went on the run. He changed his name to Alex Cooper to avoid capture and married Margaret four years later. He had no idea that any criminal charges against him had probably been dropped.
For more than thirty years, his true identity remained a secret. When his sixty-fifth birthday arrived, he needed to submit a birth certificate to receive pension, but unfortunately, Alex did not have one because of his fake identity. He could not bring himself to tell his family that he had been lying about his identity so he decided to disappear.
Two days after he was questioned by police, Alex returned to British Columbia and was reunited with his family. Although, at first, it was difficult for his family to accept all that had happened, they were willing to look past it and start their lives anew with Alex. Sadly, Margaret passed away in 1996 and Alex Cooper passed away in 2007.

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