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
Date of Birth: Unrevealed
Marital Status: Married
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 son-in-law, 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 it and talk to him. They walked past it and down to the riverbank because they assumed that he was fishing there. However, when they got there, they saw no trace of him. Liela was concerned because of his heart condition; she called her mother, Margaret, who said that she had not seen him in over twenty-four hours. They contacted several hospitals, but he had not checked into any of them. They then called the police and reported him missing.
Authorities found no footprints or other evidence around Alex's car. It was locked and there was clothing and fishing equipment inside. An extensive air and land search began, but no trace of him was found. Authorities and his family soon learned that on the day of his disappearance, he ate lunch at a restaurant less than a mile from where his car was found. Margaret noted that he always paid with a large roll of cash; she feared that someone may have seen this and decided to rob and kill him. Liela imagined a different scenario: she believed that Alex he 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 his description hitchhiking in the area of his car. Authorities suspected that he may have left voluntarily. His family, however, did not believe this because he left his heart medication and credit cards at home. They could not accept the possibility that he staged his disappearance. A year passed without any word from him. Margaret petitioned the Supreme Court of British Columbia to have him declared legally dead; the request was granted.
Later, Margaret tried to acquire Alex's birth certificate, but discovered that there wasn't one issued in his name. She could also find no record of him prior to their marriage in 1952. No high school transcripts, military records, or medical history could be found. His family was shocked to realize that "Alex" was not his real name and that he had hid his past from them for unknown reasons.
For four years, Alex's family were in a constant state of uncertainty. Then, on May 27, 1991, his mystery 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. He had lived in a boarding house in Toronto for approximately a year. He sold meat products to families over the phone. During one of his business trips, a friend reported him missing. When searching through his room, authorities found a photograph of Alex holding his grandchild. It 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 he 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, he had vanished once again. Authorities and his family believe that something happened in his past which made him have to disappear.
Suspects: At first, Margaret 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: This case first aired on the September 25, 1991 episode.
Results: Solved. A viewer from Hamilton, Canada, recognized Alex and contacted authorities. On January 10, 1992, he was located and he told police that his real name is Albin Arsene Arsenault. In 1948, when he was twenty-six, 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, Alex's true identity remained a secret. When his sixty-fifth birthday arrived, he needed to submit a birth certificate to receive pension, but unfortunately, he 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 them to accept all that had happened. They were willing to look past it and start their lives anew with him. Sadly, Margaret passed away in 1996 and Alex passed away in 2007.
- Television series spotlights mystery of missing B.C. man - July 11, 1991
- Unsolved Mysteries tries to locate man - July 28, 1991
- SitcomsOnline Discussion of Alex Cooper