On December 3, 1926, the then 36-year-old Agatha Christie left her home in Sunningdale and drove her car towards Surrey. The next morning the vehicle was found abandoned with a fur coat and her driving license left inside.
Was Christie abducted? Was she lost, wandering through the countryside? Or was she murdered? The prime suspect at the time was her husband Colonel Archibald Christie, who had recently informed his wife that he wanted to divorce her because he had fallen in love with the far younger Nancy Neele.
Eleven days after she disappeared, Christie was discovered in the Swan Hydropathic Hotel in Harrogate where she had registered under the name of Theresa Neele of Cape Town, using the surname of her husband's lover. She later claimed that she had suffered from amnesia.
What really happened will always remain a mystery, but we can assume that Agatha Christie would have been very depressed after learning of her husband infidelity. She might even have contemplated suicide. In her bittersweet semi-autobiographical novel 'Unfinished Portrait' (1934) her alter ego, Celia, made a suicide attempt. "She admitted that it had been very wicked of her to try," Christie wrote.
Then, almost 90 years later, on July 25, 2016, the then (also) 36-year-old actress Honeysuckle Weeks disappeared. She was last seen driving her car 14 miles away from Chichester where she lived. Sussex Police said they were concerned for her welfare as it was unlike her not to get in touch. She had recently told family and friends she was feeling anxious.
On July 29, Honeysuckle Weeks was found 'safe and sound' after a relative, living in London, contacted the police.
So, why did Honeysuckle Weeks emulate Agatha Christie? Shortly after her disappearance a neighbour hinted that the anxiety could have been exacerbated by the actress and husband Lorne’s regular vicious rows. She disappeared during a stay as a voluntary patient at a care centre near her home in West Sussex. Stressful family issues led her to walking away from problems, she later explained.
"I had to have counselling", she confessed openly two years later. "And I am still having it. It was not a good time for me, but unless you talk about it, you are only repressing yourself again, aren’t you, and that cannot be healthy. I don’t mind you mentioning that time. It was part of me, and, well, there we are."
Was there ever a Nancy Neele in the life of her husband Lorne Stormonth-Darling?
More about Honeysuckle Weeks can be found here.