American who vanished in Australia five years ago found alive
An American tourist who vanished from northern Australia five years ago is discovered alive by police investigating a burglary (AFP Photo/Patrick Hamilton)

An American tourist who vanished from northern Australia five years ago, with his kayak found submerged near a beach, has been discovered alive by police investigating a burglary.

The man, named in the media as Kenneth Rodman, was last seen by a friend in 2010 near Port Douglas, 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of popular tourist town Cairns, as he was heading to a beach.

His kayak was discovered a month later submerged in waters several kilometres south of where he launched it and Rodman, then 55, was never heard from again.

"Friends, family and police were unable to make contact with him since 2010," Queensland state police said in a statement late Monday.

"On Saturday night, officers investigating a matter stumbled across the now 60-year-old man where he allegedly confessed to police that he had been listed as a missing person."

The Cairns Post said he was arrested after being chased down by a police dog while officers were investigating a routine burglary in Cairns.

He is believed to have been hiding out mostly in tropical far north Queensland but it is not known if he had help or why he staged his disappearance.

"The matter was never closed as a missing person case but inquiries led police to believe he was avoiding contact with authorities to stay in Australia, despite his visa expiring," Inspector Glenn Horan added.

Police said he had been handed over to immigration officials and was expected to be deported to the United States.

The discovery comes just weeks after another American in the same area reportedly turned out not to be who he said he was.

Dennis "Lee" Lafferty was a pioneer of the north Queensland tourism industry, running a crocodile cruise company for 28 years until he died in a car accident in late May.

As friends in the area mourned his death, the Tampa Bay Times ran a headline: "Traffic accident in Australia ends 40-year-old mystery in Florida."

It claimed Lafferty was in fact Raymond Grady Stansel Jr, who had been presumed dead in the US for 40 years.

According to the story, Stansel was arrested in 1974 for smuggling more than 12 tonnes of marijuana into Florida. He posted bail and surrendered his US passport to await trial.

But the trial never went ahead, with his lawyer announcing his client disappeared while scuba diving in early 1975, never to be seen again.