ROBIN Gardiner, who has died aged 70, wrote several books claiming the Titanic never actually sank in 1912, which divided opinion but were popular across the world.

Mr Gardiner's meticulous research led him to conclude the Titanic was switched with its near-identical sister ship the Olympic shortly before the maiden voyage as part of an insurance scam.

A plasterer for more than 20 years, the Barton man had one of his manuscripts accepted in the early 1990s, which started a writing career which spanned two decades.

His wife Lynn said not everyone liked his theories but he 'stuck to his guns' and believed in his research and conclusions.

Robin Gardiner was born in Headington on May 24, 1947 to parents Audrey and Harold Gardiner, a military man who later worked in the Indian Institute.

The middle child of three, he grew up in the area with his older brother Derek and younger sister Judy, and the family moved to the Barton estate.

He went to St Andrew's Primary School and then Bayswater Secondary Modern School before completing an engineering course at Oxford College of Further Education.

When he left college he became a plasterer working for a number of companies and eventually became self-employed.

But his fascination with the Titanic began in his childhood and throughout his life he endeavoured to read everything he could on the ship and its doomed maiden voyage.

He married his wife Lynn at the registry office in Oxford on January 20, 1979.

When they met two years before, she was working in the Shotover Arms, which is now a McDonald's – a fact which annoyed Mr Gardiner every time he drove past it.

The couple lived in Headington to begin with and moved to Brampton Road on the Barton estate.

They had a son, Will, in 1981.

He concluded that the Olympic, which had been involved in a collision in Southampton Water in 1910, was patched up by owners the White Star Line and sailed the Titanic's maiden voyage as the famous ship's construction had fallen behind schedule.

The plan was to then re-instate the Titanic as part of its normal service once it was ready – but of course it never completed its first journey.

At the beginning of the 1990s Mr Gardiner was told by doctors to stop working or a back problem could leave him in a wheelchair.

But a few weeks later the manuscript for his first book was accepted by a publisher.

It was co-authored by maritime specialist Dan van der Vat and published by Weidenfeld Nicholson under the title 'Riddle of the Titanic'.

As a result he was sent more information and evidence supporting his theory by readers around the world.

He added six more books to his collection – his own exclusive books 'The Ship that Never Sank' and 'Titanic Conspiracy' allowed him to fully explain his theory.

It suggested that the Titanic went on to serve as a troop ship in the First World War and was scrapped before the Second World War.

Mr Gardiner even refuted that the ship hit an iceberg as passengers only described a 'shudder'.

His books were popular, both in the UK and America, but many sought to discredit his theory.

His agent Graham Smith said a film project was being worked on in America at the time of his death based on his theories and that it could be produced posthumously.

Aside from his meticulous research and writing he was a talented engineer and restored motorbikes, repaired cars and built radio-controlled model aircraft and locomotives in his shed.

He died from stomach cancer on July 23 and is survived by his wife Lynn, his son Will and his siblings Derek and Judy.