A girl who was ‘stolen’ by travelers who said they were taking her to Disney World in
and brought to Canada when she was just four years old, reunited with a family she never knew she had after more than 50 years.
Susan Gervaise, 57, was taken from Pontefract, West Yorkshire, around the world by a family of travelers on the promise that they would take her to Disney World and bring her home.
Ms Gervaise, née Susan Preece, always believed that her birth family had disowned her and the thought of looking for them hadn’t even crossed her mind.
But incredibly, 53 years later, she was able to locate her family just 30 minutes after her husband made a Facebook appeal.
Although her distraught family in the UK have lived in turmoil since 1969 when she was taken away, Ms Gervaise insists she has been ‘spoiled rotten’ by the travel community.
But more than five decades later, the mystery and grief behind the girl’s disappearance can now come to an end after she was reunited with four of her six siblings in West Yorkshire.
The mother-of-three now wants to show others there is hope for missing children after she was finally able to reassure her birth family that she had always been safe and loved.
Susan Gervaise, 57, was reunited with four of her six siblings after they were robbed by travelers and taken to Canada when she was just four years old. Pictured: Mrs. Gervaise as a child (left) and now (right)
Susan Gervaise (front left), 57, was reunited with four of her six siblings after her husband posted a message in a local Facebook group
Sadly, she will never be reunited with her birth mother who tragically died eight years ago, meaning she never found out her daughter was safe.
Ms Gervaise, a grandmother of four, who now lives in Australia, said: ‘As a child, I lived with my six siblings in a former parsonage on a traveller’s site. We were not travellers.
“My mum was on her own and we were all in and out of foster care.
“I befriended a couple on the site who were from Scotland, the woman, whom I call my mum, had MS and they had two sons.
“I think they wanted a girl. They asked my mom if they could take me to Disney World and she gave them my birth certificate so I could be listed on their passport.
“Instead they took me to Canada, then Australia and later New Zealand. That was always their plan.
Ms. Gervaise always knew she had her birth certificate, but she was told she had been put up for adoption.
Susan Gervaise (centre left) is pictured with her long-lost siblings Roger Preece (left), Angela Hall (centre right) and Catherine Bailey (right)
“I lived with the traveling community and lived a cherished life where I was spoiled rotten,” she added.
“My mum died of MS when I was 10, but even then, having grown up in a traveling community, I was much loved.
“I was always happy growing up. I traveled the world.
The grandmother, who now runs the Fresh Start Mission charity with her traveling husband Hamilton, 57, only found out she had been taken away when she needed a passport to return to Australia from New Zealand, at the age of 16.
“The enormity of what happened to me didn’t hit me, I just got on with my life,” she said.
Ms Gervaise had to wait until she was 18 to apply for an adult passport and returned to Australia at 19, where she met her husband and had three children and four grandchildren.
Her “father” died when she was 21. She said: ‘It wasn’t until someone who was adopted asked me how my family in the UK would feel and that was an enlightening moment for me.
After her husband started the search and sent a Facebook appeal to the local Knottingley and Ferrybridge community page in June, her family was located within 30 minutes.
All of his siblings are still alive, and all but one still live around Pontefract.
The grandmother-of-four (wearing a sash) tied the knot with her 57th birthday so she could throw a party with her family
She said: “When I spoke to my family they were crying hysterically because I was alive.”
The mum, who is in the UK until October 20, timed her visit home to meet them on her 57th birthday so she could throw a party with her family.
She said: ‘To this day we don’t know why the police were never involved. I think it must have been because my mom gave them permission to take me and the fact that we were in and out of foster care.
“But there have been several calls through missing persons over the years and my mum has continually returned to the traveler site after wandering off to look for me.”
Ms Gervaise’s niece, Emma McFadyen, said: ‘It has been said that Susan’s mother has searched for her over the years, but without success.
“After his death, there were so many questions that remained unanswered. Things were different back then. There was no paper trail, no police report.
“We never thought this would happen. It was amazing – especially for my mother. She has Parkinson’s disease and dementia, so it’s amazing that she found her sister before she deteriorated. It is now complete.
Ms Gervaise said: “It sends a message to anyone who has lost someone that miracles happen. There is hope.’