Pontefract woman 'stolen' as a four-year-old is reunited with her family after 53 years abroad
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Susan Gervaise, born Susan Preece, was just four when she was taken on what was meant to be a two-week holiday with a couple and their two children – but never returned home.
A passport was not needed, just her birth certificate and parental permission, and her name was added to the host family’s passport.
Susan said: "I was told I was adopted but never really thought much about it; I was happy.”
It was not until she was 16 when the man who she had called dad told her the truth – she had been stolen.
"I applied, but I needed a signature from my mother or father – that's when dad told me they didn’t adopt me, I had been stolen."
Susan had to stay in New Zealand for three years until she was able to apply for an adult passport.
Returning to Australia at 19, she married Hamilton. They have three children and four granddaughters.
The man she knew as her dad died when she was 21, while her mum died when she was just seven.
Although Susan was never interested in finding out more about her life in the UK, the search had never stopped in Pontefract.
Susan's niece, Emma Mcfadyen, said her family had tried on many occasions to find her.
"It was said that Susan's mother did go out looking for her over the years, but with no luck,” she said.
“After she died, there were so many questions that remained unanswered. Things were different back then. There was no paper trail, no police report.”
Susan said: "The difficulty was that because I had dad's surname, then my husband's, they didn't know what name to search.
"It wasn't until I was talking to a woman who was adopted and she asked me, 'Wouldn't you like to know what [your family] are feeling?’ It was like a lightbulb moment."
Hamilton posted a message on a Pontefract Facebook page and within 90 minutes, Susan's family was found.
She said: "I told them that travellers stole me, but I also married one. I was able to tell them I had such a spoiled life. I was very well looked after.”
Susan and Hamilton flew to the UK for a huge family reunion in Pontefract last month.
"It's such a happy ending,” she said. “We're all still putting the pieces together."
Emma said: "We never thought it would happen . It's been amazing – especially for my mum. She has Parkinsons and dementia, so it's amazing that she's been reunited with her sister before she deteriorates. She's now complete."
Susan added: "It gives a message to anyone who has lost someone that miracles do happen."