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'We never thought this would happen': Girl kidnapped aged four miraculously reunited with family 53 years later
7 October 2022, 00:18 | Updated: 7 October 2022, 11:04
A girl who was kidnapped at the age of four has been miraculously reunited with her family 53 years later.
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Susan Gervaise, now 57, was taken from her biological family in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, by a couple in 1969.
The pair asked if they could take the girl on a trip to a Disney theme park, promising her birth mother they would return her - but instead they raised her as their own daughter, taking her to Canada, then Australia, and then New Zealand.
Ms Gervaise grew up thinking she was adopted and her biological family had disowned her.
"I was told I was adopted but never really thought much about it," she told the Wakefield Express.
"I was happy."
It was not until she was 16 and needed to get a passport requiring a parental signature that her 'adopted' dad told her the truth - that she had been stolen.
But even then she did not think about contacting her biological family until one day a woman asked her if she wanted to know what they were thinking.
"It was like a lightbulb moment," Ms Gervaise said.
Her husband Hamilton Gervaise posted on a Pontefract Facebook page and they located Ms Gervaise's family within 30 minutes.
The pair then flew to the UK for a family reunion in September.
At the time Ms Gervaise was taken she was living on a traveller site with her mother and siblings.
A passport was not needed in order for her to travel - just a birth certificate and parental permission.
Whilst Ms Gervaise's 'adopted' mother died from MS when she was young, she said she was "raised in the hub of a travelling community" and was "very loved".
"I have always been happy growing up," she said.
"I travelled the world."
She returned to Australia aged 19 and married Mr Gervaise.
The couple have three children and four grandchildren.
Her 'adopted' father died when she was 21.
Meanwhile in Pontefract, the search for the missing girl never stopped.
Her mother, who died in 2014 without knowing what happened to her daughter, used to go out looking for her, according to Ms Gervaise's niece Emma Mcfadyen.
But tracking her down was a near-impossible task because she had a different surname - first her 'adopted' dad's, then her husband's.
Ms Mcfadyen said it was "amazing" they were reunited.
"We never thought this would happen," she told the Wakefield Express.
Ms Gervaise said she wanted her story to give hope to families with missing loved ones.
"It gives a message to anyone who has lost someone that miracles do happen," she told the paper.
"There is hope."