Susan Gervaise: Girl Who Was ‘Stolen’ By Travellers Aged Four, Reunited With Her Birth Family 53 Years Later

A girl who was ‘stolen’ by travelers and taken to Canada when she was just four years old has been reunited with a family she never knew she had after more than 50 years.

Susan Gervaise, 57, was take from her biological family in Pontefract, West Yorkshire in 1969 after the travellers invited her on holiday to a Disney theme park.

The couple from Scotland asked Ms Gervaise’s birth mother if she could accompany them on the trip and then promised to return her to England.

The travelers, who had been given a copy of Ms Gervaise’s birth certificate, instead took her to Canada, then Australia, and finally New Zealand. She was raised as if she were their own child by the couple.

Ms Gervaise, born Susan Preece, claimed her biological family had disowned her and that her so-called adoptive parents had’spoiled’ her rotten.

Susan Gervaise

She didn’t realize she’d been stolen until she was 16, and she didn’t find out about her birth family until 53 years later. Ms Gervaise has been reunited with four of her six biological siblings in West Yorkshire after tracking them down on Facebook.

Ms Gervaise, a grandmother of four who now lives in Australia, was a child when she lived in an old vicarage on a traveller’s site in Pontefract, West Yorkshire.

At the old vicarage, she met the couple who ended up’stealing’ her.

‘As a child I lived with my six siblings in an old vicarage on a traveller’s site. We weren’t travellers,’ she explained.

‘My mum was on her own and we were all in and out of foster care.

‘I was befriended by a couple on the site who were from Scotland, the woman, who I call my mum, had MS and they had two sons.

‘I think they wanted a girl. They asked my mum if they could take me to Disney and she gave them my birth certificate so I could be put on their passport.’

Susan Gervaise

A child could travel internationally with a birth certificate and parental permission at the time.

Instead, Ms Gervaise’s ‘host family’ added her name to their passport, allowing her to join them abroad.

‘They took me to Canada, then Australia, and then New Zealand,’ she continued. This was always their intention.

‘I lived with the travelling community and lived a cherished life where I was spoiled rotten.

‘My mum died from MS when I was 10, but even then, being raised in the hub of a travelling community I was very loved.

‘I have always been happy growing up. I travelled the world.’

Ms Gervaise always knew she had her birth certificate but kept being told she had been put up for adoption.

She only discovered she had been taken when she needed to get a passport to return to Australia from New Zealand, aged 16.

‘We went to New Zealand nd I didn’t need a passport to get into the country, but when it came to returning to Australia, I did,’ she told The Wakefield Express.

‘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.’

Ms Gervaise had to wait until she was 18 to apply for an adult passport, and she returned to Australia when she was 19 years old, where she met her husband and had three children and four grandchildren. Her ‘father’ died when she was 21 years old.

The enormity of what happened to me didn’t hit me, I just carried on with my life,’ she said.

‘It was only when somebody who was adopted asked me what my family back in the UK would be feeling and that was a lightbulb moment for me.’

Her family were found within 30 minutes after her husband initiated the search and posted a Facebook appeal on the local Knottingley and Ferrybridge Community page in June.

All of her siblings are still alive, and all but one live in the Pontefract area.

Susan Gervaise

The mother-of-three now wants to show others that there is hope for missing children after she was finally able to put her biological family’s mind at ease and tell them she had always been safe and loved.

She said: ‘When I spoke to my family they were crying hysterically because I was alive.’

The mother, who is in the UK until October 20, coincied her visit back home to meet them during 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’m thinking it must have been because my mum gave them permission to take me and the fact we were in and out of foster care.

‘But there have been several appeals through Missing Persons over the years and my mum continually returned to the traveller’s site after moving away to look for me.’

Unfortunately she would never be reunited with her biological mother who tragically died eight years ago, meaning she never found out that her daughter was safe.

Ms Gervaise’s niece, Emma McFadyen, said: ‘It was said that Susan’s mother did go out looking for her over the years, but with no luck.

Susan Gervaise

‘After she died 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’s been amazing – especially for my mum. She has Parkinson’s and dementia, so it’s amazing she’s been reunited with her sister before she deteriorates. She’s now complete.’

Ms Gervaise said: ‘It gives a message to anybody who has lost somebody that miracles do happen. There is hope.