Andrea and Donal walk the last-known probable route that Georgina took on the day of her disappearance. Along the way, Donal learns more about Georgina’s mindset that morning, the police investigation to date and encounters a key-witness in the case.
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**If you have any information regarding the Georgina Gharsallah case, please contact Sussex Police quoting ‘Operation Pavo’ or via Crimestoppers**
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Donal: On the 7th of March 2018 Georgina Gharsallah left her home in Worthing and vanished without trace.
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Clive Driscoll: Every single case I’ve ever had where I’ve had success historically is that there’s been a parent or someone who hasn’t allowed the police to forget it, hasn’t allowed the public to forget it.
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Petra: We stop at absolutely nothing we’re not scared; we are not scared.
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Donal: A mother’s journey to uncover the truth.
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Andrea: I want answers I want to find out what happened, and I won’t stop until I do.
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Donal: Murdered, Missing, Unsolved, The search for Georgina.
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Episode Two - Final Footsteps
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Donal: I’m back in Worthing today to meet with Andrea and to walk Georgina’s probable route which took her from her home to the shop in nearby Clifton Road during the morning of 7th March 2018. It’s a busy route, with the railway crossing and Worthing train station along the way. I’m keen to get a sense of this place and the geography, and to hear more about Georgina as we walk her last known steps… Bring us back to the day when Georgina left the house for the very last time. So… she's walking out here.
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Andrea: So, on the 7th of March, Georgina would have walked this way presumably to the right, um… towards Clifton Road.
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Donal: And what do we know of the weather that day?
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Andrea: It wasn't raining or anything if I can remember, and I don't think it was snowing, um…. because we'd had some snow a few weeks before when it was really bad, um…. so, I do remember, um….
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Donal: So, these are pretty, you know, suburban 1930s houses a bit down at heel, and as we're walking towards Clifton towards the phone shop that we know, she definitely arrived around nine thirty, nine forty-five. The last phone mast ping registered, uh…. Georgina's phone at your house, just back there, 100 metres around quarter past eight?
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Andrea: Um…. quarter to eight, between quarter to eight, quarter past eight, around that time.
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Donal: Around that time, so we know the phone was alive then, and the last time the phone was recorded as alive…. was at 11 o'clock on that day, when there was a message, we understand from her dad?
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Andrea: They thought it was a voicemail from her dad, um…. but um…. the SIM card wasn't actually in the phone that morning when…. cause I sit…. when I got up and she was sitting downstairs at six…. this she…. she'd taken the SIM card out of the phone trying to fit it into the phone that I gave her. And cause she couldn't fit it in she just sort…. of dumped them into a carrier bag. So, the…. none of the phones had SIM cards in.
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Donal: So, here we are, we're coming off Normandy Road, and we're now crossing the road here, taking a right on?
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Andrea: North Court Road.
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Donal: So, right on North Court Road, weather more, or less the same.
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Andrea: She would've gone this way if she was going to…. towards Clifton Road. If she was going to the station she would have turned left because you could, there's a…. you can get to the back of the station, but we haven't got any reason to believe that she went to the station.
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Donal: If we think she didn't take a detour and she arrived around 9.30 at the phone shop, how long would it have taken her to go from your house to the phone shop?
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Andrea: Um…. six or seven minutes.
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Donal: So, we're talking leaving your house around 9.20. Of course, there is the possibility that she may have left the house earlier and gone to her boyfriends’ house, um…. that’s a possibility…
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Andrea: Yeah, I did suggest that to the police, um…. but as most of the things I suggested, um…. they said they didn't think it was very likely.
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Donal: So, we'll explore that the police tend to dismiss that didn't they?
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Andrea: They did, yeah.
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Donal: How do you feel when you're walking in her final footsteps?
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Andrea: Well, um…. I never stop, I try to not think about the final bit, um…. because as I always say to Petra then like I give up my hope. But yeah, it's um…. I find it sad, and I just try and not think about the final bit to be honest. Um, because just my, my goal each day is to keep looking to find out what happened to her.
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Donal: Well, this is a kind of a means to an end where we can try to retrace her steps so we can, as best we can sort out an effective reconstruction. Um…. it’s quite interesting there's CCTV here, uh…. here...
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Andrea: I asked about that, and they said there is not enough on it, it's like a few seconds.
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Donal: So, the few seconds of her walking, did they have a timeline for that?
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Donal: When she crossed? Because...
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Andrea: No, I never got um…. an answer, they just, I just said…. what about the CCTV at the gate? And they said, oh no, it's just a few seconds, there’s nothing on that.
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Donal: That would be critical because that would mean it would be able to pinpoint an actual time that she left your house and to confirm whether she’d taken any detours or not. You think that's something you can maybe ask them about and we'll ask them about?
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Andrea: Yeah, that was the end of the CCTV here. They did put out a sort of a media appeal because when the guy who said he'd seen her opposite on the next road, and he was looking out he said. He also said there was some sort of teenagers sitting outside Tesco’s that night, so, they put out an appeal to ask if any of them could come forward, but nobody did.
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Donal: And so, there was a sighting of her in the evening.
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Andrea: In the evening
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Donal: And that was...
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Andrea: Around 8 o'clock, wasn't it? Yeah.
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Donal: And that must've been quite critical because of course, who was meeting her at that time? Until very recently the last sighting people had of her on CCTV was effectively around at the phone shop around nine thirty, nine forty-five.
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Andrea: This sighting, they dismissed because they couldn't corroborate it with any…. Anything, so they dismissed it afterwards.
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Donal: Who was the person who saw Georgina here?
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Andrea: Um…. I think it...
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Donal: Might be that guy there who saw Georgina? Okay. Well, let's take a wander down.
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Donal: As we’re retracing Georgina’s route, we by chance, come across a key witness in the case. Now this witness has asked that he remains anonymous, but he’s a local shopkeeper who knew Georgina personally.
He tells us that he was at a family member’s flat for a get together between 6 and 8pm on the day that Georgina disappeared. The flat that he was in looks down upon the area at the front of the Tesco Express at the junction of Clifton Road and Tarring Road. He hears the sound of raised voices from the outside and looks down to see someone who he says with 100% certainty is Georgina.
And what he says next is key – he says that Georgina was in some kind of altercation with two men – that they appeared to be arguing. He describes the men as having smart haircuts, and that one of them had a distinctive side-parting, and the other had spiky hair. He watches as Georgina and the two men walk past a group of teenagers sat outside Tesco before they disappear off in the general direction of the railway crossing.
To me, this witness seems completely credible and believable, and he is in no doubt about what he saw that night. I’m intrigued to find out from Andrea what happened next…
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Donal: We're on the walk and here we have, we bump into a witness who definitively says, and knows Georgina unmistakeable from a window and just below sees a row between a group of men, two white men in particular, and detailed interaction. And between six and eight on the day she went missing.
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Andrea: I said, I've emailed the police, I've spoken with the police, and I said, I believe this guy. I believe what he says is true, because he's known her, he knows her personally, and they just dismissed it.
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Donal: To my mind, it would seem that he's a very reliable witness because what he said was, he said, did they go past the station? He said, well, I couldn't see that because, you know, I could only see what, from this corner.
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Andrea: Because there’s a road that goes to the back of the station there.
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Donal: But a lot of people would have said, oh we would have filled in and given a presumption… oh yeah, they must've gone down there. But, no, no, he specifically said and gave a description of what he could see and from what he could see, where you're standing, the only thing you could see was, he couldn't see around the corner, he could see straight to that, and he could see, they went left. And he didn't add anything, any extra colour in, and that, to my mind, he was a very good witness.
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Andrea: Oh yeah, we believe…. we believe him. We believed him all along and we've always… we've always kept to that and said that. That's why we believe that's what happened, but you know, even when the police said that they couldn't corroborate it, I said, well, I, I believe the story.
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Petra: Yeah. We've…. we've been to see him for about an hour, he always tells exactly the same story. There is no change to it, he's clearly not adding anything in that, that's not true. You know, like you say, he's kind of, um…. you know, he knows that from there he can't see them, you know, whether someone is going to the station, it's impossible. He can't see around the corner here from up the top of that building where he saw her from. So, um…. Uh…. we are very clear aren't we, 150% that he's telling the truth.
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Donal: So now, uh…. above the din of the traffic, and of course, this traffic would have been exactly the kind of traffic she would have faced in the morning as she went to the, uh…. phone shop. So where is the phone shop in relation to this?
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Andrea: There it’s, it's like a convenience shop, really, but you know, they sell SIM cards.
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Donal: So okay then…
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Andrea: So, she comes down here, we saw her on the CCTV, she comes this way and she walked across the middle of the road here...
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Donal: Ok let’s cross this, you know, she doesn't go to the…. it wouldn't be Georgina to go to the actual crossing, and she comes up here. So where is the shop?
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Andrea: So, you just see her walking up here…
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Andrea: Um…. this is a shop that she did use as well, but...
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Donal: This is an all in one, past the Turkish restaurant, and we've got, uh…. some scaffolding here, we've got some houses for sale, for let.
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Andrea: She comes right up to here… Clifton food and wine and goes into here.
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Donal: Is this the phone shop?
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Andrea: This is the, no, this is the...
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Andrea: Yeah, she didn't go to a phone shop. I think...
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Donal: She went here.
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Andrea: When the police put the appeal out, they wrote phone shop, and we sort of continually asked them to change it because it was quite misleading for people.
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Donal: Because it wasn’t…. this is a Clifton Food and Wine Shop.
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Andrea: But, they said, she came in here, she asked him about a SIM card, this door was open on the CCTV for sighting.
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Donal: Now we can see on the side here? And I know there are new owners here, but this probably wouldn't have been too different, Gif Gaf vouchers, she had her old SIM card and you'd given her a phone; she was trying to match the phone and she was struggling with that.
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Donal: Okay, so, how long was she in the shop for?
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Andrea: 10 minutes, I think. Well, on the CCTV…. I think the whole CCTV was 12 minutes. So, you just see her come down here and then she goes in, she gets…. rummages in her bag, she talks to him.
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Donal: So, the CCTV footage was from here, was it? From this camera there? That would have caught the street.
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Andrea: Must've been inside he had one, there must have been, he had one that caught her coming down, and then she was…. you see her walking in...
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Donal: So, we have the CCTV here on the left on the side that would have caught a very wide angle of her coming in and the shot from inside here, and maybe a top shot from there.
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Andrea: Then you see her going off.
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Donal: And then she goes off with that and she goes out of sight past the Chinese food market, and then she goes into the pastel-coloured houses on the right-hand side.
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Andrea: That’s it, you don't see anything, you just see, sort of see her feet then, and then, that was it.
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Donal: That was it, until they found the new CCTV footage of the last …. you'd kind of seen of her.
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Donal: While Andrea goes in to speak to the shopkeeper, I want to recap where we are and in particular note the significance of the CCTV. Now, we’re currently stood outside Clifton Food and Wine, which is on Clifton Road in Worthing. This is where the last known confirmed piece of CCTV footage featuring Georgina comes from. Now there is another piece of footage which is found 18 months later which we’ll talk more about in a future episode
The Clifton Food and Wine footage shows Georgina enter the shop with her carrier bags, and she has a lengthy conversation with the shopkeeper she shows him her mobile phone and, also what appears to be a handheld game console. She seems in pretty good spirits and leaves the shop, back onto Clifton Road turns right and walks out of sight of the CCTV cameras dressed in her distinctive coat… as Andrea comes back out of the shop, we continue the trail…
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Andrea: Come out here she umm…. she sort of looks likes that, like as if she was thinking then all of a sudden just turned that way.
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Donal: She looks was she going to left was she going to go right then she turns going right, then where is this direction towards.
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Andrea: Straight down into the sort of town, you can go on to the sea but then if you…. if you…. there are two or three roads here and if you cut through them, they can bring you back round to the station, they could also take you to the town.
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Donal: Well apart from potential conflicts between quarter past 10, or 10 o'clock on that morning she went missing, and at four o’clock we know it may not have been significant what happened between those hours. We do know we have a sighting between six and eight of a row here, which the police have dismissed and some interaction, two white men.
13:33 --> 14:12 - Donal continuing
Let's walk our way down here, a little bit down here, up to the last two shots where she was seen. You see, it's getting a little edgier, it just feels a little less cared for, a little more unkempt, and here we come, the last shots of her as she's drifting with her boots and her grey jeans, are coming up here now we have these rather distinctive pastel-coloured houses you know, you often see on sea fronts. So, then we didn’t know anything about her for the next six hours until you got an email from the police to say that she was spotted outside a bank around four o'clock in Worthing town centre. Now that is problematic, Isn't it?
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Andrea: So, in that time, all those months, they sort of led us to believe that she'd either got taken in a car or something had happened to her around here.
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Donal: But as a consequence, there are now six hours of potential video footage. She obviously was in the city centre or around the area between here and four o'clock between 10 o'clock in the morning on the day she went missing, and four o'clock, and that to my mind demonstrates a bankrupt failure in the investigation. The fact that they took a decision, that she didn't go there, so that early decision the police made was fundamentally flawed and left out, hours and hours of footage, which now means of course, that basically, all these potential leads who she was with was she talked to, are now gone.
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Donal: And they want to be congratulated. They said to you, you must be, feel very grateful for all the hard work, which found this one bit of video footage.
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Andrea: Well, I didn’t so I said I was really disappointed in this, the CCTV actually, because, um…. it's…. it's been 18 months and why didn't you… you follow up anything that we'd asked. We kept asking during that 18 month, we'd been constantly asking them, what has been done? Why aren't you doing that? And it was always, no, we don't need to do that, or we've done that, and so, I said, how come the CCTV, you found it now? And that I know that was because, um, Andy was the one who asked for the peripheral CCTV to be checked when he took over.
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Donal: Just to remind the listeners why we know she definitely didn't go away.
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Andrea: Um… she… well…. she's got two children that she really, I mean she loved. um…. she hadn't used her bank card which she had money in, and Georgina would…. would have spent that money.
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Donal: Donal: Do we know when that money came in?
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Andrea: Um…. I think it came in around that night, around that day or the day after.
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Donal: She was living hand to mouth and that kind of distance her benefits come in it would be gone or some of it. So, whoever...
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Andrea: Yeah…. And on food, she got bulimia so obviously she'd spend it on food and drink.
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Donal: So, food and drink.
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Andrea: Uh…. Takeaway, like that's how she sort of…. she was quite known in that takeaway shop, so, she would spend it on takeaways, and drink. Yeah.
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Donal: So, we know that when the money would have come in by around midnight of that night, then she would have spent it or gone out.
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Andrea: Not all of it, she did sort of ration it a bit.
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Donal: But she'd have spent it the minute it came in...
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Andrea: That wouldn't have been in their…. sort of a week later definitely not.
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Donal: So, she’d have probably dispensed some of it on that evening and we know she didn't. And so that means that basically we know that the minute the money went in, then she probably was not in control of her own independent movements. So, either something had happened, or she was kidnapped or that she was murdered sometime before midnight.
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Andrea: Well…. when we first reported it a few days later, we asked the police, could they check out where she'd used the card? Cause we were still thinking she was somewhere, and she perhaps used it, you know, perhaps she was with a friend, I said it'll at least give us some idea where if she's in Crawley or if she's in Horsham or what. You know, give us where she'd used the cash machine, and cause we didn't think of anything else then, and then when they told me it hadn't been used, um…. it hadn't been used at all; I just knew that something was wrong then.
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Donal: So, to sum up somebody who knows Georgina, well, and will identify her a hundred times out of a hundred absolutely 100% identified her around eight o'clock that evening in a slight altercation on this corner here of Tarring Road and Clifton Road on the corner of Tesco's. The police seem to be working hard to exclude possibilities. Why was that?
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Andrea: I feel like we’ve done all the investigating, and searching, and looking for answers, and, and…. you know we’ve gone out we’ve gone out to places, I run over…. I drove to Brighton before I've had to get to work in an hour to speak to somebody who said they might have some important information. Um…. you know, in the middle of Brighton people sightings, possible sightings because I wanted to hear first-hand because every time we told the police, they said that, no, no, they just said, no, it's not her, we know it's not her. So, I said to Petra, several times, I'm going to drive over there and see for myself, and we did that several times, but obviously we never saw anything. Um…. but myself, I think in the beginning, they dismissed it as Georgina had gone off on, uh…. you know, meeting someone, you know, jolly in the beginning and that's why it was never taken seriously. So, you know, and that's why that all this CCTV was, was let…. let go, and then it was too late, and they couldn't do anything about it.
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Donal: If you have any information regarding the Georgina Gharsallah case no matter how insignificant you may think it is please contact Sussex Police on 101 or in confidence via Crimestoppers who are offering a 10,000-pound reward.
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Pause with continuation of background music…
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Donal: ‘Murder, Missing Unsolved’ is presented by me Donal MacIntyre and produced by Inherent Productions and Steve Langridge, music is by Alex Sayne and additional audio production by John Franklin Audio.
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