To mark Georgina Gharsallah’s 32nd birthday, Donal meets with her family, friends and well-wishers, who have gathered together in Worthing town centre, to share their memories during a candlelit vigil.
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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 Four - Happy Birthday, Georgina
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Donal: So, it's looking all right for the vigil, Andrea.
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Andrea: Yeah, Weather's going to be okay, there's no rain so, that's the most important thing. I think the last one we did, it was snowing, actually snowing, so as long as it keeps dry, that'd be fine. Um…. I think another one we did in the town, we did, um…. a stall, we set up a stall sort of information about Georgina and giving out posters and things, and it was like gale force winds, sort of posters flying everywhere so, we tried to Sellotape them to the table.
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Donal: It's difficult for you to be, you know, a worried and grieving mum for your missing daughter, at the same time, you're an ambassador for this investigation, you're the Arrowhead, you're the public face of it. Trying to keep everybody happy, keep us happy, the police happy, other broadcasters happy, are you feeling the pressure?
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Andrea: Yeah, it's quite stressful, Um…. and sometimes I feel, I…. I feel like I'm not grieving enough because I'm so busy. My mind is so busy with what, what next oh, tomorrow we're doing that the next day that, or tonight I must do the posters, or we've got to talk to that person. And then all of a sudden it hits me, and I think I feel bad cause I've, haven't actually had time to think about the actual, my daughter, you know, why we're actually doing it. Um….
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Today on her 32nd birthday. I'm going to be speaking to her mum, Andrea, and also investigative journalist, Donal MacIntyre, who's made a series of podcasts about Georgina's disappearance.
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Donal: We're in a coffee shop nearby, we're in Brighton this is a place where uh…. Georgina spent a lot of time. In terms of holding the police to account, what are you hoping to get from that?
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Andrea: I was hoping that they'll perhaps sort of branch out a bit more, and…. and look into it more in-depth.
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Donal: Now we don't think for one second that we're either in a better position to solve this case, than anybody else, but we know that by us holding the cops to account and joining your campaign, because no-one, no-one has barked harder than you have done. And we come on board, we've seen all the points you've done. I think part of the reason why they had a very reductionist, limited perspective in this investigation was because they, actually, simply, victim blamed, she didn't fall into the concept of the ideal victim, they fell into the kind of news media values of who we spend our time and money on. And I think she was denied the justice quality of a fair and full investigation because she wasn't conventional because she had some social problems. Now they're playing catch-up, and the reality, you want them to acknowledge their mistakes because only by acknowledging their mistakes, can they recalibrate the investigation and make a better investigation, and find the answers. We're not here just to kick them around for the sake of kicking them around, we're here to kick them around, legitimately to make sure they recalibrate, refocus, throw much more resources. And if they're embarrassed and humiliated by their abject failures, but they throw more resources, well, that's a victory...
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Donal: With one media engagement out of the way, Andrea heads for the railway station to travel back to Worthing to prepare for the next. It’s clear to me that this search for answers has turned into a full-time job for Andrea. The constant drive to keep Georgina’s case in the public eye is all consuming and leaves little time to reflect or process the impact it has had on her personally.
Tonight, we join Andrea and Petra in the middle Worthing, just opposite the place where Georgina was seen on CCTV with an unknown woman, as they prepare for a candlelit vigil to mark Georgina’s 32nd birthday…
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Petra: ...Just put it here, that's it “hope for Georgina.” Perfect. Just needs to go into the middle.
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Donal: You want me to pin something? No,
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Petra: Uh…. we've got…. we are really organized, actually, so thank you very much, Donal.
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Donal: So, here we have, we have a “Georgina Forever” sign here. This is an illuminated sign here.
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Donal: And for Georgina forever….
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Donal: Loved…. and you have pinned to the front here a sign, and this reads....
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Andrea: Um…. “Hope for Georgina.”
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Petra: Don't even hide them, they're going over here.
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Donal: So how many people, maybe 10?
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Petra: No…. we actually have - on the page it says 79 people interested or going, out of them it says 17 going, well, that includes me and Sara, I think, um…. so, you never know. We’ve widely advertised, basically widely, all the local places so people are aware. So, if they want to come...
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Donal: How many, how many were here the last time?
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Petra: We…., we…., we…., we were at the, a station last time before the vigil, so, um…. There was about 15 or 20...
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Andrea: It might've been about 30 or 40, but they came and then some stayed for sort of 20 minutes and went, and some others come.
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Donal: Yeah… and how do you feel after the police appear to have given publicly some finality to this ended all hope by declaring it effectively a murder in a curious way.
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Andrea: Um…. that's too final for me. Um…. and because there isn't any evidence whatsoever, nothing. Um…. I know it might be silly or stupid to some people because they might think, oh, the police declared it murder, but for us, we've still got to live with hope because you never know. Um,
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Donal: And here we are, we're opposite the last…
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Andrea: The CCTV was over there. There's a big camera, town camera over there. So, she came, they said…. she was seen coming around that corner. Not really sure they crossed the road, but they're not really sure if they came up here or they went straight up, up the road.
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Donal: But it's just inconceivable to me that she was in Worthing town centre, and only two pieces of CCTV in one of the most populated places in the country with CCTV cameras.
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Andrea: And it was… I came round here and counted at least 10 CCTV cameras down there, inside there, coming in into here. Um…. I asked in the jewellers' shop, um…. I asked in Barclays bank just around the corner.
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Donal: And tell me this, what did the police say? Presumably if they found one bit of CCTV, they could look for others.
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Andrea: They said that there wasn't any, and then they gave me this, um… sort of a thing about, um…. how many hours of manpower it actually took to, to, to go through that, and each police officer. It would take four years if they went through the whole lot of the CCTV and there wasn't possibly anymore, and we said, what about anything that continues up there then, if they went up there? And they just said, no, there's nothing. This is absolutely nothing, there's no more than this, but you said that…
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Donal: Its…. you said that before.
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Andrea: They said that, yeah.
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Donal: It's inconceivable that there's no other the CCTV even just to get a hint of that direction would have been very helpful. They were proved wrong before they make a whole series of suppositions, based upon the fact she didn't leave, and disappeared within a hundred or 200 metres of where she was last spotted at 10:30 in the morning, or 10:15 in the morning on the CCTV. Now, they had to reinvent a whole series of new suppositions, 17 months later with new CCTV. Now you had told them, pleaded with them to, to go on. They dismissed you and said, oh, we've made our decision. Well, has anyone said, well, we made the wrong decision in retrospect...?
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Andrea: No, no, nobody said that, no… I said, even now that the, the person that come forward about the, the bridge sighting, which later they retracted, you know, it all fits because obviously she was somewhere else for six hours between, um…. Clifton road and here, uh, if they went straight up, up towards that part, north of town, and then she was later seen going over the bridge, she could have, you know, she could have been somewhere around here, in some house or somewhere until the evening. I mean, she was also seen in Clifton Road that evening, at, set, between seven and eight as well.
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Donal: But if you’re in the centre of any town or a small city in England, and this is one of the most CCTV and camera'd up countries on the planet. And you could only find one CCTV inside a shop and then going in then six hours later, footage like this. And that is a successful investigation? I say, bankrupt, I say, I don't believe it.
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Andrea: Um,…. but there was CCTV in that arcade as well over there, there's an arcade, and there was quite a few cameras in there, which I took photos of. I went around and took photos of them all, and I sort of…. I said, I've been around today, and I've been around yesterday, and I've taken photos of these, and you know, were any of these checked? And I never really got a proper answer. And I said, I did go into Lloyd's um…. Barclay's bank, and they told me that they didn't have any that would, um…. take, you know, catch anybody walking past because at the time they got a broken window as well, and they said they couldn't…
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Donal: The fact that Andrea has had to act as a kind of, lead investigator in this case really angers me, it’s a position no mother of a missing person should ever be put in.
She’s describing what are, effectively, her own door-to-door CCTV enquiries here, enquiries she felt compelled to complete because she’d no confidence that the police had done this competently, or effectively.
And in the middle of all of this, as another news crew arrives, as the candles are lit and posters displayed, Andrea needs to find some time to remember her missing daughter on her birthday.
As family members, old school friends and well-wishers arrive, they gather together and share their own thoughts and memories of Georgina…
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School Friend: She came to Davison’s a year after everyone else. In year eight or nine, I think it was, um…. I was just saying that, yeah, she came into science and that was it really, we clicked from then it was me, Sam, Steph, Rachel, and Georgina. Um…. and yeah, we were pretty much inseparable after that. We sort of drifted after school and then got back in contact again. Um…. But I would have always been there for her, and I know full well she would have been there for me. She is one of those girls that if you need her, she'll be there in a shot. When I first found out that she'd gone missing, I know, I sent her messages on Facebook that, you know, George, if you need me, you know where I am. If you can't talk to anyone else, just, you know, get in contact wherever you are. And I would, I'd go to the end of the world to try and find her. It plays on my mind every single day, there is literally not a day where she doesn't enter my thoughts and like... Yeah...
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Donal: How did you first hear about the case and why are you here tonight?
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Councillor: Um…. I’m here because, uh… to support Andrea, um…. I’m really sorry, this is a subject that it's not easy to talk. Um...
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Donal: You've got three children of your own.
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Councillor: Yes, I've got three daughters. Yeah. When I heard first, um…. about 15 months, no, actually, no, yeah, almost about 18 months ago, I saw a poster on the bridge, um…. Teville Road Bridge, where it said, “missing Georgina.” And, uh, that totally hit me because I looked at my girls and I didn't know anything about Georgina. I'm just a normal person who lives in Worthing. Um…. then I was selected to stand as a Councillor in Gasford Ward, where Georgina's mum lives, and when I saw the name, it really hit me. I had to knock on the door and speak to Georgina's mum, Andrea, and it…. we both shared a lot of tears. I didn't know what to say. It breaks my heart to see even here that it's been 20 months and we've got no answer about Georgina. How can a person get missing from our local town?
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Donal: The police have claimed to have done a professional and a really good job, but, and we know they're doing their best, and we know certainly they're well motivated. But what rational explanation is that, you know, a substantive police investigation and suspected homicide investigation can only find two minutes of footage in a shop in Clifton Road and then eight seconds of footage here, and after 18 months of investigating, that's all the CCTV they could find in the centre of a significant, you know, coastal town. It's preposterous to think, you know…. think that that's all the CCTV that was recorded.
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Councillor: Well, I think this should have come out long time ago -not now. Okay. It should have been, you can't just suddenly find the footage now.
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Councillor: It should have been acknowledged when she got missing, uh, people of Worthing needs to come together and help Andrea to find an answer, where Georgina's gone.
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Donal: Somebody…. Somebody out there….
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Councillor: Yeah, somebody out there knows must have seen her or knows more and not letting us know what's happening because after 18 months releasing some footage and now, they're talking about murder?
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Donal: Well, I think its…
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Councillor: I really…. don't understand at all, and I'm here, not as a Councillor, I'm here as a mum, supporting Andrea. Before I came out this evening. Um…. I had a quick chat with Andrea, and I was just saying that no matter what I'm going to be here, um…. I don't know how much I can help you, but I'm standing beside you, and I will help you as much as you need, because it's our, our girl, you know, and every child is important. We can't pick and choose. We can't. We just can't. I mean, I'm really sad to see there so less people are out here, it's…. I'm really, really, furious about Worthing people. At the moment, I'm really shaking. I was hoping more and more people are going to be here to support today's Georgina 32 years old and she should be with her family.
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Donal: Well, do you think we'll ever find an answer?
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Councillor: I'm not giving up on this. Um…. I'm sure people like you here supporting Andrea and I'm sure we will find some answer. Positive answer and we will be searching and we're not going to give up, um…. on…. give up on Georgina at all. We’re here and I hope Worthing people are listening and come forward.
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Pause with continuation of background music…
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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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