Donal brings in retired and much-respected Met police detective and cold-case specialist, Clive Driscoll who discusses his experiences of investigating the Stephen Lawrence and Surjit Athwal murders and the similarities with Georgina’s case. Andrea asks Clive to explain how an investigation should run and helps to decipher the often-confusing police jargon she’s encountered since Georgina disappeared.
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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. This search for Georgina.
Episode Five - Clive of the Yard
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Donal: I’m back in Worthing today to introduce someone to Andrea, an old friend of mine, in the hope that he may be able to shed some light on and cut through some of the police actions and often-confusing decisions that they´ve made in this case.
Sussex police have told Andrea that they’ve brought in top, experienced ex murder detectives to review the investigation, including detectives who worked on the Stephen Lawrence enquiry. So, what better person to bring in to speak to Andrea than the man most famous for solving the Stephen Lawrence murder, than retired police detective Clive Driscoll. We join them as Andrea outlines the case so far and the concerns, she’s had…
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Andrea: In the beginning, the first few weeks, they seemed to be quite busy doing sort of things, but we said to them, look, Georgina has alcohol issues, she's had, she has social anxiety. Um…. she has bulimia, you know, she's got issues. Um…. um, we' believe she's a vulnerable person. She is a vulnerable person. Um…. so, we…. you need to put her into this category.
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Clive: Well, first of all, very sorry that you've had to put up with that, but, um…. it must be very stressful for you personally because you're a mum, aren't you?
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Clive: And, uh…. a couple of things really, she most certainly is vulnerable, she was by what you've actually outlined to me there. Funnily enough, you know, you've talked about one of my old jobs, but this is more actually close to probably the Surjit Athwal murder, which was, uh…. you know, in fact that that was treated as a missing person for a long, long, time before, you know, you know, and one of the things that I actually did was what you actually have just done, which was proved there was no bank usage, so people need money to keep going, don´t they? People need money. So, if there is absolutely no. Um…. I suppose the next thing I'd have to ask you, is there have been any sightings, has anybody ever come to you and said, they've seen her?
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Andrea: From the beginning until now, I think they say they've had 60 sightings, but when they've looked, checked them all out, and looked on camera, or spoken to the person it's not actually, it's never been her.
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Clive: So, could we say now that there haven’t been any sightings because….
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Andrea: Not credible ones
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Clive. No credible ones, and any phone calls from anyone has any phone calls been made, has anybody actually spoken to that person.
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Andrea: No, no.
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Clive: So, you could say that from the moment that young Georgina went, there's been no credible sightings, there's been no phone calls there's been no bank usage? Would that be correct?
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Andrea: Only on the day when she disappeared, we had one witness who said that he's a hundred percent sure that he saw her, after that there's nothing.
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Clive: Well, my personal opinion of that person is he actually knew her, didn't he?
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Clive: So, it's, it's, it's easier if you know someone to say it's them, isn’t it? So, I would accept that. So, um, I suppose the next thing if I may ask is uh…. it went from being a missing person into the major crime unit. What happened when it went to major crime unit?
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Andrea: Um, they were still - when it was moved to major crime - they were still classing it as a missing person, really, um…. um…. they, it was, we're still checking the friends out. You know, we're still hoping that she might just turn up and knock on the door. They gave us about 12 different theories in the, in the beginning, um…. she'd gone off on her own accord, um…. suicide, she was in hospital somewhere and, and they didn't, no-one was aware. It was her. Um…. she'd been trafficked, um…. she'd gone abroad, um…. murder. Um….
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Clive: It’s what I was asking in a way. It was what I was asking you if you've had no sightings, no telephone calls...
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Andrea: Everything was
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Clive: If…. if there is no actual trace of a person, um…. normally in seven years, the coroner will allow you to assume you know, to assume that that person is no longer with us. But, um…. I, I suppose I'm…. I'm probably more interested in what the police were actually doing for you now. Um…. uh…. it seems, um…. if…. if in fact the police are now considering this to be, um…. a homicide, a murder, then there are certain things that happen. You know what I mean, one, you should get a dedicated team that's actually looking into the case of Georgina, cause that's what, that's what happens in the police force is that uh…. but two, also you should…. have you got a family liaison officer?
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Andrea: We had two last year and, um…. they um…. they wasn't very helpful. So, I…. I…. didn't bother contacting them.
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Clive: Please, please just accept this from me, that you’re a mum. So, you have every right to ask every single question you ask, and you certainly have every right to be asking the police, what you can, okay, you know, what they may or may not be doing because it's your loved one. What I do just to keep you fully in the picture is I’d try to encourage the police to do, they are the ones with all off the equipment, they are the ones who have all of the intelligence, they are actually the ones that are like the centre of the web. If people are phoning in Crimestoppers, anonymous tips, everything usually goes to the police, so what I tend to do is I have no wish to work against them because one, it would be pointless and two, it wouldn't help you. So if I want to help you, my, my role now which is a privilege for me to do would be to encourage the Sussex Police, one, to communicate on a better level to make it easier for you, uh… and two, to be open with what you know, a bit of transparency, really, uh, that's what the McPherson report actually we’ve got to be a bit more transparent.
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Andrea: They tell us they got no leads at all, no information at all. Why do they still say, then there are, there are things running alongside it, which we can't tell you about?
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Clive: That's two opposites so that can't be right if I was perfectly honest with you. Um…. any, I mean, any inquiry is following a lead, otherwise, I could just walk out here and turn right couldn’t I. The only thing that matters is the outcome which we give to you, sort of. So, for me, uh…. one of the opportunities is I have been dealing with Sussex, I’ve helped them with about four cases now, so this will be my fifth. Uh…. and I just try to encourage them to, um…. well, look at, look at the evidence and you know, don't make assumptions really. If some of the famous barristers say that's what the police do. We make assumptions very quickly and then that steers us where we are going, as opposed to just following what the evidence is telling us. Now, the evidence is telling us, there is exactly one person in the universe who might actually have known on day, date, time, place, where Georgina was, that's the person you start, and that's where you start from. Because that's the one thing we could rely on all the other, um, sightings, which have been disproved haven't they really.
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Clive: So, we can't really, rely on those, so, but I mean more importantly, it's what I say to, to family’s is, don't think anything’s unimportant. And sometimes the way, certainly the way you feel you've been treated, you might not tell the police everything because you think, well, they’re not going listen to anyway, but I would say everything's important. All an investigation is a box of jigsaw thrown on the floor, and then you start picking pieces up here and there, and eventually you'll see a picture. And that's when the investigation is nothing more, nothing less, you know, I wish I could say it's more scientific, it isn’t, you just have loads more equipment to do it with.
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Donal: Until a police force accepts where they got it wrong. They can't really reinvent the wheel you've got a reputation of inheriting hopeless cases, Clive.
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Clive: It strikes me that, um…. the evidence, which is available now, which shows there was a positive sighting, in, in a place, a fair way away, shows that some of the earlier decisions are no longer can be relied on, you know, they're, they're, they appear wrong. That's not a problem, as long as you acknowledge that, if you acknowledge that, that decision I made because of that, but now I'm looking at it and I'll tell you what, it's not as good as I thought it was. That ain't a problem because mistakes happen that's life, but it's how you deal with a mistake, which is the problem. So, um…. and, and, and if, if you were in any way, shape, or form if they were suggesting, you should be happy with that, well, I would say, that is a, uh…. an assumption and, and that's wrong because the only thing you should be happy with is when, when you, when you, as an individual believes that the police have done the best they can. And at the moment it doesn't take a genius to work out you don't think that. I used to, I do a lecture now, which I call fact or fiction, because what is fact and what is fiction sometimes is intertwined, you, you know, people say things to you, and they look at it with great gusto and they're certainly not lying to you. But they look at you and say, this is what it is, and when you scratch the surface, it ain't. And that's just come from being started off as being a rumour, a possible, and it goes into fiction. Then all of a sudden, it's written up as fact, as fact, as fact, as fact, and, uh…. you know, that is something that is just part of an investigation.
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I'm sure in this there are people that we are concerned about without even knowing what the police have got. I'm sure there are people we're concerned about. You've already acknowledged that young Georgina had a few challenges in life, didn't she?
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Clive: She was a vulnerable person, sadly, in this world, there are people who take advantage of vulnerable people…
Donal: After some weeks of apparent police inactivity, after Georgina was reporting missing, the family intervened - escalating the case into the hands of the major crime team. As Andrea noted earlier in the episode, she was given a list of possible suggestions by the police, for what could have happened to her daughter. Including murder, suicide, accidental death, and even voluntary absence…
Clive: I suppose I'm the wrong word is happy, but I'm content they've knocked away some of the things they said could be, I've never known anyone being given a list of all of that in my 34 years as a copper, to be honest, it's, uh…. you, you could just say that we don't know. And it would cover all of those to be perfectly honest, and I'm sure that caused you a bit of trauma, which I'm sorry about. So, for me, what Sussex police must do um, and they might look at me and think, well who are you anyway? Why do we have to listen to you? Because they don't have to listen to me. But I would say they've got to start at the beginning and ensure that you can almost show, it's not, it's not being disrespectful, I always say this to young coppers. I train young coppers now, if you follow me on any of my jobs, check every one of my decisions, and if you disagree with them, you ain't going to offend me, change them.
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If you disagree with it, if you think it's better for the investigation, that, that, that decision kicked in the long grass kick it in the long grass, because it's about the investigation today. Young Stewart Lawrence, Stephen's brother has got a wonderful, wonderful expression. I use it all the time. What is the most important day of your life? It's today. Cause we can do something today, can't we? I can't do anything about yesterday. Now is a chance to look at this fresh pair of eyes. You're not going to insult anyone, if you think, you know what, that was absolutely rubbish because it happens. But make sure today, it ain't rubbish, make sure today we get it right, uh, we move forward so that you can have some kind of peace really, because it's my, well, my heart goes for you. It must be awful for you.
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So, for me, what I would like with your permission to do, cause I have to have your permission because you’re mum, I would like your permission for me to try and chase up Sussex police and I'd want to help them, I want them, I want Sussex police to be successful, because then you will be. I want Sussex police to be successful because you will be, I don't want to take them on and make them look a bunch of clowns.
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The answer is I want them to be successful because they hold all the cards, we're looking at the back of them. They’ve got the information, they know, they know they've got the computer and uh…. and we need them to know, one, that you're not happy because that is so important, but two, you could probably do better lads and lasses, actually, you probably could do better. I've never known the sense in writing to a mum who's lost a daughter to say that you got to wait for three weeks working on a course, and what we do, you couldn’t give two hoots could you? No? I will tell you what I'm off today, well, well done you Clive, well done mate crack on, yeah. No, it's absolutely pointless, and all it does is add to the concern, the worry, and I say this in a lecture.
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If anyone ever said to me, this is my phone number it is turned on when I'm on duty, I'd probably tell him to poke it, because it is so disrespectful to someone who's going through such a traumatize. But I say that in a lecture, I’m not being a hypocrite here. Yeah. That's what I say to young coppers now. Um…. so, so, it's my privilege to help you, if I was honest. Thank you, thank you very much for asking me. The only reason I'm sitting here is because it I might help, the only reason I'm down here is because I like to think it would encourage people to talk. They will tell you… if the talk to the police, I'd be delighted. If they talk to us, it'd be delighted. It's about finding out what's happened. Who finds out? If I was honest, I couldn't care less.
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As long as someone finds out. If it's you fabulous, if it’s Sussex police fabulous. If it’s Donal fabulous, If it’s me wonderful. You know, but it doesn't matter as long as we do it. And so…. if, if you know, I mean, it's about getting it going again, it’s a hit a bit of a lull, hasn’t it? That's the way I'd describe it, it´s hit a of a lull where, where the police are saying all the right things. But, but maybe what you're looking at is not a lot happening. So, all I would say is what I think I can do for you is, um…., almost be a go between, between the old bill and you, or the police if you prefer it. It literally…. because that's what I've done for another family whereby originally the police, weren't going to touch it with a barge pole. Now they've reviewed the case and maybe there'll be some opportunities there to get some justice for people. And that's what I think I can do for you to be honest, you know, you have to, sometimes, I am an ex-copper, I don't have any of the powers a bit like Superman standing against kryptonite really. I don’t have any of the powers that I used to have So I don't have access to the indices I used to have, but I can still talk to people. I can still get people to come forward and help us.
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Andrea: I have said to the police as well is Georgina being discriminated against her past because she's, you know, she's had problems and issues and they've just said, no, no, no, that doesn't go on these days. Um…. one of the inspectors said that doesn't go on these days.
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Clive: I…. I personally wouldn't have the confidence to say that, personally. Um…. I think that the police are far better, I'd have to say that, but whether, or not, um…. you know, maybe still we, we, we, we, we look at things differently on occasions, I'm not so sure I'd have the confidence to say that doesn't go on anymore. Um…. I think that sometimes it's not even something you're aware of, and I unfortunately think that, um…. once again if Mr. Jack Singh was here, he’d be screaming at the top of his voice, if you have blonde hair, blue eyes and white, you’d probably get a far better service than if you ain’t. He would say that because it seems to be that some of the cases where billions, billions? well millions have been spent on the victims possibly are. Now you could put the spin there and say young Stephen wasn't, and a lot of money was spent on Stephen's case, but the answer being is, as I've said to you before, it's because there was someone in there.
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Saying I ain’t having this, this is my loved one, and she deserves nothing less than us trying our hardest and so, congratulations on what you're doing, well done for what you're doing, and don't stop what you're doing because that will allow it to stay in the public domain, and I…. I will do my level best, um…. to try and encourage the Sussex police to review it with a fresh pair of eyes. If they scream at me, say we have done, then I’ll ask anyway because there has to be a time where we say that, please, please just dot the I's and cross the T's because you know, if it's been treated as a homicide, well, let's do the respectful thing, do what we would do for homicide.
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Andrea: We did a recent, um…. radio interview on Georgina's birthday and it was BBC Sussex, and the, um…. the interview, uh…. lady said that, um…. some people have phoned in with questions and, um…. they wanted to ask that it…. it had been known that Georgina hung out with sort of dodgy, um…. you know, dodgy people, and how true was this? Um…. which I thought was…. was irrelevant really.
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Clive: In…. in any investigation, it would have been an opportunity actually, because who are they?
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Donal: Obviously the point is…. but Clive wasn't it the point the first question she asked the point is they victim blamed Georgina as if anything that happened to her was her fault. That’s the point.
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Andrea: We have had quite a few, um, messages or posts on our missing page from people when we've put out, you know, like media posts and things and people have, uh…. oh, well, didn't, she hang around with dodgy people. Wasn't she….? didn't she do drugs? She drank, what do you expect? You know, this sort of thing.
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Clive: Well, I expect her to be treated as a person, I expect her to be treated with respect and I expect any…. anything we can do to find out what happened to Georgina. Sadly, I have to say, it's not uncommon in cases where for some reason, people tend to try and make it, well it doesn’t really matter. Well, there's nothing in law at all, there's nothing in law that says you're a whatever, so it doesn't matter. The law is definite on all cases, so, so, I think that it sometimes gets a term of victim blame. I wish I could look you in the eyes and say, it never happened to me, but I can tell you it probably happened in virtually every one of my cases was for somehow people were trying to…. in certainly one of my famous, well, both were famous cases, which people always talk to me about, most of the people were suggesting that there was something your case is incredibly parallel with Surjit, Surjit Athwal, unbelievably parallel with it because they…. they tried to suggest that she was all sorts of weird, and wonderful, but who cares? Is the answer. All I cared about was what happened to Surjit you know. Um…. now if she’d put herself in a position and something happened to her, well there’s once again nothing in law that says, well, blimey that’s all right then. Because it isn’t so the answer is what has happened to Georgina, this is all about what has happened. Now, there are sad lonely people out there that actually still for some reason they could put something like that on your social web page. Well, well, you know, that says more about them, than it will never say about you or Georgina. Trust me. It says more about them because the answer being is we need to know what's happened to Georgia. That is the very least we could all do.
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A new dawn, today’s the day and, uh…. don't stop what you're doing. Don't stop, if you feel like you should criticize me or the police crack on, because the answer is…. it's right because your mum… and at the end of the day, we need to know what's happened to Georgina.
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Donal: Their theory was that basically its…. she just evaporated around Clifton Road, and they lost all their CCTV opportunities.
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Petra: But that is the biggest….
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Clive: I mean, the answer is there are opportunities missed that's a fact we can't get away from that, and uh…. every success we have in an old case is a failing we had before. That's the reality. Every single success you have in a case means you failed before, didn’t it? That's just reality, but let's be positive and crack on and, uh…. cause it's about now, it's about finding out what happened to Georgina isn’t it? That's the thing for me, what happened? It’s out there, we just got to find it.
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Andrea: But don't you think they've…. because they've missed out too much…. it’s too late now to bring back some of that, they seem that….
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Clive: Twenty years wasn’t it Steven Lawrence, no it was 20 years, so, the answer is...
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Andrea: I don't want to wait 20 years.
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Clive: Yeah, I know, but what I'm saying is that I would never give up just because something hasn't gone well at the start. What we can do is make sure today’s okay. And that starts with speaking to Sussex police to…. you know, to make sure of what they’re doing, because they do hold the cards, actually. Now, whether they played them well? Whether they’ve got all the cards, whether they still got cards sitting in, uh, in the pack, which they haven’t bothered looking at. We'll look at that and see if we can encourage them to, to sort of go again.
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Donal: But Clive do you think this needs and Sussex needs to throw the deck out and look at it from the very beginning.
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Clive: Yeah, I know…. If you're asking me, that's what I’d do, what I would do, but you know, uh…. I’ve read up on your case and there is absolutely no doubt I’d do what I did on all my historical cases with a thought that’s wonderful, let's start from the very first message that ever came into the police station, and then the second message, then the third message. The very first action that ever went out, let's look at that. Did we do that well? did we do it not so well? the second action did we do that well? Do you know what we know now that what we did then might not look any good at all? You know I mean? Because that happens, you know? So, we start with the very first phone call that come in, whatever that one was, we look at that, what did we do about that? Could we have done that better?
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Can we still do it better? Is there an opportunity we can still do that better? If so, we do it. We just start at the beginning. And one of the biggest, what I found in the Metropolitan Police Service, I can't condemn Sussex for this was that people accepted totally, what had gone on before, whether out of loyalty or we don’t want to be upsetting anyone in anyway. I say, don’t, you won’t upset me, please I want you to be successful. So don't worry about me. You know, the answer being is look at what I’ve done if you disagree with it, change it because the answer is it’s about being successful. It's about Sussex being successful, not the original police officers they´ve come and gone. It's about Sussex being successful, it's about you… being successful. So, I say, start again, ignore anything. Go again. What would you do today if it happened, if it happened now? What would we do? Knowing all we know now, and the police force has moved on, what would we do today? Cause that's what we do
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Andrea: Last year, we put up, um…. banners on the bridge, there’s a bridge not far from here called Broadwater Bridge. There was um…. a sighting…um…. but it wasn't uh…. Corroborated, and so we use the bridge. Um…. until now we've put our big banners there. It's one of the main…. sort of….
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Clive: I drove past it, I think.
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Andrea: Yeah, um…. it’s one of the areas….
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Clive: You know, somebody somewhere knows, don’t they? and I guess more than one person knows, because you know, um…. horrible, worst-case scenario then, I guess that people know. And so, it's how you encourage those people, how do you give those people, the confidence, or maybe even those people realise how important it is that they come forward. That's the bit that I think that all of us could get better at, and you know, that was the bit that eventually in all of my historical cases was giving people the confidence to tell their story, so, we actually know what's happening, because at the moment, you know, I don't buy that, the police get negative comments every bloody day. So, it's not like people all of a sudden are going to go I ain’t going to go to the police then.
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Clive: You know…. the answer is if we can keep it going, keep it alive, every single case I’ve ever had, where I’ve had success historically, is there’s been a parent, a brother, or someone who hasn’t allowed the police to forget it, hasn’t allowed the public to forget it. Mr. MacIntyre is going to do something which will bring it to the fore, it doesn't allow people to think, we’ll move on and do something else. It’s still Georgina, we're still looking for Georgina, she's a person. All the things you described to me; all I would ever say was she's a human being, that she's a person. She deserves nothing less than us giving it a right go at trying to find out what's happened. I don't care all of the difficulties she may or may not have had I’ve had hundreds myself. But at the end of the day, she is a person who deserves nothing less than everybody trying to find out what's happened and part of the everybody is the police, but it's not only them, it's all of us.
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Donal: Just describe where we are here Clive, and Andrea where are we?
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Andrea: Um…. we're on Broadwater Bridge in Worthing um…. this was, um…. a place where there was, had been a sighting. Um…. on the night Georgina disappeared around 10:00 pm.
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Clive: If there’s anyone who hears this, anyone who sees this, anyone who sees these posters, anyone who's got any kind of information at all don't think it's irrelevant, don’t think it's trivial. Please get that into the investigation because it’ll allow the police and allows Georgina’s mum here to have all the information, so that we can give ourselves the best chance of finding out what happened to Georgina, because that's the least we can do.
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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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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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