In the face of the police’s refusal to do so, Andrea and her team press ahead with filming their own reconstruction of Georgina Gharsallah’s last-known movements on the day she disappeared. This is a behind the scenes account of the process and the emotional impact that meeting Georgina’s double has upon Andrea.
You can watch the reconstruction here:
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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.
Episode Six – The Doppelganger
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Donal: We've just heard a knock on the door, and you've gone down, and you've got a package there. Explain what that is.
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Andrea: Um…. we've tried to, um…. get hold of the jacket that Georgina was wearing on the day, it's a River Island jacket with a…. quite a wide fur collar.
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Donal: This is the coat here. This is the coat from River Island. Okay, do you want to open up and describe it as you open it up? What size was Georgina?
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Andrea: Probably an eight. I would say, hers was an eight. Um…. Georgina was a little bit fluctuated with her size because she got bulimia. But, um…. this coat, this is Georgina, you know like this coat sort of, um…. represents Georgina really.
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Donal: She loved the coat.
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Andrea: She loved it.
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Donal: So, it kind of represented a bit of her big character, as well as the sensitive side, because she’s obviously sensitive, she had bulimia, she was shy, then she had issues, but she still liked her public face was one of, you know, big character, confidence.
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Petra: I feel quite emotional looking at that actually.
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Andrea: It does make me feel sad.
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Donal: We can hear her kids in the background there, and of course you're holding the coat that most people remember from the last images of Georgina on CCTV. The purpose of getting the coat is…. that's the first step in a reconstruction, which with your help and working together, I think we can put together a, a good reconstruction. We've got the jacket, we'll get an actress, and we'll try and build up a picture and we'll, um…. try and help tell that story, or maybe provoke and encourage some members of the public to come forward.
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Donal: At our very first meeting, Georgina’s mum, Andrea brought up the prospect of filming a reconstruction of Georgina’s last known movements. Andrea had asked the police to do it and they refused, even suggesting, to let them know how she gets on with making it. So today I’m in Worthing – we have the clothing, we’ve got two actresses, Donya Dirandae and Ebony Brown to play the parts of Georgina and the unknown woman seen with Georgina in the town centre on the day of her disappearance. What follows is a behind the scenes record of the process of filming this reconstruction, with wind, rain, buses and cats doing their very best to play havoc with the microphones…
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Donal: So, basically when we do the reconstruction, part of the problem is that the colour matching the CCTV that is there and matching that with the clothes we knew…. we knew she had. And let's just knock this down. So, jacket, we got it from River Island.
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Andrea: Yeah, that was from River Island. That's the exact one.
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Donal: Big up…. big thank you to River Island. The jeans they're actually her real jeans that she was wearing, so, they're the best colour match. Her shoes again...
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Petra: Pretty close.
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Andrea: Yeah, as close as we could get really to what they were.
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Donal: So similar clothes, I mean, nobody watching is going that forensic, but I suppose one of the key things and we need a white scarf and we've got the plastic bag. Now just before we commence this there's one thing which we're not going to do. We're not going to do what Sussex police did, which is give the impression early doors that you were Donya, you were as Georgina going to leave the house here and pack as if you were leaving forever. How did they give that impression that she was leaving forever?
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Andrea: Well, they said Georgina was last seen with all her belongings in bags, and then I asked Sussex police to change it, I said, it's misleading. She did not have carrier bags of clothes or anything. Um…. she had…. she had two carrier bags, but I think one was practically empty. It had the two mobile phones in it, cause she was in that room sitting on the floor. Then she put them in there when I was still here.
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Donal: Did the police ever amend that? As far as I'm aware...
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Andrea: They said they did. I think it took quite a while to change it, but then it kept popping up on different sort of, um…. stories um…. the same…. the same thing.
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Donal: I can't see how the police can make this actuarial assessment that will move it from A to B. Right, can we dress Donya with the white scarf and other bags, and let's get filming before the rain comes in and the cat harasses you any further there...
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Donal: And action… So, we're just doing the downstairs shots and getting Donya to exit the house as Georgina did 21 months ago. It's not that complicated, just building a, uh…. a filmic sequence and hopefully it will encourage others. Here she is coming out of the house. She really is quite a doppelganger, and she is carrying a grey bag, orange Sainsburys... That's fine, Donya…. orange Sainsbury's bag, a white bag and she's got the coat and there she is March 7th, 21 months ago, when Georgina left the house and effectively never returned. Leaving two children behind her mother, her sisters, her dad, and their entire world.
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Donal: Our job today is to recreate it, it's a blustery day, we're fighting against the wind. And…. how was that Donya? Okay. One more time.
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Film crew: Yep…. yeah.
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Donal: It was a striking resemblance when you saw Donya next to the painting, uh…. commissioned by missing people, which now bestrides the mantlepiece and quite a striking photograph, quite unbelievable. As a twin myself who is not identical, um…. I find it very odd. Right…. Okay…. we need an exterior, from across here.
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Donal: So Donya, this is your first time downtown in Worthing.
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Donal: Okay. That's Ebony and Petra…. Petra over there. So Ebony is going to be playing the role of Georgina’s pal and they were walking around here. They walk over towards the, uh…. Guildbourne Centre…. How are you? Great, Donya, Ebony, how are you? Great to see you, how are you?
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Donal: Great so here we are, we need some pins maybe to elevate the hair up a little bit. Do you have any pins? Perfect. Perfect. So, we just need to elevate it into more bun…. Ish, stuff like that, and then we'll…. we'll mimic the walk.
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Petra: Will that do you?
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Donya: I’ve forgotten a mirror.
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Donal: Oh, don't worry about it. It will be messy. So don't worry about it. It's…. it's going to be messy.
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Petra: It needs to be messy.... I’ve got another comb, I´ve got a long one here if you need it but….
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Donal: So basically, we need to do it from behind shooting them walking in. Okay, the whole journey. Yeah. So yeah, some... so, basically, I think we should just track behind them, basically, right. From, from a decent, uh…. Angle, and then we'll get the sideways angle over here as they walk together, now you're slightly half a step-in front, always, right. Okay. How's this feel to be playing the role of Georgina right now? That's a very, that's a very good likeness, Isn't it Petra?
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Petra: Isn't it just.
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Donal: Right. So let, let me bring you through the movement we're going to be doing right. Okay. You're this side….
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Donal: Okay. Now the pink is the one, which is like, that's the one, which is like that's….
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Donya: That side?
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Donal: That's the side. Right?
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Donal: Okay. So, you're going to be slightly a foot ahead. So, the walk would be, you're slightly hap…. that's the, that's the pace you're going to be, and you're going to be coming from around there. Pretty much in the middle of here.
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Ebony: I'm Ebony Brown and my mum works closely with Andrea, uh…. you know….um…. kind of campaigning to find Georgina.
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Donal: There goes the bus thank goodness, if we could resolve the mystery of who you're playing, then we might get to an answer to find out where she is.
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Ebony: Yeah. Where she is, or what's happened. Or if that person knows anything, anything at all, they might not come forward because they don't want to be involved. But even then, I think it's important for them to come forward and say, this is what I know.
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Donal: It's unusual the fact she hasn't come forward. It's quite strange.
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Ebony: Yeah. Usually, I mean, in most cases that I see, uh, usually if you haven't got anything to do with it, or, or any knowledge about what has happened, you, uh, you would come forward and just kind of, you know, clear your name. And I find it strange that no one who recognizes this girl, even though the footage is quite blurry, has…. hasn't come forward and said, oh yes, that's my friend. I can, I can vouch for her, you know.
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Donal: How hopeful are you that this might trigger a memory, our even encourage someone who knows something to finally come forward?
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Ebony: Well, I think we've got the recreation as accurate as we can. Um…. so, I'm personally very, very hopeful that someone out there, no, it's not a case of, oh no one knows nothing about it. Someone knows something, and I think this is a really good step forward to finding out.
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Donal: You were there when you saw Andrea, Georgina's mum meet Donya.
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Donal: And…. describe that.
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Ebony: I mean, she was overwhelmed with emotion and, you know, rightfully so. Um…. but I could, even though, you know, it's a…. it's a stressful time for her, especially as everyone else. She…. I think she is hopeful, but she doesn't want to, um…. you know, as a parent, you always kind of fear the worst, but I think it's good for her to see, you know, how hard the community is trying basically.
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Donal: And it was striking the similarity. And you could see the tears and upset unfolding there. And she doesn't really display her emotions all the time, Andrea. There they were
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Donal: For all to see in front of us.
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Ebony: She's very, very strong, you know, she has a lot going on, besides this and, and so it is a rare moment to see her when she does have those moments where her emotions kind of seep out of her.
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Donal: Donya. I mean, how did you feel meeting Andrea?
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Donya: It was really overwhelming, but then I felt like I was giving her something to help, so I feel proud for doing this and really honoured.
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Donal: And are you surprised by how closely you look like Georgina?
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Donya: Yeah, it’s so strange, like I never thought I'd look like someone in this world, so it's a bit of a shock.
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Donal: It’s like your doppelganger, like a twin.
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Donal: We've been filming and we're halfway through, you saw pictures of Georgina, missing posters on the walls and, you know, on the sides of the streets. How did, how did you feel about that?
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Donya: It just felt like this is actually something really important that we need to find out more information and it's just upsetting to see that nothing's changed. Nothing has improved and we need to get to the bottom of this.
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Donal: And you…but you seem quite tearful at one stage there because, you know, I saw how…. Andrea was very upset, wasn't she?
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Donya: Yeah. So, when I’d seen her crying, I tried to keep my tears away, so I could just show that I'm strong and…. but it's really emotional.
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Donal: As we reach the end of what has been an incredibly emotional day for everyone, but especially Andrea, it seems that the incredible resemblance that Donya bears to Georgina has unlocked something within Andrea that I haven’t seen before. And as we step off the train in Brighton to continue our filming, it becomes all too much for Andrea again…
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Donal: I do think that something for the very first-time meeting, Georgina's double, the actress for the reconstruction has triggered something in you, which seems to be a grieving process, that you've kept on hold. It seems to be….
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Andrea: Uh…. it’s just…
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Donal: It’s alright…. it’s okay now…. just…. you’re in, yeah…. So Donya is giving a hug at this stage which is a good thing. So, you are rarely ever caught for tears you've been too strong for too long, but that's all right. You need to know, that Donya, who’s a complete stranger to you, she's supporting you and we're supporting you, okay, so, this is tough, but we're here because we want to find Georgina. Okay.
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Donal: And we still have hope and, as long as we're working you know that. Okay. That's the least we can do, you know, and you would do the same for anybody in that situation, and for you, I mean, it must seem…. you lost your dad recently.
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Donya: Yeah….and I understand the pain that she's going through is really tough, but we have to be strong and fight for this.
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Donal: That's just hard to imagine what that must mean, but in all the time she's been so strong, I've never seen her speechless, I've never seen…. I’ve just seen tears today just rolling down her face.
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Donal: With the filming complete we take some time out for Andrea and Donya to sit together and talk about the past couple of days as they look through the old photographs of Georgina. It’s a strange feeling being in the same room with Andrea and Donya – who’s still dressed in the identical clothing that Georgina was wearing on the day she disappeared and she’s so believable – it almost feels as if Georgina’s in the room with us…
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Donya: So, what was Georgina like as a person?
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Andrea: Um…. Georgina was very chatty, very happy, you would call her a happy person. Um…. very talkative, um…. spontaneous, um…. personable. Um…. she was a little bit addictive to things she got interested in. Like if she found something she like, she once got interested in meditation and that was it for sort of six weeks, um…. cooking, she was a really good cook, she liked cooking. Um…. so, she was constantly looking up recipes and things. And, um… Georgina was, she would always keep in contact with me. Um…. sending me silly messages in the middle of the night, usually, and pictures and cooking recipes and…. and Georgina was a planner. She would plan and make lists there would often be lists all over the house with things that she was going to buy that sort of thing.
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If she'd gone for a job interview, there would be all the steps, what she was going to do, get dressed, do this. It was all times she was very….
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Andrea: Organised yeah. She, she was quite sort of, an excitable girl, but she would get excited over things. Um…. yeah, at the same time, even though she was confident, she did suffer from sort of anxiety as well, like social anxiety as well. So, there's sort of two sides to her as, as well.
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Donya: So how did you feel meeting me yesterday?
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Andrea: Initially, when I first saw you, I wasn't…. it…. I didn't…. um…. I wasn't shocked or anything and it wasn't till just when you did the first um…. sort shot going down and coming back and I saw you from the side, um…. and then it sort of hit me, and I thought she really does look like Georgina. And I saw the fur, and the side of her face and then it sort of…. it just all come back to me, and I sort of imagined her then that's where she was walking.
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And, um, and then yeah, it felt really emotional to me. I haven't really been…. I do have moments where I want too by myself. Um…. but generally, I do keep myself quite together, but it doesn't mean to say I'm not upset. But yesterday it did…. it did sort of hit me, um…. I’d seen you, um…. it really did look like Georgina. It wasn't as emotional as yesterday, I think yesterday, um…. it was more perhaps, um…. sometimes when I've glanced at her, where we've been sitting somewhere like when we were in the cafe yesterday and I looked a few times to see and…. and to sort of compare, compare your features. Um…. and I, you know, all the time I was…. I was thinking that there really is a lot…. you really have a lot in common with Georgina. Um…. sort of like your hairline is quite…. and she's got quite a low forehead, like you have, um…. your skin, like your complexion type.
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And then I had to keep looking because every time I looked and sort of, when you did - had certain movements, when we did the shots down by Tesco’s and you were walking across the road, that was very real to me, it was almost like, you know, uh…. my…. so, I could…. I could…. um, see if…. If…. if anybody else noticed you, how they would, could, would think it might be Georgina. Cause….me….my…. myself, when we were driving past and you were crossing and, um…. I thought it looked very realistic. How did you feel playing Georgina?
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Donya: So playing Georgina was very different to what I would normally do and meeting the mother, it's even more emotional to see how you're feeling and empathize how you're feeling right now, because when I lost my dad, it's, it's that pain where you can't replace it and nothing will until you find out, I really do look up to you for how strong you are being right now, and it's really hard, but you have to fight for this, and I'm really proud of you for doing this.
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Andrea: We will keep fighting. I'm not going to give up…
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Andrea: Because we need, we need to find answers for Georgina as well for her sons and for us. So, we're not going to give up. Um…. but we thank you as well for helping us to enable us to….
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Donya: Thank you.
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Andrea: ….to do this in a very realistic way, because, um…. you look so much like her. Georgina's painting that, um…. they had done for the unmissable exhibition is, um…. is very striking and with you there's a lot of resemblance as well….
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Andrea: that somebody could almost mistake it for you, I think, um...
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Donya: Yeah, really similar features….
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Andrea: …. And some features, just on that slightly tilted to the side look.
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Donal: Donya, how did you feel about it, when you uh…. saw the painting?
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Donya: It was kind of overwhelming knowing how similar I looked and it, if you didn't know me, that could probably be guessed as me.
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Donya: And it's just, it's just unbelievable. Really upsetting, to be honest,
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Andrea: When you've looked at Georgina's photos, do you see yourself? Do you see yourself? Do you think, oh…? I do actually look like this girl.
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Donya: Yeah, it's actually unbelievable, I just can't believe it, I really can't. I still, it's not…. I can't…. Yeah, I just…. it's all too much. Really emotional. Was she a naughty kid?
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Andrea: Yeah…. Yeah. She was quite naughty. Um…. I can remember going to my sister's once, she lived in Hove, and we'd come over for a holiday. And so, I can remember saying where's Georgina and when my sister went to the kitchen, she was sitting in front of the fridge, and she got all the yogurts out and she was just tipping them all out on the floor.
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Donya: Ha-ha…. oh…. did you spoil her sometimes?
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Andrea: Yeah. Georgina's quite cheeky…. one of those cheeky looking sort of children, and she would attract like…. people were sort of attracted to her and she would always sort of get people talking to her or you know, trying to give her things because she sort of had that cheeky air about her, that was in Libya.
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Donya: Yeah…. Did you go to Libya often?
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Andrea: Oh, I lived there for 21 years.
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Andrea: This one I like; I love this one of Georgina., we took it off… off some picture that somebody had put online so we couldn't get it off that, but I took a shot of it. But I like it because she looks really happy and just free, just you know that feeding and playing with the pigeons.
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Donya: Does she like birds?
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Andrea: She loved animals, That's um…. so, this one there, she has the boots…. the boots on that, that, that you're wearing.
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Donya: Yeah, it looks very uh…. It looks very similar.
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Andrea: Very, similar. Um…. the black jeans and I still have this coat as well, but that wasn't the one obviously the one that you've gone, the one that she was wearing the day. Yeah. Um, yeah, she looks, she's really happy here.
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Donya: You can tell she loves animals.
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Andrea: I like this picture. It's like a happy Georgina, um…. and with her…. the messy bun as well.
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Donya: As always.
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Andrea: We have to do all we can to find answers, to find Georgina, to find out what happened….
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Andrea: …. that’s, we’re just doing our best all the time.
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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.
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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