A woman who was ‘stolen’ as a child has been reunited with her family after 53 years apart.
Susan Gervaise disappeared in 1969 after a family offered to take her to Disney World in Florida, but never brought her back.
Just four years old at the time, Susan says she was snatched and taken around the world, to Canada, New Zealand and Australia by her new ‘mum and dad’.
Speaking about her life, Susan, now a grandmother, said: “As a child I lived with my six siblings in an old vicarage on a travellers’ site. We weren’t travellers.
“My mum was on her own and we were all in and out of foster care.
“I was befriended by a couple on the site who were from Scotland, the woman, who I call my mum, had MS and they had two sons. I think they wanted a girl.
“They asked my mum if they could take me to Disney World and she gave them my birth certificate so I could be put on their passport.
“Instead, they took me to Canada, then Australia and later New Zealand.
“This was always their plan.”
The couple told Susan and others that she had been put up for adoption and that they had taken her in.
But while she never realised what was going on at the time, Susan says she had a great life.
“I lived with the travelling community and lived a cherished life where I was spoiled rotten,” she said.
“My mum died from MS when I was 10, but even then, being raised in the hub of a travelling community I was very loved.
“I have always been happy growing up. I travelled the world.”
Back home, however, her biological family feared they would never see her again, with her mother searching desperately for her.
It was only when Susan came to upgrade her passport that she became suspicious, as she couldn’t see any record of her adoption.
Her husband then put out an appeal on an Australian Facebook page and she was reunited with four of her six siblings back in Pontefract, West Yorkshire.
The couple flew over to the UK recently to finally meet up with them after all these years, and had a party to celebrate Susan’s 57th birthday.
Susan said: “The enormity of what happened to me didn’t hit me. I just carried on with my life.
“It was only when somebody who was adopted asked me what my family back in the UK would be feeling and that was a lightbulb moment for me.
“When I spoke to my family they were crying hysterically because I was alive.”
Sadly, Susan’s mum died eight years ago, and never knew where she had gone or that she had been found.
Luckily, however, her sister, who is ill, got to see her before her condition deteriorates.
Susan’s niece Emma said: “It’s been amazing – especially for my mum. She has Parkinson’s and dementia so it’s amazing she’s been reunited with her sister before she deteriorates.
“She’s now complete.”