Missing people: Art highlights UK's absent loved ones

By Matthew Cannon
BBC News

Image source, Rebecca Fontaine Wolf

Georgina Gharsallah, 31, was last seen leaving a shop near her home in Worthing, Sussex, on 7 March last year.

She was holding what police described as "a number of mobile phones".

Her mother, care worker Andrea, works tirelessly in what she now calls her "second job", handing out posters and raising awareness of her family's search.

"I often imagine the door being knocked," she says. "I go to answer and she's standing there and I just say 'where have you been you silly thing?'"

Georgina's two sons, aged eight and nine, have started to wave to photographs of her and say "hello mummy" - it is the closest they can get to her right now.

She is one of 17 missing people whose portraits will feature in a new exhibition which opens next week.

The show, entitled Unmissable, has been organised by the charity Missing People, which supports family and friends looking for their loved ones.

Someone is reported missing in the UK every 90 seconds, according to the charity.

'We would tell the boys 'mum's poorly''

Two men were arrested on suspicion of murder after Georgina went missing but were later released with no further action.

Since she was reported missing, investigators say they have responded to nearly 60 sightings of her.

Image source, Sussex Police
Image caption,
The last sighting of Georgina Gharsallah on the day she vanished was at a mobile phone shop

On some sightings Andrea has dropped everything to rush to the scene to see if she can help identify her daughter, but says her hope "isn't as strong as in those early days".

"In the beginning we would tell the boys 'mum's poorly', but as the weeks went on we had to say we don't know where mummy is but that we and the police are looking for her.

"It's hard but I have to be strong for them."

Her family are currently petitioning the council to halt a redevelopment near where earlier reports suggested her daughter had been seen with two "angry" men.

They are calling for the site to be searched before it is built upon.

'My world fell apart'

Less than 35 miles from where Georgina went missing another family is living with not knowing.

"It was the most horrible day of my life," says Mohamed Mohamed-Ali.

His wife of 39 years, Fatima, went missing from their Newhaven home on 12 February 2016. She was 52 years old.

Image source, Charming Baker
Image caption,
Mohamed said Fatima was devoted to her family and always had a smile

"After work I spent about an hour cleaning my car, my colleagues asked why and I told them I was taking Fatima for dinner with my son on Sunday.

"When I got home my world fell apart."

It has been three years without contact.

Since that abandoned family Sunday dinner, Fatima has missed the birth of their fourth grandchild, a planned hajj to Mecca with her husband, and a trip around the world which her son was hoping to surprise her with.

Mohamed says: "I used to follow some of the high profile missing people cases and you think how and why?

"You never think it will happen to your loved one. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."

He added: "If she's listening - please just let us know you're safe and well. That's all I want to know. And know there's so much help out there for you."

'I have lived in hope for 24 years'

The exhibition, in London, will also include a new portrait of former Manic Street Preachers guitarist, Richard 'Richey' Edwards - missing since 31 January 1995.

His sister Rachel Edwards says she hopes the work will help raise awareness for the charity which has supported her family since it was founded, a few months after that day.

Image source, Will Teather
Image caption,
Richard 'Richey' Edwards went missing in January 1995

"For the last 24 years I have lived in hope of solving the mystery of what happened to Richard.

"I am desperate for news as to his fate and am appealing to the public to help me."

The exhibition is curated by Ben Moore, whose brother Tom has been missing since 2003.

"Since my brother went missing, I have developed a strong connection with Rachel Edwards as we both share the same belief that our brothers are still with us living and breathing on the planet, and the hope that we will one day see them again."

He added: "The high level of artistic talent and the raw, deeply emotional subject matter at the core of Unmissable makes this one of the most powerful art exhibitions I have ever worked on."

Image source, Carne Griffiths
Image caption,
Tom Moore's brother Ben curated the exhibition

The exhibition runs from 14 - 17 March at the Old Truman Brewery, in east London.

All of the works will be available to bid on from 5 March, with all proceeds going to the Missing People charity.

Damien Nettles

Missing since: 1996

Age when missing: 16

Image source, Nicholas Todhunter
Image caption,
Damien, who vanished a month after he started sixth form in 1996, is described by his father Edward as "creative, artistic and musical"

Sybil Appelquist (nee Hornby)

Missing since 2002

Age when missing: 40

Image source, Richard Colson
Image caption,
Sybil Appelquist features in the exhibition

Lee Boxell

Missing since: 1988

Age when missing: 15

Image source, Amy Florence
Image caption,
Lee Boxell went missing on 10 September 1988

Luke Durbin

Missing since: May 2006

Age when missing: 19

Image source, Ru Knox
Image caption,
Luke's mother, Nicki, says this photograph shows a deeper side to Luke, who would usually be wearing his "infectious" grin

Matthew Bone

Missing since: 2018

Age when missing: 26

Image source, Samira Addo
Image caption,
Matthew's mother, Karen, says her son has a "passion for the natural environment"

Carl Hodges

Missing since: 2016

Age when missing: 33

Image source, Paul Benney
Image caption,
Eddie, Carl's father, says this photograph shows his son "outwardly happy" but that his "furrowed brow shows the stress he was under"

Charles Horvath-Allan

Missing since: 1989

Age when missing: 20

Image source, Ian Bruce
Image caption,
Charles Horvath-Allan as last seen on a camp site while hiking in Canada

Mary Flanagan

Missing since: 1959

Age when missing: 16

Image source, Nina Mae Fowler
Image caption,
Mary's sister Brenda says this is the last "precious" photograph they took of her before she went missing nearly 59 years ago

Andrew Gosden

Missing since: 2007

Age when missing: 14

Image source, Tim Gatenby
Image caption,
Andrew's father Kevin says this photograph is "a reminder of how readily he smiled"

Darren Tunstall

Missing since: 1992

Age when missing: 20

Image source, Carne Griffiths
Image caption,
Darren did not like having his photo taken, says his mother Ann

Lana Purcell

Missing since: 2011

Age when missing: 26

Image source, Thomas Lumley
Image caption,
Lana's father, John, says Lana "was honest, very family orientated, loved her daughter Megan and was a very happy-go-lucky girl"

Finn Layland-Stratfield

Missing since: 2017

Age when missing: 17

Image source, Mark Metcalfe
Image caption,
Bek Stratfield, Finn's mother says this photograph shows a "deep thinking, caring & intelligent young man with a bright, beautiful young mind"

Simon Hodgson-Greaves

Missing since: 2013

Age when missing: 48

Image source, Chris Moon
Image caption,
Simon's sister, Rachel Pickthall, describes him as "extroverted, fun, smart (both intellectually and sartorially), unpredictable, grandiose, creative and extraordinary"

Quentin Godwin

Missing since: 1992

Age when missing: 18

Image source, Amy Shuckburgh
Image caption,
Quentin's mother says when she looks at this photograph her son "is very clear in my mind"

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