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Thoughts with April Fabb's family as tragic 50th anniversary passes

PUBLISHED: 21:41 11 April 2019 | UPDATED: 07:54 12 April 2019

April Fabb, who  left her home in Metton, Norfolk, on her cycle on April 8 1969.  Pic: PA.

April Fabb, who left her home in Metton, Norfolk, on her cycle on April 8 1969. Pic: PA.

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A tragic and unresolved story that began 50 years ago this week is one that Nick Conrad still finds hard to understand

This paper detailed the anniversary this week of an event that has haunted this county for 50 years. This story, one I know well, has once again provoked in me a deep sense of unease.

Rewind half a century to sleepy north Norfolk in Easter 1969. The school holidays were here and children across the county, like today, looked forward to their two weeks off from school. One little girl, just 13-years-old, embarked on a short two mile bike ride from her beautiful hamlet near Felbrigg Hall to her sister’s house. Excitedly she peddled along the quiet back roads towards Roughton with a birthday present of 10 cigarettes for her brother-in-law. She never arrived. She simply vanished.

She was April Fabb.

I grew up in Sheringham in the 1980s and 90s two decades after her disappearance. Her story was prevalent then and hasn’t lost significance since. Many of us are still asking questions. Sadly, much of April’s family are no longer with us, should any light be thrown on this cold case, but it’s right that Norfolk Police persevere.

As a child I was gripped with a mixture of horror and intrigue that a child could simply disappear. Now that I’m a parent I have a deeper understanding of the profound impact this crime had on Norfolk. This is the horror that every parent dreads. The passage of time will never, and could never, lessen the pain. For those who have suffered such a loss, they talk about methods of coping or managing the unabating waves of grief, which cripple their lives.

Part of the process for families like the Fabbs is accepting that the public will establish an intense relationship with what has happened to them. Across Norfolk there is a palpable, and very human, intrigue with this story. It would be great if the perpetrator could be identified, though I accept that the passage of time has made that prospect most unlikely. Fifty years on, it’s not entirely unfathomable that the justice may be delivered, but for those like me who’ve always been troubled by this case comes a warning – we are beyond closure.

Even if someone was arrested, charged and found guilty of this abhorrent crime the pain would be acute. Quite aside from the 
fact nothing could soothe the heinous act of the suspected abduction and murder of a child, the fact that key family members died before justice was served would be the final cruel twist. That said, of the multitude of cases I’ve reported upon, this is the one I’d most like to see resolved.

In 1969, police launched the biggest search operation the county had ever seen. Since her disappearance, officers have visited 400 houses, conducted hundreds of interviews, taken nearly 2,000 statements, and spent countless hours on the case, yet have never come close to an answer. April’s sisters and relatives still live in North Norfolk and may well see this column – so might somebody who knows information about her disappearance. For anyone who knows anything that could be of interest to the authorities, now is the time to come forward.

My thoughts are with April’s family and I respect the dignified way they’ve moved forward with life over the last 50 years.

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