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French teenager who sparked police manhunt to return to city after 46 years

PUBLISHED: 13:41 26 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:10 28 August 2019

Paul Brazier, left, visited his former pen friend in France after they were reunited via a Hewett School reunion. Photo: Paul Brazier

Paul Brazier, left, visited his former pen friend in France after they were reunited via a Hewett School reunion. Photo: Paul Brazier

Archant

A Frenchman who sparked a police manhunt as a teenager after absconding from a Norwich exchange visit to see his girlfriend is set to return to the city - almost five decades on from the romantic escapade.

The escapade was reported in the Eastern Daily Press, under the headline 'Hunt for French boy'. Photo: Archant/Local RecallThe escapade was reported in the Eastern Daily Press, under the headline 'Hunt for French boy'. Photo: Archant/Local Recall

Yannick Guerin, now 61, visited Norwich from the twinned French city, Rouen, on a school exchange visit in 1972 - 46 years ago.

But when the 15-year-old returned a year later, for another exchange with the Hewett School, the trip was less about language and more about love.

Mr Guerin sparked a police manhunt after leaving the group of his classmates and teachers mid-way through the journey home, and making his way back to be with his English girlfriend.

The escapade was reported by this newspaper, which described Mr Guerin as "a 15-year-old French boy, 5ft, 8" in height, with long black hair and a fringe".

Paul Brazier, right, visited his former pen friend in France after they were reunited via a Hewett School reunion. Photo: Paul BrazierPaul Brazier, right, visited his former pen friend in France after they were reunited via a Hewett School reunion. Photo: Paul Brazier

And Mr Guerin is set to return to the city for the first time next month - to be reunited with his exchange partner, Paul Brazier.

Mr Brazier, who now lives with his family near Ipswich, said: "During the return journey at the end of the second visit he absconded from the train carrying his classmates and teachers back to Newhaven and returned to Norwich to be with his English girlfriend."

He added: "We'd seen him to the train station with all his teachers.

"We went off on holiday and there were no mobile phones so we had no clue this had gone on.

And the happy outcome also hit the headlines in the Eastern Daily Press, under the headline 'French boy is back'. Photo: Archant/Local RecallAnd the happy outcome also hit the headlines in the Eastern Daily Press, under the headline 'French boy is back'. Photo: Archant/Local Recall

"He stayed with a friend of mine at first. Then the story appeared in the paper and he moved on somewhere else.

"He wrote a postcard to his mother asking for more money, saying 'I've met a girl and I want to stay here'."

And Mr Brazier, also 61, said his pen friend eventually handed himself in at a police station.

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"They were really nice to him and gave him everything he needed but they did put him in a police cell," he said.

After spending a few nights in foster homes, Mr Guerin returned to France with another party of Gallic schoolchildren - and has never been back to Norwich since.

The two men, who lost touch over the years, were reunited after a Hewett School reunion.

Mr Brazier said his old friend, who went on to work as a teacher, would be in the city on Monday, September 23, as part of a five-day visit to the UK.

He added: "My mum still lives in Norwich. She remembers him and he's written to her."

Local Recall project:

Are you interested in Norfolk's local history?

Would you like to explore Eastern Daily Press (EDP)newspapers from days gone by?

If so, check out the Local Recall Project at https://localrecall.archant.co.uk/

This major, Google-backed project, will digitise the entire EDP newspaper collection back to October of 1870.

Using the latest voice search and chatbot technologies, Local Recall will make these old stories and adverts available online for all - in new, accessible and exciting ways.

Local Recall will be made available to the public in autumn 2019.

If you'd like to see these old adverts and articles before the release date and be part of the project, we need your help editing and enhancing the scanned digital files.

- Find out more about how you can volunteer by heading over to https://localrecall.archant.co.uk/volunteer

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