Six-hour ordeal of teenage girl lost in the dark

RICHARD PARR A major police land and air search was launched to find a teenage holidaymaker who disappeared while walking her dog.

RICHARD PARR

A major police land and air search was launched to find a teenage holidaymaker who disappeared while walking her dog.

The parents of 13-year-old Jessica Dagnall - also known as Jo - raised the alarm on Tuesday evening after she failed to return to her family's holiday accommodation at South Raynham, near Fakenham.

Jo was eventually found safe and well several miles away by a police helicopter's infra-red camera.

Last night she told how she had spent about six hours wandering through the Norfolk countryside after becoming lost in the darkness.

She had been reported missing at about 5.30pm and was reunited with her relieved parents and twin sister Bekki at about midnight.

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Jessica's mother and father, Jayne and John Dagnall, thanked the police for their efforts - and told how they feared the worst in the hours their daughter was missing.

“The police have been absolutely superb and the officers who dealt with us showed great consideration and concern and kept us fully informed throughout the search,” said Mr Dagnell.

“We would like to thank them for all they did in returning Jo safely home to us.”

The family had arrived at a pretty holiday cottage last Friday for a week's stay. It was a late booking after they sold their home in Solihull, Birmingham and the purchase of a new home in Somerset had fallen through.

Jo and her mother decided to take one of their two rescue greyhound dogs, Jadee, for a walk into the nearby fields. As the family were planning to go for an evening meal, Mrs Dagnall returned to the holiday cottage leaving Jo to finish the walk.

But having wandered through fields, she became completely lost as the light started to fade. She didn't have a watch or a mobile phone with her.

Her failure to return home led her frantic parents to call the police and this sparked an extensive search by officers in patrol cars and on foot. Staff at the Vere Lodge holiday complex, where they were staying, also helped in the search.

The Suffolk police helicopter was scrambled because its Norfolk counterpart was not available.

Jo said: “When it began to get dark I just lost my way and started to become concerned and just kept walking through the fields. I didn't see anyone else who I could ask for help and both I and the dog began to feel cold.”

Hours later Jo had found herself near to South Mill Farm in the hamlet of Shereford, near Fakenham, and she heard the noise of the Suffolk helicopter flying over head.

“I could hear the helicopter and see its lights and it appeared to be following me and I realised that it must have been looking for me so I just stood still,” she said.

Yesterday, Jo was back with her relieved family and feeling a little subdued and embarrassed about the whole incident.

Mrs Dagnall said that when police phoned them to stay that Jo had been found safe and well the relief was overwhelming.

“Those hours while she was missing seemed to go on forever and all sorts of possible situations went through my mind. I kept thinking of little four-year-old Maddie McCann,” she said.

The family are continuing their holiday and tomorrow will return home to the Midlands.

“It was certainly a drama we could have done without and we won't forget this Norfolk holiday in a hurry,” said Mr Dagnall.

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