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Frenchman who ran away from school trip to find Norwich girlfriend returns to city after 46 years

PUBLISHED: 13:35 23 September 2019 | UPDATED: 13:35 23 September 2019

Yannick Guerin and Paul Brazier reunited at The Hewett Academy after 46 years. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Yannick Guerin and Paul Brazier reunited at The Hewett Academy after 46 years. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Archant

It was a story which hit headlines in 1973: the French schoolboy who absconded on a romantic escapade while on a exchange trip in Norwich.

Yannick Guerin and Paul Brazier reunited at The Hewett Academy after 46 years. Picture: Victoria PertusaYannick Guerin and Paul Brazier reunited at The Hewett Academy after 46 years. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Yannick Guerin was 15 when he met and fell for a girl from the city and ran away from his school group to return to her.

Now, almost 50 years later, he has returned to the school where the story began - and been reunited with his Norwich pen pal.

Paul Brazier and Mr Guerin, now both 61, visited The Hewett Academy on Monday where they gave a special assembly to pupils to share the story.

Mr Guerin, who lives in Le Havre, said: "I was in love with a girl I met a few days before and I wanted to stay with her.

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

"I wrote to my mum and asked her to send me some money, I said I have found a girl and I want to stay here. I had no answer so I decided to stay in England."

True to his word, on the French students' return to Rouen Mr Guerin got off the train at Ipswich and made his way back to Norwich, where he and his sweetheart were reunited.

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He stayed in Norwich for four days before handing himself in at a police station, after which he was put in touch with the French consul.

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

"They said to me if you want to make it difficult it can be, but you will get on the next train, you stay on it and we will be waiting for you in France," he said.

"My mum was very angry when I came back. I think she was frightened. I understand now because I have a daughter."

Still thinking of his girl across the Channel, Mr Guerin began saving small change in a box with the hope of one day gathering enough to go back to England and see her.

He never made the trip, but said they wrote to each other for many years and that he does still think about her.

From left to right: Fasiah Hyder, Fatou Jagne, Louise Jackson, Yannick Guerin, Paul Brazier, Ashitha Manohar and Oliver Suter. Picture: Victoria PertusaFrom left to right: Fasiah Hyder, Fatou Jagne, Louise Jackson, Yannick Guerin, Paul Brazier, Ashitha Manohar and Oliver Suter. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Mr Brazier said he and Mr Guerin were reunited following a school reunion at The Hewett Academy five years ago, at which he gave his email address to the school in case other alumni wanted to contact him.

"Yannick had been looking for me on the internet for some time and I had been looking for him too, but it was a reunion he was not at which pulled us together," he said.

"We have written for a couple of years and I went across to France to see him in July, and now 46 years later he has come back to Norwich. It has been a real trip down memory lane."

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