Searching for a missing person during lockdown: Worthing mum shares her story

For many, the pain of being separated from loved ones has been the biggest challenge of lockdown.

But for the family of Georgina Gharsallah, this has been their life for the two years she has been missing: except they do not know if they will ever be reunited.

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Andrea Gharsallah in South Street Square, Worthing, where she was raising awareness of the disappearance of her daughter Georgina Gharsallah

For her mother Andrea, keeping her daughter’s story in the public eye and searching for answers has kept her going. So to be unable to act has taken its toll on the 58-year-old, of Normandy Road, Worthing. She said: “It is just so frustrating. I feel like another barrier has been put in my way. Three months have been snatched away from me where I could have been doing things with the campaign.”

In early March, it was gaining momentum. Investigative journalist Donal Macintyre was making a podcast on Georgina’s disappearance, and to coincide with the two-year anniversary on March 7, Andrea and her friend Petra had set up a pop-up headquarters in The Royal Arcade for witnesses to speak to them.

But it came to a screeching halt with Boris Johnson’s address to the nation one Monday evening. The public appetite for coronavirus swallowed up the rest of the news agenda, leaving Andrea and Petra fighting for scraps of attention.

Andrea noticed that posts on her Facebook page, ‘Missing Person – Georgina Gharsallah’, had been getting less shares and comments than before the lockdown, despite paying to boost their reach. “The coronavirus situation is the most important thing in everybody’s lives,” she said. “They are not really that concerned about what is happening to a missing person.”

CCTV footage of Georgina at Clifton Food and Wine in Clifton Road, Worthing, on March 7, 2018: the last official sighting

And she could understand why. Since the lockdown, Andrea, a carer, has not been working and has been stuck indoors with Georgina’s two sons who live with her, unable to put up posters and training for the Brighton Marathon derailed by its cancellation.

Like many of us, this has had an impact on her mental health. “More than ever, I keeping thinking about where she is, where she could be lying – all these really horrible thoughts, especially at night.”

She added: “It is hard to make any plans. We can’t even plan for a vigil for Georgina’s birthday in October, because we don’t know if people will be allowed to gather in large numbers at that time.”

With lockdown lifting, we are all preparing for life in the ‘new normal’: a concept Georgina’s family already knows all too well.