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Why the April Fabb mystery still haunts us

PUBLISHED: 07:27 05 April 2018 | UPDATED: 08:34 06 April 2018

April Fabb. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

April Fabb. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Archant

David Clayton on why the mystery of abducted Norfolk teenager April Fabb still haunts us after almost 50 years.

On Monday morning, I settled down with a cup of coffee and the EDP, as you do, ready for an amble through the local stories and articles and there, again, was that haunting black and white picture of April Fabb. I’ve seen it many times before, as we all have. It drew me in and I confess it unnerved me, because it always does. The 13-year-old North Norfolk schoolgirl is frozen in time and burnt into our collective memories via that school photo. I lingered on it longer. Another theory as to what might have happened, or in this case, who might have been involved, was suggested. That over-familiar picture was published everywhere to help find out what happened to her back in April 1969 when she vanished into thin air but, to this day, there is no definitive answer.

I put the paper down and was lost in my thoughts for a while because for some reason, some 50 years on, the impact of the April Fabb mystery and tragedy seems to have stayed with me more than it should have done. I am but a few years older than she would have been, but April was of her time and looked pretty much like every girl I knew in 1969. An older sister of mine had the identical short Sixties hairstyle. That might be a reason. Obviously, the story was everywhere back in the day and I remember watching night after night as it unfolded on our national and regional TV screens. My memory has that redoubtable old Look East reporter Tony Scase standing in a North Norfolk field looking earnestly into the camera pleading for witnesses as to April’s last movements.

The EDP’s pages were packed with photographs of where her bike was found and the sleepy lanes down which she cycled. These days because there’s so much to read and see, we’re awash with social media opinion, theory and wild conjecture, it all becomes more transient. In 1969, when there wasn’t so much media to consume, it made a deeper impact on us. Maybe that’s what’s stuck with me about April Fabb. Then there’s that enduring photograph of the young schoolgirl staring out of the EDP page looking straight at us and pricking our consciences.

As the days following her disappearance unfolded I think we all expected her to either turn up or, more tragically, for her body to be found. It turns out that after witnesses came forward who’d seen April cycling around, only six of the final minutes of her life are unaccounted for. Just six small minutes. Enough time for her to be parted from her bicycle, taken away and never seen again.

Both her parents, Olive and Albert Fabb have died and gone to their graves not knowing what happened to their youngest daughter and I can’t begin to imagine what they went through, not only the personal anguish but the inevitable media interest over decades.

As time passes, the unsettling knowledge that someone somewhere knows what happened to April Fabb is ebbing away too, simply because her abductor may have died and taken the evil secret to their grave. The hope that someone in North Norfolk might have a vague memory jogged about something they saw way back in April 1969, must be getting slim.

The Norfolk Constabulary Cold Case team are still there with a file they can open and review at any time, but I fear April’s picture will be back in a year or so, on what will be the 50th anniversary of her disappearance. Once again, she’ll be looking straight at us and we’ll look back. If only she could speak to us – if only we had some answers for her.

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