Falsely Accused Woman Freed after 70 Years

From Telegraph by David Sapsted.

Seventy years locked up in institutions hardly seems to be a punishment that befits the crime of stealing half-a-crown.

However, it is just such a fate that befell Jean Gambell when at the age of 15, in 1937, she was falsely accused of stealing 2s 6d (12.5p) from the doctor's surgery where she worked as a cleaner.

She was sectioned under the 1890 Lunacy Act and even though the money was later found, she has been moved from mental institution to mental institution. More recently, she went into a care home and has been lost to her family, who thought she was dead.

But last month, by chance, her brother stumbled across correspondence which led to the discovery of her existence and the family was reunited.


They were told by staff that their 85-year-old sister was deaf, could only communicate in writing and was very unlikely to remember them.

"A little old lady on walking sticks came in," said Alan. "She looked at us and cried out: 'Alan...David'. Then she put her arms around us. It was very emotional.

"I am sure that what has kept her going all these years was the challenge of proving to the authorities that she had a family. The trouble was, nobody would listen to her."



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