It is probably most parents' worst nightmare. To turn away for a second and when a parent turns back the child is gone. If anyone reading this has ever had that split second thought of "where's my kid?" and the awful feeling of panic and nausea that goes with it, you can only begin to imagine how it might feel for that feeling to stay with you.
Some missing children are found eventually, but the strain placed upon the family and the psychological damage to the child may be irreparable.
For the children who are not returned to their parents, there are two possible outcomes. Either their bodies are found and their families have to live with the devastating grief or they are never found, leaving their families to constantly wonder what had happened to them. Even parents who accept that the evidence suggests their child is dead must still harbor a glimmer of hope.
These stories from around the world have a variety of outcomes although in most cases once a child goes missing things can never be the same again.
15Suzanne Marie Sevakis
In April 1990 Sharon Marshall was found dead in a suspicious hit-and-run accident. Her husband, Franklin Delano Floyd was considered a person of interest and police began to look into the couple's background.
It was soon discovered that Susan Marshall had been raised by Floyd as his daughter before they became married. The tale took yet another twist when DNA evidence showed she was not his biological daughter. Authorities estimated Susan had been born at the end of the 1960s and had been abducted by Floyd in the early 1970’s.
Finally, further DNA testing showed she was Suzanne Marie Sevakis. Floyd was her stepfather, and he absconded with her, her two sisters and brother in 1975. The two sisters were found and reunited with their mother. Suzanne was sexually abused from a very early age, and the girl's brother was never found.
14The Beaumont Children
Known in Australia as the case that changed how parents supervised their children, the disappearance of the Beaumont children is still one of the largest ever investigations in Australian police history.
On Australia Day 1966 the three children, Jane nine, Arnna Seven, and Grant four, went off together to enjoy some time playing on Glenelg Beach, just as they had the day before.
They were due home by 2 pm and when they failed to return their parents alerted the police.
A number of eyewitnesses reported seeing the children talking to a “tall, thin, blonde haired man” and a shopkeeper who knew them served them pasties, which they had never ordered before and paid for with a one pound note. The children's mother had given them change for the bus and some money for food, but that did not include a one pound note.
No trace of any of the children has ever been found.
The disappearance of three siblings from Glenelg Beach on Australia Day 1966 has become symbolic of the day Australia lost its innocence.
Zephany Nurse was delivered by c-section at the Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa in 1997. When she was two days old, she was abducted by a woman dressed as a nurse, and despite exhaustive police efforts only her baby clothes, a pillow and a handbag with no identifiable items were found.
Twice the Nurse family's hopes were raised, on one occasion the child suspected to be Zephany was a boy, and on another, the offer of information turned out to be an extortion attempt by a neighbor.
When the Nurses younger daughter started high school, she made friends with a girl, and everyone commented on how alike they looked. DNA tests proved she was the missing Zephany and the girl was reunited with her parents in 2014, and the woman who kidnapped her was jailed for ten years.
Madeleine McCann’s family were on vacation, said a Portuguese report. Her parents, her 2-year-old twin siblings and a group of friends with their children were holidaying together. On May 3, 2007, Madeleine’s parents were eating dinner with some friends at a restaurant leaving their children unattended in a ground floor holiday apartment about 180 feet away.
The group had made a block booking for the tables in the same restaurant for the last four days of their holiday, and a resort message book at the poolside indicated that the children were alone and the parents were at the Tapas restaurant.
Madeleines mother checked on her at 10:00 pm but discovered her bed empty, her comfort blanket and favorite stuffy toy still on the bed.
Despite a huge manhunt, investigations by the Portuguese police and the British Police, Madeleine has never been found, and no reliable leads have ever turned up.
In 1998 Natascha Kampusch was only ten years old on March 2, 1998, when she was abducted on her way to school in Vienna, Austria. A 12-year-old witness reported seeing Natascha being dragged into a white van and police investigated 776 white mini vans, including that of her abductor who was ruled out as a suspect.
Natascha was kept in a windowless concrete cell that was just 54 square feet. She spent six months in this box before being allowed out during the day while her captor was home. As time passed Přiklopil, Kampuschs kidnapper, allowed her out more and more, even taking her into the town but he told her he had a gun and would shoot her if she made a sound or tried to escape.
In 2006 Přiklopil was making Kampusch vacuum his car when he received a cell phone call and moved away and turned his back because of the noise. Kampusch left the vacuum running and ran across neighboring gardens banging on a door and telling the person inside who she was.
Přiklopil threw himself in front of a train rather than be caught, and many people think she may have developed “Stockholm Syndrome” when she cried inconsolably after news of his death.
Jim Pitzen dropped his six-year-old son Timmothy off at school at the usual time on May 11, 2011. Shortly after that his wife, Timmothy's mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen turned up at the school and told administrators there had been a family emergency and she had to pick up Timmothy.
When his father went to pick him up he was told his son had been collected by Fry-Oitzen at 8:30 am, and at first, he wasn’t too concerned. He assumed his wife was upset with him, but when she failed to answer her cell phone as well as nobody from her work or family, he called the police and reported them both missing.
Fry-Oitzen was found, after three days in a motel room where she committed suicide. There was no trace of Timmothy. His mother left a note saying Timmothy was safe with people who loved and him and he would never be found.
CCTV footage shows a happy Timmothy and his mother in several locations before she committed suicide, but there has never been any further trace of him.
Sabine Dardenne was 12 when she was kidnapped in 1996 while riding her bike to school in Belgium. Her abductor was Marc Dutroux who imprisoned her in the basement of his home for 80 days before she was rescued.
Dardenne was allowed to write letters to her friends and family, but they were never mailed. Eventually, Dardenne said she wanted a friend and Dutroux kidnapped 14-year-old Laetitia Delhez to keep her company. A witness saw the abduction and Dutroux was questioned but released. He came forward on Aug 15, 1996, and confessed, leading the police to the two girls in his basement where investigators found a significant amount of homemade pornography.
He also led police to the bodies of other girls he had killed, two of which died of starvation when he was in custody for stolen vehicle crimes. The police, in this case, had searched his house on two occasions and despite hearing noises failed to find the captive girls who then starved to death.
8The Sodder Children
One enduring “are they missing or dead mystery” is that of the Sodder Children. It was Christmas Eve 1945 when a fire began at the Sodder family's home in West Virginia. The family had ten children in total and five of them, as well as the parents, escaped the blaze while five other children were trapped upstairs.
Nobody was able to call the police because the telephone lines had been cut. The children's father, George, tried to grab his ladder to save the children but it had mysteriously disappeared so he ran to his car to drive for help and the engine had been disabled.
The entire house had collapsed to the ground within 45 minutes, and it was assumed the five children inside had died; but no bones, teeth or other evidence that the children had very been there was ever found.
Rumors swirled that George had been threatened by members of the Mafia and that four of the children were seen at a nearby restaurant after the fire, but no evidence of them being killed or kidnapped has been found.
The Thongchum shared a small one bedroom house in a small village several hours away from Bangkok. After school, the two oldest children helped sell garlands of flowers with their parents on the forecourt of a local gas station.
While mom Manee was feeding the baby, Om, Jiji disappeared. A Jiji’s flip-flops were found on the path to the washrooms, but no other trace was found, and police in Thailand will not take a missing person report for 24 hours, even when a child is involved.
It has been assumed that Jiji is one of the thousands of Thai children who go missing each year and are taken to towns like Pattaya which is basically one giant brothel where western tourists go for sex with children.
Other children are shipped from Pattaya to pedophile rings and the makers of child pornography in North America where they are used and then murdered without anyone even knowing they were there.
In 1964 a newborn baby boy was abducted from a Chicago hospital. The Chicago police and the FBI searched across the country. Happily, the baby Paul Fronczak was found when he was a toddler abandoned in a stroller outside a store in Newark New Jersey and returned to his relieved parents.
The mystery of his abduction was never solved, but the story takes a much more bizarre turn when Paul took a DNA test at the age of 46 and discovered he is not related to his “parents.” He is not actually Paul Fronczak the baby abducted from the Chicago hospital, and nobody can shed any light on who he really is.
Fronczak sent DNA samples to three genealogy websites: 23andMe.com, familytreedna.com, and Ancestry.com and discovered first a third cousin and then a second cousin. However, the second cousin was also adopted and is searching for his birth family.
He is now working with a genetic genealogist in a quest to discover who he really is and hopefully to find the real Paul Fronczak.
Fusako Sano was held in captivity for nine years and two months from the time she was abducted on her way to school in Sanjo, Japan on Nov13, 1990. She was just nine years old. Her captor was an unemployed “mentally disturbed” man Nobuyuki Satō who was 28 years old at the time of the abduction. Satō held Sano captive in the upstairs of his apartment in a busy residential area only 700 feet from a police station.
Sano did not leave her captors' home for over nine years, and she said she eventually became resigned to her fate and stopped trying to get away after many punishments with a stun gun. She was found after Santo’ mom called the police because her son was violent to her. Sano was so weak she could hardly walk, was suffering from jaundice, dehydration, vitamin deficiencies and post traumatic stress disorder.
At 6:48 pm on Feb 19, 2008, police received a phone call from Karen Matthews. Her daughter Shannon had not returned from school which was around a half mile away from her home. Police questioned 1,500 motorists and searched 3,000 local homes with 250 officers, 60 detectives, and 16 special victim recovery dogs on the case, but there was little in the way of uproar in the press. Matthews' disappearance was compared to that of Madeleine McCann, and the lower level of interest was attributed to the British class system which allegedly placed more value on a child from a wealthy family than a child from a low-income family.
After 24 days Shannon was found in the base of the bed at the home of Michael Donovan, the uncle of a man named Craig Meehan – the boyfriend of the kidnapped girl's mother, Karen Matthews.
The entire abduction had been a setup to “find” Shannon, who was kept drugged throughout her ordeal and claim the reward money.
One of the first missing children to be featured on a milk carton, Johnny Gosch went missing while on his paper delivery route on Sept 5, 1982. The Iowa police did not turn up for 45 minutes after Gosch’s parents called and did not investigate for 72 hours, putting his disappearance down as a runaway case.
The family was also denied any help at all from the FBI after the police chief decided he could find no evidence of a crime.
At one stage a man came forward and said he had been kidnapped as a child and had been held as part of a pedophile ring then forced to help abduct Johnny Gosch. Police discounted his statement as it was claimed he suffered from mental health issues and was unreliable.
In 2006 Gosch’s mom received an email with photos of a bound and gagged boy. She believes the pictures are of her son, but the police have stated that they are not him and that there are no leads to follow.
2Nina Von Gallwitz
Nina von Gallwitz was eight years old when she was abducted in 1981 on the way to school on Dec 18. Von Gallwitz’s friends were concerned when she did not turn up, and her mother was called. Public appeals were made and at a march; 500 people prayed for Nina’s safe return.
After 149 days, she was dumped blindfolded but unharmed in a restaurant parking lot after her father a Cologne bank called clerk Hubertus von Gallwitz paid $750,000 to kidnappers who held her hostage for five months.
Restaurant worker saw Nina blindfolded and holding an alarm clock because her captors had told her not to get help until the alarm clock rang. She was barely able to move because she had been confined to bed for her entire captivity and her muscles had wasted.
Her father had contacted the kidnappers via a journalist who acted as a go between after an appeal for her safe return. The kidnappers were never caught.
On August 4, 1987, Joy White and Carl Tyson took their 19-day old daughter Carlina to the Harlem Hospital in New York because she had a fever of 104 °F. Carlina had an infection and was placed on IV antibiotics. Her family was worried, but they were comforted by a nurse and left the hospital for the night.
At some point around 3:00 am the comforting nurse, who was not a nurse at all, removed Carolina's IV and abducted her.
Nejdra "Netty" Nance began to grow suspicious that her mother was not actually her parent when she failed to produce the birth certificate - Netty needed for health insurance. Eventually, her mom gave her a certificate but it turned out to be fake and her mom Annugetta "Ann" Pettway, admitted she was not her biological mother.
At the age of 23, Netty searched the site of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, where she found pictures similar to herself and her daughter as a baby and she was in fact, Carlina White. White was reunited with her parents, and Pettway received 12 years in prison after admitting to the kidnapping which she claimed happened after she had had multiple miscarriages.
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