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David & Paul Shannon and Dave Rees
David, a fire fighter and father of three and Paul who works for BT and is a father of one are two brothers from the Liverpool area searching for their father who they last saw more thirty years ago.
In the early 1970s David and Paul’s father, Dave Rees with his wife and two young boys moved to South Africa in search of job opportunities. He had seen an advertisement in a national newspaper advertising opportunities for young men to work in the mining industry. With no job opportunities in Liverpool, the family took their chance and moved to South Africa. The brothers’ earliest memories are from Africa: a happy family life and a loving father.
For the first few years they lived a good life but as the country became embroiled in increasingly violent political unrest Dave Rees and his wife decided to return to England. Their marriage was also in trouble however and not long after their return to England David & Paul’s parents separated. The boys would remain in England with their mother and their father would return to South Africa where he could find work more easily.
David says: “I look at my kids and I think you can’t just walk away, you can’t, you wouldn’t want to. Why would you want to leave your kids? I’d certainly fight tooth and nail to see mine.”
David and Paul only saw their father once in the years that followed. One day when David was twelve years old and Paul ten, the boys were taken to hospital to visit their paternal grandmother who was being treated for cancer. Knowing she was dying, she’d asked to see her two grandsons one final time. David and Paul were taken to visit and unexpectedly bumped into their father who had flown in from South Africa to see his mum. Before they had a chance to speak to him they were ushered away. This was the last time they were to see him.
Today, both brothers are family men but are still acutely aware of their childhood with no male role model. Both longed to have a dad in their lives.
David and Paul are very close to this day and the brothers still share a fierce desire to be reunited with their father.
Paul says: “At the back of my mind I’ve always been trying to find my dad for whatever logical reason, for whatever emotional reasons I don’t know, but the fact is it’s always been there.”
Before his wedding Paul made one last attempt to find his father and wrote to every Dave Rees in South Africa hoping one would be the right man. Despite receiving many letters of support, all those who replied regretfully told him they were not his father. The brothers turned to Long Lost Family for help.
LLF traced Dave Rees to a mining area northwest of Johannesburg where he works for a platinum mine. Nicky travels to South Africa to discover why he has not been a part of his boys’ lives.
Dave tells the programme that he has lived with the guilt for years and fears his sons’ search is motivated by anger and a desire for revenge. He has never forgotten the last time he saw his boys at the hospital but this is coloured by the memory of hearing David address his new stepfather as “Dad”. In that moment he felt a sense that he was not wanted or needed.
Dave remarried after his divorce from Paul and David’s mother and has gone on to have three children – two girls and a boy. They have all grown up knowing they have two older brothers in England and the whole family has spent time searching for the boys. David and Paul’s surname was changed when their mother remarried and with no idea what they were now called, Dave would never have been able to trace them.
Long Lost Family is with David and Paul at the airport when they are reunited with their father.
Julia Evans and Robert and Alan Boulter
Single mother Julia Evans is searching for her mother who disappeared when she was a baby, leaving her to be bought up by her father in a strict religious community in the industrial heartlands of South Wales.
Julia, who now lives in Bristol with her four year old daughter Alisha, tells LLF that she has absolutely no memory of her mother. Julia’s mother left when she was just a few months old and Julia had no contact with her after that time. Throughout her life Julia has been desperate to know why she left, and if what her father led her to believe was the truth - or a cruel lie.
Julia tells the programme how she grew up in a small village outside Bridgend, South Wales. Her family were active members of a devout Christian group that had broken away from the established church.
She says: “We lived life according to the bible; to the letter...We had no interaction with the outside world apart from what was deemed necessary. There was no television. I was never allowed to go to the cinema or anything like that because it was just pure sin as far as they were concerned.”
The community Julia grew up in had strict rules and she was expected to follow them. It was especially hard for her at school where she felt like an outsider. It was during these years her need to have her mum in her life grew. Julia tried to talk to her father about what had happened to her and why she had left, but as far as he was concerned her mother was a sinner who had turned her back on the church, her husband and her daughter. He refused to speak of her. Julia grew up never knowing why her mother had left, what she was like, or even what she looked like as no photograph of her had been kept.
Aged sixteen, Julia left school and began a job at the Welsh Office. For the first time she began to experience life in the outside world. When the office Christmas party came around Julia decided to go despite her father’s objections that dancing and alcohol were only for sinners.
She says: “He said to me I was definitely my mother’s daughter and spawn of the devil.”
After years of being told her mother was a sinner and hadn’t wanted anything to do with her, Julia began to wonder if her mother had also been put in the same untenable position that she found herself in. Perhaps her mum had dared to cross her father, perhaps she was cast out and not allowed to return.
She says: “Maybe I wasn’t rejected, maybe I was wanted but it was impossible for her to be around.”
At this point in her life Julia realised she was unable to live the life her father required of her. Within six months she left and has been estranged from her father ever since.
As Julia’s family has grown so has her wish to find her mum. Julia approached Long Lost Family for help in finding her mother and to discover once and for all if her mother left her through choice or necessity.
Tragically in carrying out Julia’s search LLF discovered that her mother had passed away in 2009. It was also discovered however that she had remarried and gone on to have two sons, Allan and Robert.
Nicky goes to meet them and learns that Julia’s mum had never forgotten Julia and they grew up knowing they had an older sister somewhere. The boys knew little of their mother’s early life, but they did know that she never felt able to find her daughter herself.
When Davina meets Julia she is able to show Julia a photograph of her mother – the first that Julia has ever seen. She tells Julia about her brothers and the truth about her mother’s feelings. Not only had her mother not wanted to leave her, but she had framed photographs on the wall throughout her life. Julia had never been forgotten. Despite the sad loss of her mother Julia is thrilled to have a connection to her.
She says: “I no longer feel that rejection and that hurt of not knowing mum and mum leaving and not wanting anything to do with me, it was like I am at peace with myself for the first time in my life.”
Long Lost Family is with Julia and her brothers when they meet for the first time in Porthcawl, her mother’s favourite place.
For thousands of people across Britain someone is missing from their lives. In June 2013, the award-winning series Long Lost Family returns to ITV for eight weeks with more extraordinary stories of people desperate to find missing family. Presented by Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell, the series aims to reunite relatives after years of separation.
Our searches have taken us all over the world on some of our toughest cases yet to uncover amazing family secrets, find people no one else has been able to trace and finally answer questions that have overshadowed entire lives.