Georgina Gharsallah is a mother, a sister and a daughter just like millions of women in this country are but imagine your daughter, your sister or your mother vanishing from the town they grew up in without so much of a phone call, a text or a note left in their absence.
For many, this would be the stuff of nightmares and the constant worry at the back of a mother’s mind from the day their child is born is about keeping them safe and never leaving their side both physically and mentally. For Andrea Gharsallah – the mother of Georgina this nightmare-inducing scenario came true on the 7th March 2018 when Georgina disappeared from the sunny seaside town of Worthing, West Sussex from where she had called home from a young age.
It has now been over 3 years since the day she disappeared and still to this day little is known about the whereabouts of Georgina than there was when the investigation first opened.
As the headline of this article states; the intention is to delve into the racial prejudice, the lack of media coverage and the failings that were made at the hands of Sussex Police.
(If you are unfamiliar with the case of the Disappearance of Georgina Gharsallah as many are and as will be explained why in this article, then a brief synopsis of the case can be found with a quick search online)
-There are more dubious pieces of information surrounding the case but for legal reasons, I am just working with the known facts of the case for the purposes of this article.
The Blurred Lines Between Racial Prejudice, Social Discrimination & The Lack of Media Coverage.
For many reading this; the name Georgina Gharsallah will be the first time they have heard it, considering she has been missing for over 3 years with no evidence to suggest she is dead and of course the flip side of that is equally no evidence to suggest she is alive – the case should still be treated as a missing person case. This is not the case as on the 19th August 2019 Chief Inspector Andrew Wolstenholme, Sussex Police took over the case and subsequently reassessed it from a missing person case to a homicide case after advice from the NCA.
On what grounds did they move the case? From Detective Chief Inspector/Senior Investigating Officer and this is verbatim; “we have no evidence to believe she is still alive”. Like I have previously stated and like Andrea retorted to the police “You have no evidence to believe she is dead either” which is a fact and that is what we are working on within this article.
One of Andreas’ daughters also made a formal complaint about the handling of the case by Sussex Police as she felt “They were not taking the case seriously as Georgina is a mother and various other factors” – Sussex Police only handed the case over to the Major Crime Unit once they had found out that Georgina’s bank account had been accessed (The outgoings from the account later turned out to be an automatic renewal for a PlayStation subscription however PlayStation have responded saying “they have no record of it” and yet again Sussex Police reassured the family that any transactions with regards to Georgina’s account would be flagged up as suspicious, to contradict that the family were then told by the bank “they can’t do that with a missing person case”).
We will come back to more of the Failings of The Sussex Police later.
Why hasn’t anyone really heard of the case of The Disappearance of Georgina Gharsallah? Even a few miles up the road in the bustling city of Brighton & Hove, it is still a relatively unknown case. To answer that you have to take a look at Georgina; she is a mixed-race, working-class, single mother from a non-affluent background and unfortunately whether you like it or not that is why.
The case has had minimal exposure on mainstream media outlets (if any at all), it has had the odd snippet here and there on regional news programmes – Meridian Tonight and South Today but when it comes to doing all the hard work, PR campaigns and keeping the case in the public’s eye -it has all been done by the family and mother of Georgina, Andrea.
Why is it fair that a mother who has already had to go through three long years of mental anguish, worry and fear for her daughter on top of the day-to-day stresses of life has to do all this just to keep her daughter’s memory alive?
Just for comparison look at the media coverage the recent disappearance and subsequent murder of Sarah Everard received in column inches and television time, inches and inches and hours and hours if you tally it all up. You have to ask yourself this; If Georgina was a white, middle-class affluent member of society from a predominantly English background with a non-foreign sounding surname (the origins of which are from her father’s side of the family and are Arabic) would the media be all over her case like they were with the case of Sarah Everard?
The answer is yes, yes they would because ALL the mainstream media outlets worship at the church of British white women when they disappear but not Georgina, she has all been forgotten about and that is the stark reality and injustice of racial prejudice in the media.
If you think racial prejudice died out many years ago then sadly you are naive and blind to the fact that it hasn’t gone anywhere it has simply devolved into a more accepted form of prejudice that seems to fly over the masses of the general public’s heads. If you are non-white in 2021 you are still a minority, you will still receive racism in some form or another and heaven forfend that you need the help of the national mainstream media or press to bring attention to a particular case – because you just won’t receive it.
Just for some emphasis on just how little attention the case has received; I often bring up the case to people who live in or around Worthing and nine times out of ten when I mention “Georgina Gharsallah” – I am met with replies of “who?” (Or my personal favourite) “Oh I think I know” when it is quite clear they have no idea.
Where does the racial discrimination aspect of this article enter into the social discrimination side of things? of course, these two elements of this case aren’t mutually exclusive and I will leave that up to the interpretation of the reader however I feel that it is important to illustrate that potentially some of the facts regarding the mishandling of Georgina’s case may not all be categorised under the blanket term of “racial prejudice” and may well be better categorised as “social discrimination” and I will illustrate why;
You may read other articles online that allude to the fact that Georgina smoked cannabis and may have potentially racked up debt with drug gangs in the area or she was kidnapped to send a message to rival gangs. Yes, it is a fact that Georgina smoked cannabis (like the millions and millions of people in this country) but is it plausible to insinuate that Georgina racked up a heavy debt with drug gangs in the area that lead to her disappearance? Maybe, but in reality, I find that hard to believe. Drug dealers are the lowest of the low and when we think about some of the tactics used by “county lines” gangs it’s not entirely absurd to believe that Georgina’s disappearance could be the repercussions of a debt that got out of hand. The counter-argument to that would be that Georgina only smoked with friends and in Andrea’s own words she never saw her smoking it in her house so it would be extremely hard for a social smoker of cannabis to rack up a significant debt with the odd twenty-pound deal here and there. Many articles online have flirted heavily with the assumption that she was a habitual user of cannabis and I would like to set the record straight that this was not the case at all.
Sussex police have also planted the proverbial seed into the minds’ of the Gharsallah family with the same line of investigation; essentially stating the same with regards to the cannabis use of Georgina and the potential drug gang/kidnapping but that is as far as Sussex Police took that enquiry.
It is also worth noting that Georgina was a single mother of two and in Andrea’s words; “her choice of friends and partners at times were not great”, does that have any significance on the case? Again maybe yes but in the grand scheme of things; probably not. Georgina split up with her ex-boyfriend a week before she went missing, he was questioned by police but later released. With the above information taken into consideration, it is clear why there is an element of both racial prejudice and social discrimination. When you read other articles that heavily clutch at straws and cast aspersions to the fact that Georgina is a single mother and the recreational cannabis use; it not only takes away a degree of credibility about the character of Georgina but it also strips the Gharsallah family of what little respect is left with regards to Georgina’s case.
To encapsulate this section of the article perfectly in one paragraph it would be this;
Georgina is missing and over three years later we know practically nothing more than we did at the start, a missing person case should be handled with the utmost sensitivity and respect – there should be no discrimination or prejudice from the narrow-minded and judgmental amongst us.
Please see my other article entitled “The Witch Hunt of Meghan Markle By The British Press” for more examples of prejudice towards mixed-race women that can draw comparisons to the case of The Disappearance of Georgina Gharsallah.
The Failings of Sussex Police.
As previously stated in the opening paragraphs of this article; there have been numerous failings by Sussex Police with regards to Georginas’ missing person case (that is now a homicide case but for the purposes of this article and to protect the rights of the family we will still address it as a missing person case) but we are going to be working with just the facts and again this article isn’t to give the reader a synopsis of events (as they are already out there) it is purely to highlight the two major failings by Sussex Police;
The CCTV footage/Interpol Watchlist– The day Georgina went missing she was captured on CCTV in various places in Worthing such as “Clifton Food & Wine” where she had a conversation with the shop keeper and walking through Chapel Road in Worthing town centre etc. You can find the videos of said CCTV footage on YouTube, however, one of the first failings I would like to bring to the reader’s attention is the fact that Sussex Police did not review “Key CCTV footage” for over a year, they had the evidence but they didn’t bother to review it for over a year and that’s not all; Nine (yes nine!) “Potentially significant sections of CCTV were lost” said the family.
Sussex police gave this response;
Sussex Police said the review found that while “initial enquiries were proportionate,” there were “significant missed opportunities” in the way CCTV evidence was handled, which had resulted in some footage being “lost to the investigation”.
It was “impossible to say, with any certainty, whether or not this would have made a tangible difference to the progress of the investigation,” it added.
It was impossible to say that the CCTV would have made a tangible difference to the investigation? But surely it is their responsibility to scrutinise every last drop of evidence they have at their disposal? That should be the first thing they are taught when training to become a police officer/detective. When a person goes missing we all know that time is of the essence.
Sussex Police also failed to place Georgina on the Interpol Missing person list for more than 18 months. Again you would think as soon as a person is reported missing that the corresponding police force follows proper protocol and place a said person on the Interpol Yellow Notice List, obviously not Sussex Police Force.
The Teville Gate Redevelopment Site & Lack of Search – Teville Gate is an area of land in Worthing that was once used as a multi-storey car park but is now a vast derelict area of land where the council plans to redevelop it into flats. The car park was being demolished at exactly the same time that Georgina went missing.
Why is Teville Gate relevant?
Teville Gate is a stone’s throw away from Clifton Road (where Georgina was seen on CCTV entering “Clifton Food & Wine”) it also sits at the outskirts of the town centre (again where Georgina was seen on CCTV walking on Chapel Road) in fact if you follow Chapel Road northwards from the town centre it would only take you a matter of minutes to be adjacent to the Teville Gate building site. It is now fenced off and ironically has a mural of Georgina painted on one of the panels, you’ll see the irony of this later on in this section of the article.
In March 2019 around a year after Georgina first went missing Andrea set up a change.org petition asking for Worthing Borough Council’s planning committee to pause redevelopment of the site so police could search the area for “possible human remains regarding her daughter” after a witness came forward with information saying “they saw someone who looked like Georgina being dragged by two men over the bridge adjacent to Teville Gate on the night Georgina went missing”. Again you should notice the pattern emerging; Andrea doing all her own PR and campaigning. The petition sadly only racked up a mere six thousand signatures (imagine how much it could have been in the case had national media coverage). The petition sadly was all in vain as Investigating Officer Simon Dunn – a police search advisor gave the following quote;
“Teville Gate was assessed in the early part of the investigation, however, there was no information linking Georgina to that premises.”
What would have been the harm in Sussex Police sending in cadaver dogs to search the area for potential remains? What is to say Georgina wasn’t dragged over the bridge and thrown into the building site? The witness later denied stating the original quote to Sussex Police but the uncertainty of it must be a constant thought in the minds of Georgina’s family.
Sussex Police also told the Gharsallah family explicitly; “if you want to go and search then let us know if you find anything of interest” and that “they have no intelligence to warrant searches”, why should a family who have already been sent around the houses by Sussex Police be made to conduct their own search?.
There are countless other failings that I could have gone into detail about but like previously stated for the purposes of this article these are the two major points if you would like to research more on the case the facts are out there for you.
In my own honest and frank opinion, I would say that the refusal and lack of search of the Teville Gate Redevelopment Site don’t just speak volumes; it screams volumes as to where the missing puzzle piece is in terms of clues for Georgina’s disappearance, again drawing back to the racial prejudice surrounding this case – if Georgina was not mixed-race would it have been the first place searched? I think so.
Similarities with Georgina’s Case & The Case of The Double-Murder of Caroline Devlin and Susan Nicholson – Sussex Police have been notorious for not upholding their duty of care and gross negligence throughout the years. If anyone is reading this article and would like to delve deeper into the failings of Sussex Police and the damage they have done to victim’s families then please look into “The Double-Murder of Caroline Devlin and Susan Nicholson” which also happened in Worthing and will showcase the many abhorrent failings that draw striking similarities between both cases. Much like Andrea Gharsallah, the elderly parents of Susan Nicholson had to do all their own investigative work and campaigning themselves, they even spent their life savings on legal fees requesting a fresh inquest into the murder of their daughter (they eventually got the justice they desperately searched for many years to get), if it wasn’t for the parents of Susan Nicholson the murderer would still be walking the streets of Worthing a free man, free to murder more women and free to leave more children motherless.
If this article does anything I hope it is this – be aware that if you are mixed race like Georgina, The Gharsallah family and myself let’s hope that your daughter, son, sister, mother or father never go missing and you find yourself requiring the help of Sussex Police or the mainstream media because you will be in exactly the same position as Andrea is…powerless and lacking closure.
Who’s to say there isn’t someone walking the streets of Worthing now that has done the same to Georgina that Sussex Police have let slip through the net because of their failings and overall shoddy police work?
Here is a short poem by Andrea Gharsallah;
I think of you all the time.
We are bound to one another, through the lightest of links.
But stronger than life itself.
My mind and heart are forever with you.
Here you can find a link to Georgina’s Missing Person Facebook page. LINK
Also please call this number if you know anything: Crimestoppers – 0800 555 111
Written by Callum Claffey-McKinnon – Investigative journalist for The Free-Thinkers Times.
Disclaimer: the wording in this article is alluding to the racial prejudice in the media and the failings of Sussex Police. I am in no way explicitly stating that is what it is, that is for you the reader to make your own mind upon.