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Gamal Turawa looking for Sheerness and Sturry families who took him in 40 years ago

By John Nurden

A runaway is trying to find the family who took him in more than 40 years ago.

Gamal Turawa says he escaped from his home as a young boy and was trying to make his way to Canterbury.

But he caught the wrong train at London Victoria and ended up in Sheerness by mistake.

Gamal Turawa is searching for the Sheppey family who took him in
Gamal Turawa is searching for the Sheppey family who took him in

He said: “I arrived at night and just had enough money for a portion of chips.

“But as I was walking along the beach I bumped into some youngsters with a dog. They ended up taking me back home to their parents’ house for the night where we watched Cleopatra on the TV.

"The police were called but I stayed the night. The next morning my foster mother came and picked me up."

Mr Turawa, now 55, said: “I’m afraid I don’t know the family's name and I’m not sure where they lived. But I’m pretty sure they will remember that night because they said I was the first black kid they had ever seen. I must have stuck out like a sore thumb.”

They ended up taking me back home to their parents’ house for the night where we watched Cleopatra on the TV...” Gamal Turawa

Mr Turawa went on to join the Metropolitan Police and became the force’s first black constable to come out as gay. He retired last year.

He said: “I’ve had an incredible life. But there is one chapter still missing, my short stay on Sheppey. I am hoping the KM can help trace the family who took me in that night.

“I have always wondered about them and want to get in touch to thank them.”

Mr Turawa, who went by the name of Vic in the late 1970s when he visited Sheppey, now lives in Bedford and runs his own leadership and diversity training company giving motivational speeches.

He was taken in by foster parents as a baby after his Nigerian father and Jamaican mother could not cope. He was brought up in Sturry but at the age of eight his biological father returned out of the blue to 'kidnap' him and take him to London by train.

Mr Turawa recalled: "I was so scared I wet myself so he beat me. He would often knock me into shape, which is why I ran away."

He also ran away and ended up in Sturry where his foster brother lived.

Mr Turawa said: "He wasn't home so I spent a couple of nights sleeping rough in a field where, again, some local kids found me and stole food and candles from their father's shop for me.

"It must have seemed like a Huckleberry Finn story to them. But it got so cold that after two days I called the police myself and asked them to take me to my foster parents who at time lived in Aylesham.

"Ideally, it would be great to find both sets of kids who must all now be adults."

If you know the Islanders or the family in Sturry who helped him, call the KM on 01795 580300 or email messengernews@thekmgroup.co.uk.

Read more: All the latest news from Sheerness

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