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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August, 2003, 19:24 GMT 20:24 UK
Genette's parents' Devon pilgrimage
Sheila and Bob Cook
Genette's mother Sheila Cook has not visited the site for 24 years
The divorced parents of a Devon schoolgirl who vanished from a country lane 25 years ago have made separate pilgrimages to the spot where she disappeared.

Genette Tate was a 13-year-old newspaper delivery girl when she went missing in Within Lane, in sight of her home village of Aylesbeare, east Devon.

It is thought Genette vanished from the lane shortly after 1530 BST on Saturday, 19 August 1978.

At about that time on Wednesday her mother Sheila Cook, and her husband Bob, walked hand in hand to the spot in the lane where Genette's bike and newspapers were found scattered by friends.

If they do find a body they will know within hours whether it is Genette
John Tate

"We felt we had to be here after 25 years," said Mrs Cook, who lives near Bristol.

"I know the police are working very hard to solve it, they are making huge efforts."

It was Mrs Cook's first visit to the lane since the first anniversary of Genette's disappearance.

She said she had made the trip to Devon to support her former husband, Genette's father John Tate, 61, who had travelled from his home in Greece to mark the anniversary.

Genette Tate
Genette Tate disappeared in 1978
Earlier in the day wheelchair-user Mr Tate said he had new hopes that the riddle of Genette's disappearance would be solved.

"I am much more enthusiastic the police are going to find the answer to this," he said.

Mr Tate said he had been given fresh hope after Genette's DNA was found last year on one of her jumpers kept by Sheila.

He said the discovery of the DNA was an "enormous breakthrough," and added: "I am very pleased with the way the police are dealing with it, and they have up to 20 officers working on the case.

"If they do find a body they will know within hours whether it is Genette," he added.

The mystery of Genette's disappearance is Britain's longest running missing persons inquiry with a team of 20 police still trying to solve the riddle.

John Tate
John Tate: "Would have loved grandchildren"
But the long running murder-style inquiry, given new impetus with advances in forensic technology, could continue for years.

Detective Superintendent Nigel Boulton, who was 16 when Genette disappeared, said the investigation would continue "as long as there is something positive to inquire into."

Over the years the Genette file has grown so large it is kept in a 12ft by 10ft document cage at the Devon and Cornwall police headquarters.

The mountain of paperwork includes over 20,000 cards in a filing system.

In recent years the police investigation has focused on child killer Robert Black, who in 1994 was sentenced to 10 life sentences for the abduction and murder of three young girls, and the attempted abduction of a 15-year-old girl.

Black was interviewed by Devon and Cornwall detectives in 1996 and 1998 but denied abducting Genette.

Detective Superintendent Boulton said no decision had been made about any further interview with Black.

"There are other lines of inquiry I am pursuing as well as those of a forensic nature," he said.

Genette police in Ulster link
23 Feb 03  |  England
DNA could solve 24-year mystery
15 Dec 02  |  England

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