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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 September 2007, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Wrongly accused held for 70 years
The family lost touch after Jean was sectioned
A woman who spent 70 years in institutions after she was wrongly accused of theft has been reunited with her long-lost family.

Jean Gambell, now 85, was working as a cleaner in a doctor's surgery when she was accused of stealing 2s 6d - equivalent to twelve-and-a-half pence.

The cash later turned up but by then Jean had been sectioned.

Her two brothers found the sister they had thought was dead when a care home questionnaire came to their house.

Jean's mother died 25 years ago and her brothers, David and Alan, who were not even born in 1937, lost touch with her when they were split up.

David Gambell, now 63, from Wirral, Merseyside, said: "Last month I received a questionnaire from a care home in Macclesfield asking whether we were happy with it.

"It was addressed to my mother and I was just about to throw it in the bin as junk when I saw a name pencilled in the corner - Jean Gambell.

"I rang them and they said straight away our sister was there."

We had a bunch of flowers and wrote on a piece of card 'Hello Jean, we're your brothers'
David Gambell, brother

Alan Gambell, also from Wirral, added: "We were not even born in 1937 when Jean was put away but I do remember her being brought to us by two wardens when we were young."

The boys lost touch with Jean when they were very young as the family was split up and some were put in care.

When their mother died, the last link to Jean was lost.

Inquiries with Macclesfield Social Services confirm that following her original detention at Cranage Hall records were then lost.

Jean had been put in various care homes before being moved to Macclesfield.

Alan said: "We now know many of the things she was saying to the staff had been dismissed as figments of her imagination."

Last month the brothers made their first visit to see Jean at the care home and were told she was deaf, that staff communicated with her by writing and that she may not remember them.

'No bitterness'

David said: "We were very nervous. We had a bunch of flowers and wrote on a piece of card 'Hello Jean, we're your brothers'.

"They brought her in and she took one look at us and said: 'Hello Alan, hello David', and put her arms around us."

Shortly after the meeting Jean suffered a stroke, which the family believe may be connected to the shock of their reunion, but she is said to be making good progress.

David said: "It's been emotional. Nowadays there are reviews and appeals but back then, a doctor could sign away a life with the stroke of a pen - it's a terrible waste.

"It's incredible, after all this time there was no hint of bitterness."

Cheshire County Council said it was investigating the matter.

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