Photos Reunited In Chiswick

Happy ending as our readers trace mystery woman


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Readers of turned into sleuths to reunite a family with a bag of stolen photographs.

Several readers of the Forum went on a hunt last week that started in Chiswick, then went to Manchester, via Bridport in Dorset and finally involved Twitter to identify the mystery woman in this photo (below).

The drama began when Chiswick resident Dan Spurrier posted a message on's Forum seeking help to trace the owners of a bag of family photos which his son had found abandoned in Milnthorpe Road. Amongst several photos in the bag were a wedding album and a picture of a young woman at her graduation ceremony.

The logo on the hessian bag was that of a bakery in Bridport, Dorset.

Fearing the photographs might have been thrown away after a burglary, Dan and his wife Heather were anxious to reunite the photos with their owners, knowing they would be of sentimental value. His post was quickly answered by concerned locals, and well-known Chiswick resident Jim Lawes offered to post some of the photographs on the Forum. It was felt that identifying the woman in the graduation photograph would be the quickest way to track down the family.

When a reader identified the graduation photograph as being from the University of Manchester Jim contacted the University Alumni and the Graduate Gown Hiring Company which recognised that this gown was most likely a Bachelor award dating from 2004 onwards. The bakery in Bridport was also contacted.

The pace of the search gathered speed when it was suggested by Esther Gibbs that the photograph be placed on Flickr and tweeted to Manchester University and the local newspaper, the Manchester Evening News. Forum stalwart Ian Wylie who is a former London editor of the Manchester Evening News became involved in the Twitter plan. A short caption was added asking for help to identify the graduate.

Ian was able to report on Thursday that he had been contacted by someone who had identified the graduate. The mystery had taken only two days to solve.

The graduate in the photograph was Hazel Maxwell, who told what happened;

“A friend of a friend recognised me in the photograph while she was posting an advertisement on the University twitter account. She phoned my friend, who then got in touch with me, and I was able to look at the photo on Twitter, and then make contact with Jim Lawes."

Hazel said that the bag of photographs had been in her mother’s BMW car, which was stolen from outside her flat in Chiswick a few weeks ago. Her mum, Elaine was moving from Bridport , Dorset to Chiswick, to take up a new job in a think-tank in central London, when her car was taken from outside her new home. She had reported it stolen to the police but it has not yet been recovered. The family were overjoyed to hear their photographs had been recovered.

“It was such a lovely thing to do, and now my mum is really pleased as she feels she has moved into a nice community of very kind people. We are hoping to meet the individuals concerned when they give us back the bag of photos next week, and we’d love to buy them all a drink”, said Hazel, who graduated in 2009 with a degree in philosophy and politics.

Jim Lawes commented:"I think the forum is a wonderful facility for reporting all sorts of things, and even though I don't use Twitter myself, I'm amazed how you can multiply the distribution of news. I'm retired and I had time to make a few enquiries but a lot of other people helped out, expecially people like Ian Wylie who know about Twitter, and so many people are very pleased with the happy outcome."


October 13, 2012

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