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Newspaper thanked after search for ‘gentle giant’s’ next-of-kin

A woman whose brother went missing 28 years ago has thanked a local newspaper and its readers after they launched a nationwide search to find his family following his death.

The Southwark News enlisted the help of Trinity Mirror’s Wales Online news website to help trace relatives of Gomer Roberts after the “gentle giant”, who was well-known in Bermondsey, South London, died last year.

Despite the search sadly yielding no results at the time, the News was able to help Mr Roberts’s friends organise a funeral service for him in July.

Now Gomer’s adopted sister Bronwen Vearncombe has discovered about his death after conducting an online search for his name, a task she undertook each year on their respective birthdays and at Christmas – and has publicly thanked his friends for paying for the funeral.

Mrs Vearncombe found the story via Wales Online’s site, and spoke to the News in an interview which provided a splash for the independently-owned weekly yesterday.

She told the paper that her brother, with whom she was adopted as a child in South Africa in the 1960s before their new parents returned to their native Wales, had “disappeared off the face of the earth in 1989″, aged 27, and that the family had hired private detectives in a bid to find him.

Southwark find

Mr Roberts had lived in London for around 20 years, and once served as a bouncer at a pensioners’ Christmas party held by the News in Bermondsey, which saw him have to separate two octogenarian love rivals who were throwing punches over the 90-year-old object of their affection.

Editor Anthony Phillips told HTFP: “Gomer was well-known locally and to us at the News. We’d regularly see him in the local pubs or out and about on the street – you couldn’t miss him really, he was so big. He was a lovely man. Always cheery, generous and warm-hearted.

“He wasn’t just a face in the pub – he invested himself in the community. He was our ‘bouncer’ at a free pensioners’ party that we threw in a local park, and he was also Father Christmas, giving out presents to children at a Bermondsey Christmas event.

“It was a shock to many people when he died. We and his friends all tried to find out more about his family, and it was only then that we realised how little we knew about him. We did extensive online searches and also contacted Wales Online to see if they would offer some coverage. But it was all to no avail. So, to stop him having a pauper’s funeral, his friends organised a service for him in July last year.

“Then last week, out of the blue, we received a phone call from his sister. She told us that she had not seen him for almost 28 years. She said that on her and his birthday each year she would search for him online. Last week she did that same search again and saw the article on Wales Online. She then gave us a call.

“She now wants to come to Bermondsey to thank her brother’s friends for what they did.”

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