Woman abducted as a child is reunited with the Holme village man who saved her

The following text is from an article written by Robert Sutcliffe from the Huddersfield Examiner( with a couple of slight amendments marked in blue).

You can read the original article on the Huddersfield Examiner website here and another version on the Manchester Evening News website here.


A woman who was abducted as a child 40 years ago has told the extraordinary story of how she tracked down and was reunited with the Huddersfield man who saved her life.

Wendy Gould was around five years old when one night in August 1978 she was picked up by a man around 100 yards from her home in Ashton-under-Lyne.

Wendy Gould and her partner Dave Eccles (Image: Wendy Gould)

Wendy Gould and her partner Dave Eccles (Image: Wendy Gould)

Later that night she was deposited unharmed around 16 miles away in the tiny, but picturesque, village of Holme, three miles from Holmfirth.

Her parents, Barrie and Margaret, had not discussed the incident in much detail over the years and Wendy had only used the incident as a convenient ‘icebreaker’ at work when she was asked to introduce herself.

But in a remarkable turn of events she and her partner Dave Eccles, a lorry driver, were returning home from a trip to London on Sunday, 16 September, when the M62 was closed and fed up with waiting he decided to take the road through Holme – somewhere she had never visited since that fateful night.

Wendy, a 45-year-old, mother of two grown-up boys and a grandmother, said: “I had a complete meltdown, it was weird. I was feeling sick and I couldn’t breathe properly, the fear was overwhelming.”

She says now that she thinks it was the sight of Holme Castle, a former country hotel which is now a private home, protruding into the road that triggered latent memories of the incident.

So shocked was she by her reaction that she went straight to her parents’ house in Ashton-under-Lyne and asked them to tell her everything about it.

Wendy said: “My dad said to me: ‘What’s up? You’ve got no colour in your cheeks.’ I knew the basic information about what had happened to me but suddenly I wanted to know every last detail.

“Initially they thought I was found on the Isle of Skye (the local name given to an area at the head of the Wessenden Valley, around the junction of Greenfield Road (A635) and Wessenden Head Road), but I was not found there.

“I had been reported missing at about 6pm and there had been all these people looking for me in Ashton, searching their gardens etc. My mum has always said that an eyewitness had seen me being dragged into a car.”

The bizarre recollection so distressed her that she had to take two weeks off work with stress and began seeing a counsellor.

She decided to try to research what happened to her but found West Yorkshire Police and Greater Manchester Police unable to help very much as no-one had been arrested or charged following the incident.

Frustratingly there was tantalisingly little if anything in local newspapers so she got in touch with the Holme community website in the area run by Dayn Wilkins who promised to pass her message on to the ‘village elders’ who lived in Holme in 1978.

The message reached a woman called Jill Hayfield, who realised the man she was looking for was her husband, John Sandford.

In an email to her he said: “Hello, Wendy, How nice to hear from you. I am the person who found you in Holme Village. I have often wondered what became of you and would love to see you again.”

And on Saturday, October 20, an emotional reunion took place between John and Wendy as well as their partners Dave and Jill.

John Sandford and his wife, Jill Hayfield (Image: Reach Plc)

John Sandford and his wife, Jill Hayfield (Image: Reach Plc)

John, 70, the former owner with Jill of Holme Castle, said it had been a very moving experience.

He said: “I would have been about 30 and an engineer with David Brown when the abduction happened and I still have a very vivid recollection of that night.

“I was living in Lane village about half a mile from Holme village when one Friday night in August I was walking down to catch the bus and meet some friends when I noticed a small girl who was crying and I realised that she was not a child from the village.

“I asked her where she was walking to and she replied she was going home. She was heading towards Holme Moss and the moors.

“I thought she must have got lost from her family or something more sinister had happened which proved to be the case.”

John contacted a local headmistress, Olga Hill-Lines, who phoned the police and Wendy was reunited with her family.

He said: “The next morning two detectives from Manchester came to interview me and I asked them what had happened. They told me that she had been abducted from Ashton-under-Lyne and had been dropped on the Digley Road on the other side of the village.

“That was the last that I heard of it until now. It was wonderful meeting her again and we chatted for an hour and tried to piece together what had happened.”

John offered to show her the spot where she had been deposited all those years ago.

He said: “She couldn’t remember how she had been picked up but she could remember some steps and a bridge and we think the steps were the chapel steps in Holme which dates back hundreds of years.

“Then we went to The Fleece pub and had our photographs taken.”

Clive Swindell (also from the village, see below) proposed: “We are hoping to make Wendy an honorary member of Holme village. It was an horrendous thing to happen to her – it’s every person’s worst nightmare – but now we have tried to lay all the ghosts to rest and make her feel welcome.

“We also want to warn parents of how easy it can be for something terrible like this to happen.”

Wendy said: “Visiting Holme with John and Jill made everything fall into place. I had only seen it on Google Streetview before.

“It was unreal seeing John but he and his wife and everyone else I met made me feel so welcome. I really wanted to go back into the village and he took me to where he found me.

“He introduced me to Clive Swindell, a friend of his and the first house he took me to and then to see Olga’s house where I was taken to afterwards. I felt so relieved that finally I had all the answers.

“My dad has been ill recently but I am looking forward to introducing him and my mum to John and Jill and everyone when he is well enough to come over.”