Disappearance of Genette Tate

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Genette Tate
Tate Genette.jpg
A photograph of Tate in her school uniform released at the time of her disappearance in August 1978.
Genette Louise Tate

5 May 1965
Disappeared19 August 1978 (age 13)
Aylesbeare, Devon, England
StatusMissing for 43 years, 10 months and 13 days
Height5 ft 0 in (1.52 m)
  • John Tate (father)
  • Sheila Cook (mother)

The disappearance of Genette Tate is a missing person case in which a 13-year-old girl disappeared while delivering newspapers in Aylesbeare, Devon, England, on 19 August 1978. Despite extensive searches, Tate's body has not been found and the cause of her disappearance remains unknown.

The case is one of Britain's longest missing person inquiries and has been described as a murder investigation by Devon and Cornwall Police.[1][2] Tate's disappearance remains one of Britain's best known missing person cases.[3]

Early life[edit]

Genette Louise Tate was born in Taunton, Somerset, on 5 May 1965. She was the only child born to John and Sheila Tate. At the time of Genette's birth, the Tate family lived in the Taunton suburb of Wedlands. They relocated briefly to Cornwall before moving to Devon.[4]

Genette's parents separated when she was young, and her father remarried. She lived with her father, stepmother Violet, and stepsister Tania at Barton Farm Cottage in the East Devon village of Aylesbeare,[n 1] 8 miles (13 km) east of Exeter. After her parents' separation, Genette maintained regular contact with her mother.[5]


Tate disappeared while delivering newspapers shortly after 3:30 p.m. (BST) on Saturday 19 August 1978. At approximately 3:28 p.m., two schoolfriends saw Tate walking along Withen Lane, pushing her bicycle. Tate had delivered fourteen newspapers by this point, and conversed briefly with her friends as they ascended the lane.[6] At the top of the hill, Tate mounted her bicycle and rode ahead as her friends paused to read an article in the newspaper they had been given. She would not typically have performed this newspaper round, and had agreed to do the job for one week as the paper boy who normally did the round was on holiday.[7][8] Tate was wearing a white cotton T-shirt with her name embroidered in red letters on the left shoulder, light brown trousers, and white plimsolls.[9]

Seven minutes later, the two girls discovered Tate's bicycle lying in the middle of the road. Several newspapers she had been scheduled to deliver were scattered across the tarmac.[7][8]

Disappearance of Genette Tate is located in Devon
Disappearance of Genette Tate
Map of Devon, showing the location of Tate's disappearance.

Approximately 25 minutes after the discovery, Tate's parents returned to Barton Farm Cottage from a shopping trip to Exeter.[10] The girls had Tate's bicycle with them, and asked if she was at home. When Tate's father said that his daughter was not at home, he and her mother, assisted by several friends and neighbours, began a search around Within Road for Tate. At 5 p.m., John Tate reported his daughter missing to Devon and Cornwall Police.[7][8][10]


Within hours of Tate's disappearance, police mounted an extensive search. Seventy uniformed policemen and fifty detectives from Devon and Cornwall Police, assisted by mounted officers from Avon and Somerset Police, were assigned to the search. All ponds in the Aylesbeare area were searched by underwater search units, and search dogs assisted police in their search of surrounding terrain.[11][n 2]

Devon and Cornwall Police discounted the possibility of Tate running away from home, as at the time of her disappearance she had no personal possessions beyond the clothing she was wearing. She had also left behind in her bedroom money she had been saving for an upcoming family holiday. The money collected from the customers on her newspaper round was still in her purse on the bicycle. The possibility of a hit-and-run traffic accident was also ruled out, as no tyre marks were found on the road and her bicycle was undamaged.[13] Kidnapping was initially considered a possibility, although both Devon and Cornwall Police and Tate's family gradually discounted this possibility.[14][15]

Eyewitnesses reported seeing a maroon Triumph or similar vehicle upon Within Road at around the time of the disappearance, and police issued a photofit picture of a man they wanted to question in relation to the incident. This man was described as being a "very handsome" individual in his early 20s with a pale complexion, short dark hair, who had been wearing a light-coloured shirt.[16]

Despite the police investigation and a search of the surrounding countryside involving thousands of volunteers, Tate's disappearance remains unexplained. In 2002, DNA belonging to Tate was found on one of her jumpers kept by her mother, which would allow her body to be identified if discovered. On the 25th anniversary of the case in 2003, Genette's parents both stated their belief that she is no longer alive. Police have amassed more than 20,000 index cards in a filing system related to the case, which is stored at the Devon and Cornwall Police headquarters in Exeter.[17]

Robert Black as the prime suspect[edit]

Robert Black, a serial killer convicted in 1994 for similar crimes involving the abduction and murder of young girls, was questioned by Devon and Cornwall Police in connection with the Tate case. During the course of his job as a long distance delivery van driver in the 1970s, Black had made deliveries in the Exeter area. In 1996, an eyewitness claimed to have seen a vehicle of the model Black is known to have driven in 1978 at Exeter Airport on the day of Genette's disappearance. The police inquiries were unable to establish that Black had been in Aylesbeare on the day of the disappearance.[18][n 3]

The Crown Prosecution Service decided in August 2008 that insufficient evidence existed to charge Black with Tate's murder.[20][21] After Black's conviction in 2011 for the murder of Jennifer Cardy in 1981, a spokesman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland commented on the "striking similarities" between the murder of Cardy and the disappearance of Tate.[22]

Devon and Cornwall Police reviewed the case in June 2014 in the hope of finding sufficient real evidence to prosecute Black.[23] At the time of his death in January 2016, Devon and Cornwall Police were five weeks from submitting a file to the Crown Prosecution Service in which they sought a new decision on whether to prosecute him.[24] The file was submitted in April 2016, and the Crown Prosecution Service said that due to Black's death, there would be no posthumous decision to charge him with Tate's murder.[25]

In August 2018, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of his daughter's disappearance, John Tate made a further plea for information about the case, saying, "I am not even 100% sure Black did it. I need proof that Black killed her." He said that his rapidly declining health meant that he could no longer make his annual trip from Manchester to Aylesbeare, and that his final wish was to give his daughter a dignified Christian burial and to be buried alongside her.[26] He died in April 2020, aged 77, with the case still unsolved.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The total population of Aylesbeare in 1978 was fewer than 500 people.
  2. ^ The search for Genette Tate would prove to be the most extensive search for a missing person in the history of Devon and Cornwall Police.[12]
  3. ^ In several recorded interviews conducted with a pioneering expert in the treatment of child sex offenders named Dr. Ray Wyre in the early 1990s, Black had disclosed extensive knowledge of the precise scene and circumstances from which Tate was abducted.[19]


  1. ^ "Scores Contact Genette Tate Hotline". Herald Scotland. 1 March 1997. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Full Report: The Mystery of Genette Tate, 35 Years On". ITV News. 13 January 2016. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  3. ^ "The Disappearance of Genette Tate: The Full Story of the Missing Girl That Has Baffled Devon for 40 Years". Devon Live. 20 August 2018. Archived from the original on 19 January 2019. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  4. ^ "Disturbing Letters Make Shock Claims Missing Genette Tate is Buried in Garden". Devon Live. 2 August 2017. Archived from the original on 19 January 2019. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  5. ^ "Missing Girl: Police Check Unsolved 1969 File". The Guardian. 22 August 1978. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  6. ^ Collier, Graham (1995). "Ramed, Murdered and Buried in a Shallow Grave?". Killers. No. 9. p. 45. ISSN 1352-5654.
  7. ^ a b c "Genette's parents' Devon pilgrimage". BBC News. 19 August 2003.
  8. ^ a b c "Britain's longest missing person inquiry - 20 years on". BBC News. 18 August 1998.
  9. ^ Greaves, Paul. "The Disappearance of Genette Tate". Archived from the original on 19 January 2019. Retrieved 13 October 2018 – via devonlive.co.uk.
  10. ^ a b Collier, Graham (1995). "Ramed, Murdered and Buried in a Shallow Grave?". Killers. No. 9. p. 48. ISSN 1352-5654.
  11. ^ "Missing Girl: Police Check Unsolved 1969 File". The Guardian. 22 August 1978. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  12. ^ "The Disappearance of Genette Tate: When a Vicar Held a 24-Hour Phone Line and Received 600 Confessions". Devonlive.com. 4 September 2018. Archived from the original on 19 January 2019. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  13. ^ Collier, Graham (1995). "Ramed, Murdered and Buried in a Shallow Grave?". Killers. No. 9. pp. 47–48. ISSN 1352-5654.
  14. ^ "Prime Suspect in Genette Tate's Disappearance Dies in Prison". ITV News. 13 January 2016. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  15. ^ Swinney (2015), p. 124.
  16. ^ Collier, Graham (1995). "Ramed, Murdered and Buried in a Shallow Grave?". Killers. No. 9. p. 48. ISSN 1352-5654.
  17. ^ "Genette Tate Search 25 Years Old". BBC News. 19 August 2003.
  18. ^ "UK Longest Missing Person Inquiry: 20 Years On". BBC News. 18 August 1998. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  19. ^ Hudson, Nick (14 January 2016). "Child killer Robert Black was About to be Charged with 1978 Genette Tate Murder". Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  20. ^ "Prime suspect in 1978 murder of schoolgirl Genette Tate will not face charges". The Daily Telegraph. 18 August 2008.
  21. ^ "Killer Robert Black's link to Genette Tate reviewed". BBC News. 27 October 2011.
  22. ^ "Missing girl team probes Cardy case". Belfast Telegraph. 28 October 2011.
  23. ^ "Genette Tate: police in talks with hope of prosecuting Robert Black for murder". The Guardian. Press Association. 2 June 2014. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  24. ^ "Robert Black case: Police were close to child murder charge". BBC News. 13 January 2016. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  25. ^ "Genette Tate murder file against Robert Black submitted to CPS". BBC News. 5 April 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  26. ^ "Genette Tate's Father is on His Deathbed - and Has One Final Plea". Devon Live. 18 August 2018. Archived from the original on 19 January 2019. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  27. ^ "Genette Tate disappearance: Father dies without case being solved". BBC News. BBC. 18 May 2020. Retrieved 18 May 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • Blundell, Nigel; Boar, Roger (1991). The World's Greatest Unsolved Crimes. London: Hamlyn. ISBN 978-0-600-57231-2.
  • Swinney, Chris (2015). Robert Black: the True Story of a Child Rapist and Serial Killer. R. J. Parker. ISBN 978-1-517-62415-6.
  • Greene, Karen Shalev; Alys, Llian (2018). Missing Persons: A Handbook of Research. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-409-46802-8.
  • O'Brien, Susan (2008). Criminal Investigations: Child Abduction and Kidnapping. New York: Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 978-0-791-09403-7.
  • Wyre, Ray; Tate, Tim; Richardson, Charmaine (2018). The Murder of Childhood: Inside the Mind of One of Britain's Most Notorious Child Murderers. Hampshire: Waterside Press. ISBN 978-1-909-97662-7.

External links[edit]