Seventy years locked up in institutions hardly seems to be a punishment that befits the crime of stealing half-a-crown.
However, it is just such a fate that befell Jean Gambell when at the age of 15, in 1937, she was falsely accused of stealing 2s 6d (12.5p) from the doctor’s surgery where she worked as a cleaner.
She was sectioned under the 1890 Lunacy Act and even though the money was later found, she has been moved from mental institution to mental institution. More recently, she went into a care home and has been lost to her family, who thought she was dead.
But last month, by chance, her brother stumbled across correspondence which led to the discovery of her existence and the family was reunited.