16th September 1949
Missing girl, Jetta, was found on Guernsey
Seven-year-old Jetta Steed disappeared on Monday 12 September 1949. She had left her London home as usual, heading for school, and wan’t seen again until police discovered her in a St Peter Port hotel on Thursday. She was returned to her father and step mother in London on Friday the 16th.
Jetta had been with her grandmother, Beatrice Harland-Moult, and her aunt, Sybil Badderley when Guernsey Police Chief Inspector F Banneville found her. The story of what they’d done came out over the next few days.
The story revealed in court
They appeared on remand at Wealdstone court at the end of the following week, charged with taking away Jetta without permission. The court was told that when Jetta’s mother had died shortly after giving birth, Jetta and her father, Leonard Steed, had gone to live with Harland-Moult, Jetta’s grandmother. When Jetta was four or five, Harland-Moult and Badderley, Jetta’s aunt, had taken her on a trip to South Africa. However, when they returned at Christmas they didn’t inform her father that they were back.
Early the following year, the grandmother asked for custody of the girl, which her father refused. He took Jetta back in late winter and remarried the following month.
That autumn, on 12 September, Jetta was walking to school with a friend and the friend’s mother. Her aunt, Badderley, approached the group and said she would take Jetta the rest of the way. What she actually did was take her to Northolt Airport and, with Harland-Moult, fly from there to Guernsey.
The women pleaded not guilty and were bailed for £50 each to await trial.
When the case came to court in mid-October, it was quickly discharged. However, the women were told that they could not take the law into their own hands. Although they were released at once, they were reminded that Jetta was not their child and there would need to be a separate legal determination over who should be granted legal custody.
Both women were said to be greatly distressed, and the grandmother had collapsed in the street the day before the trial was due to begin. She had threatened suicide.