Farmer searching for mother’s family


Jessie Chan. Photo: Supplied
Jessie Chan. Photo: Supplied
High-profile Canterbury dairy farmer Jessie Chan will feature in this week’s episode of David Lomas Investigates.

At the heart of the episode is the intriguing story of Chan’s mother, who was abandoned as a baby in a Hong Kong slum 72 years ago.

She was three-months-old when found in a rubbish bin.

Raised by nuns in a Hong Kong orphanage, she was adopted by an Invercargill couple when she was 12.

As part of the episode, called The Lost Girl From Hong Kong, Chan and her mother, who today lives in Palmerston North, fly to Hong Kong.

“We wanted to find our Chinese relatives, and for our mother to connect with her Chinese heritage,” Chan said.

The outcome of David Lomas’ search will be revealed in the episode.

“We’ll be watching it with great interest,” Chan said.

Chan and her sister Miriam Tankersley did their own search about 15 years ago when they approached the orphanage and went through translations and records.

While the nuns were helpful, they couldn’t advance the search beyond the orphanage.

David Lomas Photo: Three
David Lomas Photo: Three
“Our last resort was to approach David Lomas,” Chan said.

“He’d never had a Hong Kong case before, and was interested and pursued it,’’ she said.

The veteran investigator spoke to TV Guide, which described the case as ‘‘one of the most harrowing’’ he has ever undertaken.

Lomas said the dumped baby was lucky to live and be brought to New Zealand.

“People who were put up for adoption or abandoned in different ways are always fascinating,” Lomas said.

“There’s normally a few of those in each series we do.

“In Hong Kong, it just felt incredible to start looking for connections. The child who was brought to New Zealand eventually was so lucky to live. Most of those babies, they were just put there and found dead.”

In the interview, he explained the modern world had made his job a lot harder.

“The growing distrust in the way we communicate has meant the tools that broke down borders are now ineffective,” he said.

He gave the United States as an example where people won’t answer an international call.

“They think it’s a scam, like we do now,” he said.

“Normally I try to track down an email address because it’s more likely to be read than anything else.”

Lomas, who has been reconnecting Kiwi family members for more than 15 years, now looks further afield for his stories.

As well as Hong Kong, his latest series, which began this month, features searches in Bucharest and Brazil.

“After years of doing New Zealand and Australian-based tales, I think someone can find their dad who lives in Palmerston North, it’s not much of a story for us anymore,” he said.

A common theme of half the present series is the stories revolve around New Zealanders abandoned by their parents at an early age.

  • David Lomas Investigates The Lost Girl From Hong Kong will screen on Three on Tuesday at 7pm

By Malcolm Hopwood