Message in a bottle mystery solved after 30 years

THE mystery sender of a message in a bottle, found washed up on the beach after more than 30 years, has come forward following an appeal in the East Anglian Daily Times.

Last week, we told the story of how Alison Sampson, of Berry Close, Ipswich, was enjoying a summer walk with her partner around the back of Bawdsey Manor, near Felixstowe, when she came across a tiny bottle lying among the debris.

On closer inspection, it contained a letter apparently written by a young boy giving his name, address and a date of November 19, 1978, saying it had been thrown into the water at Shotley and asking for the recipient to write back.

And now the author of the note can be revealed as 42-year-old scaffolding contractor James Hunter, of Pebmarsh Road, Alphamstone, near Sudbury.

He contacted the paper to say he recognised the note, although he could not actually remember sending it.

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Mr Hunter said: “I reckon I was about 10 years old at the time. I don’t think it would have been half-term in November, so I don’t know if I was on a school trip or just with my family on a day out.

“I can’t for the life of me think what we were doing there at Shotley, but it was probably the only time in my life I was ever there.

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“There is always the possibility I was on a school trip and I was bored.”

Mr Hunter even recognised the tiny bottle as one used to store chicken vaccinations as his father, who still lives at the Pebmarsh address listed in the note, used to keep chickens in the back garden. He said: “I knew straight away what it was when I saw it in the paper.

“I was amazed that the note inside had survived. It wouldn’t have needed much moisture at all to ruin the note completely.

“It probably went in the water but got washed up on the beach and has stayed there ever since.

“The story just came out of the blue – you do these things and you never think about them again. I got lots of phone calls the morning it was published from friends who saw it in the paper.

“I suppose when you’re 10 years old, you probably think it might end up on the other side of the world, and the world was a much bigger place then.”

And Ms Sampson was glad to find the mystery had finally been solved.

She said: “I am shocked that he has been found, but I’m really pleased he has come forward.

“It must have been a shock for them as well to see it in the paper after all these years. It’s nice to see it all tied up now.”

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