Under normal circumstances, buying someone a pizza would be considered a generous and friendly act. But rather than deeming it an act of kindness, one supermarket employee from England used a pizza delivery as a tactic to track down a missing toddler. The extraordinary story made the news on both sides of the Atlantic, and it’s an incredible case of the internet making the world a much smaller place.
Harry Brown worked in a branch of the British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, and one day he was surprised to discover that he’d been messaged by two people he didn’t know. What’s more, this couple, Gary and Kim Forester, were reaching out over someone he had met through online gaming – and unfortunately the pair had a problem.
In a nutshell, the Foresters were desperately searching for their granddaughter, Yvette Henley. Gary and Kim had won custody of young Yvette following a court battle, but her father Virgil Henley had allegedly absconded with the little girl. The Foresters were therefore at their wits’ end.
The Foresters subsequently did everything in their power to try and track Yvette down. However, they’d drawn a blank and were unsure about what their next move should be. Gary Forester was reported as saying, “When Yvette was missing, it was exhausting… I made it my mission to find her but ended up losing the two jobs I was working.”
In light of the emotional damage that Yvette was said to be suffering with her father, her grandparents went to the authorities. But while the police did investigate, they weren’t able to find Virgil Henley. Indeed, even after three weeks of searching for the father and child, there was no clue as to their whereabouts.
With this in mind, the Foresters turned to the internet in their quest to find Yvette, and it was thanks to this that they came across Harry Brown, a gamer from England. Brown had hooked up with Virgil a few years previously and had chatted to him online through Facebook.
As it turned out, the Foresters contacted Brown because he had liked one of Virgil’s pictures. They then sent him a message, even though he was a complete stranger. Brown said, “I got this message completely out of the blue… I thought, ‘This could be real.’ So I started looking into it.”
Although he hadn’t contacted Virgil in a long time, then, Brown decided to send him a few casual messages. The missives were just vague, friendly enquiries about Virgil’s activities since they had last spoke. Additionally, they touched on broader topics like food and the weather.
In order to track Virgil down, Brown, you see, had to be careful. For one thing, he couldn’t arouse suspicion by asking too many questions. However, as it happened, Virgil revealed which state he was in by complaining about the humidity “in Arizona.” So it was that Brown had a starting point to give to the Foresters.
In the hope that Virgil would reveal more, Brown subsequently kept up the conversation; and as a result, he discovered not only that Virgil was in Arizona but that he had Yvette with him, too. Accompanied by Virgil’s girlfriend, Alyssa, the two of them were apparently stopping around in cheap hotels.
Taking stock, Brown then had a brainwave that would ultimately be key to returning Yvette to her grandparents. Yes, after reading of Virgil’s difficulties, he did what any decent friend might do: he offered to buy the father a pizza – for free.
Fooled by Brown’s apparent generosity, Virgil eagerly accepted the offer. And in order to get the pizza delivered, the man gave Brown the full address of where he was staying. In essence, he handed the Brit everything he could have needed to track Yvette down.
Brown told the Daily Mail, “He said he didn’t want any [pizza] but [that] his… [girlfriend Alyssa] did. He gave me his exact address and room number. I rang Gary [Forester] straight away. He called the police in America, and a police officer showed up. Instead of pizza, [Virgil] got the police.”
As a result of his action, Brown was able to help locate Yvette, who is now safe with the Foresters. A police spokeswoman said, “The reporting party contacted the Hesperia Station stating he had been advised that the child was located in Kingman, AZ… [Gary Forester] stated he would be going to Kingman to pick up the child.”
Seemingly the hero of the story, Brown said, “I spend my life on the internet, but little did I know that talking to random people would lead to me finding this little girl. She is loving where she is now. I cried so much when I saw photos of her with her grandparents. The police had been trying to find her since May, and within two days I got his exact location.”
Brown continued, “It’s a really weird set of circumstances that fell into place. Now she is in the best possible place for her. I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s life-changing for me. I had all these worries, but now they all seem meaningless. I have so much more to be happy about now.”
Yet although Brown was pleased, it didn’t match the joy that the Foresters felt at Yvette’s safe return. Gary said, “I was just desperate to find her. I can’t explain how much Harry [Brown] helped. He was key to everything. It’s amazing to have Yvette home.”
The reunion was clearly very poignant, too. Gary added, “I remember standing in the driveway as the car pulled up. She got out and started yelling, and she ran up to us and jumped into my arms. I hugged her and kissed her, and the tears were flowing.”
Gary concluded, “It was very emotional. Just to see the joy on her face was incredible. In my heart, Harry saved her life. I will be forever in gratitude to him for that.” And now that they have been reunited and are together again, the Foresters will attempt to rebuild their lives.
Although things panned out well for the Foresters and Yvette, though, that’s not where the story ends. You see, the family have invited Brown to visit them in California soon, and so he will fly over from England to meet the people for whom he did so much. Needless to say, there could well be more than pizza on the menu when that special event happens.