Daughter still missing after heartbreaking 25-year search

By Phan Duong   April 24, 2023 | 08:08 pm PT
For months, Giau and Thinh have been busy 24/7 following leads to gain useful information about the whereabouts of the long-lost daughter they have not seen in 25 years.

"Since 1998, every time we see a news report about a woman looking for their biological parents, we feel hopeful. However, ‘I’m sorry but I’m not your daughter has become the response we often get," said Le Khac Giau, 68, from the north-central province Thanh Hoa.

Giau's wife, Le Thi Thinh, 58, recalled the afternoon that changed their lives forever.

A relative of hers was visiting the family, so when Thinh went to the kitchen to cook dinner, she left her two daughters, 8-year-old Le Nhu Quynh and 32-month-old Le Thanh Trang, to watch movies with the relative. After around 45 minutes, she asked Quynh to give Trang a bath. But when Quynh and the relative went to find Trang, they discovered she was missing.

Thinh then went around the neighborhood crying, asking if anyone had seen Trang. The initial search led to no leads. That evening, Thinh passed out cold from the anxiety

Thinh and Trang, when Trang was nine months old. Photo courtesy of Giau and Thinh

Thinh and Trang, when Trang was nine months old. Photo courtesy of Giau and Thinh

Giau, who was working for the Department of Industry and Trade at that time, was on his way back from the South. As soon as arriving the Thanh Hoa’s train station at around 5a.m, he got the news. "I was so shocked I left my luggage there and ran home immediately," Giau recalled.

The family and their acquaintances went to every corner of the city searching for Trang. They also informed the police, however, there has been no news in the two decades and a half since then.

They took hundreds of trips to nearby towns. Newspapers, stations radio all broadcast the most updated news about Trang’s disappearance since July 15, 1998. "We have asked many taxi and motorcycle taxi drivers, people with influence over larger networks and communities, and even contacted fortune tellers. We have been traveling around the area scouring the entire region," Giau added.

Striving to obtain updates about their daughter as soon as possible, the couple published their names, phone numbers, and address on various broadcast channels, websites, and social media. But that led to many scams in which people contacted them for reward money or even ransom.

For example, they were contacted by a potential "lead" from the South in 2020 who told the couple they had the child and were raising Trang into a young woman.

They told the couple that they wanted to return Trang to her biological parents in exchange for money because they needed to pay medical bills. Giau and Thinh asked to see Trang’s photo and talk to Trang first, to which the caller didn’t approve and only asked them to transfer money.

"All of the signs were where to prove they weren’t being honest," said Giau. "However, we were so hopeless that we wanted to try, even when the possibility was only 1%. We took place to Ho Chi Minh City right away."

The caller still asked the couple to transfer money, even after agreeing to meet them in person.

Eventually the scam artist didn’t pick up or return calls anymore. Giau and Thinh couldn’t do anything but return home.

In another instance, someone calling themselves a "Cambodia-based reporter" contacted the couple. After talking for a while, the person also asked the couple to transfer money. It turned out that this person had scammed many families missing their relatives, and was caught by a TV news investigative report later.

Trang when she was 22-months-old. Photo courtesy of Giau and Thinh

Trang when she was 22-months-old. Photo courtesy of Giau and Thinh

The family’s life completely deteriorated after the incident. Giau and Thinh spent all their savings on searching for their daughter. They even had to close their convenient store to focus on searching for Trang. The hardest moment was when they only had their TV left. Then they sold it to pay for trips to find their daughter.

Thinh felt like she was losing her mind. She recalled that during the first year she couldn’t focus on anything. Every night, she cried while calling out her daughter’s name into the silent unresponsive night. Giau had to be extremely careful around his wife.

In 2018, when their third daughter was about to attend the national university entrance exam, Giau suggested she enroll in a university in a southern region, so that Thinh could relocate to the South as well and change her living environment. But after moving, Thinh suffered even more.

"I was consumed by sadness, and I couldn’t wholly focus on anything I did, even when it was simply smiling or eating," she said

Giau and Thinh still look forward to getting news about their missing daughter. Photo courtesy of Giau and Thinh

Giau and Thinh still look forward to getting news about their missing daughter. Photo courtesy of Giau and Thinh

Now decades later, the couple is trying to ask for help from social media users once again. They are talking to dozens of sources every day. They are trying to confirm several leads, still hoping to get information about an adopted women somewhere aged between 26 and 30 who may want to reconnect with her families as an estranged adopted daughter.

The couple suggests that Trang would now be between 1m55 and 1m60 tall, have fair skin, and a tiny mole on her right jawbone.

As she went missing at a very young age, she might not remember anything about her family. Still, they want to list a few memories hoping that those might help Trang to reminisce about her childhood.

Thinh said that when Trang was around two and a half years old, she managed to know how to read names of the brands that Thinh sold at the convenient store without having been taught by anyone.

At that time, Thinh was also selling petrol, so every time anyone took their motorbike to fill up, Trang called her mother out to meet the customer. Every night, Trang helped her mother clean up so the whole family could get to bed early. Their house was next door to the Lam Son Theater, so Trang’s older sister Quynh often took her there.

On the day she went missing, there was a religious event taking place nearby, which attracted many people from the town and other neighboring areas. The couple thought Trang was probably attracted to the event as well, so maybe she left the house and was abducted by someone

"Even if that’s the case, we acknowledge that giving birth is not as important as raising a child. We only want to meet our daughter, letting her know her real origin instead of wanting to complain or blame. If we can meet our daughter again, we will be grateful for the end of our lives," Giau said.

This lunar year is a leap year, as was 1998. Knowing that this coincidence could not be considered concrete evidence, the couple still hopes that might be a sign that they can find their daughter.

go to top