THE father of a 13-year-old schoolgirl from Taunton who disappeared without trace more than 40 years ago, has died - without ever discovering her fate.

Genette Tate, who used to live in Wedlands and attended Priorswood Primary School, vanished on her newspaper round on Saturday, August 19, 1978.

Her mystery disappearance in her home village of Aylesbeare, near Exeter, sparked the biggest missing persons inquiry ever launched by British police.

Devon and Cornwall Police launched a murder inquiry, although Genette's remains have never been found.

For four decades her father John, 77, desperately tried to discover what had happened to his daughter.

But now Mr Tate, who had been unwell for many years, has gone to his grave without the answers he sought.

Mr Tate, who was living in Manchester, suffered a major stroke that left him very weak and needing care.

He was also diabetic, had McArdle’s disease, prostate cancer and was confined to a wheelchair.

A final picture taken off him showed him lying in bed at home, weak and barely able to speak.

Devon and Cornwall Police held a cold case investigation into Genette's murder several years ago and their only suspect was Scottish serial killer Robert Black.

Detectives had been days away from charging Black with her murder when he collapsed and died in an Irish jail, where he was serving life sentence for another child murder.

Police met Mr Tate in 2016 and gave him details from their 500-page dossier on why they believed Black was the killer.

But Mr Tate, who lived in West Buckland for a time, was never totally convinced Black was the man who took his daughter's life.

In his last main interview in 2018, he said:"My life is coming to an end. I dearly want to know where Ginny is.

"Just to know that she has been found and given a Christian burial would be enough.

"I could go to my grave in the knowledge that we were together again.

"There is no closure. We will probably never have closure, especially now the only suspect is dead.

"I am not 100 per cent sure Black did it. But if he didn't, it means there is another killer still on the loose.

"I suppose I just don't want to accept she is dead.

"But I need proof that Black killed her. If we could just find her body that would give me the proof I need."

Mr Tate wrote to Black when he was in Wakefield Jail for murdering three young girls, asking him to meet him and tell him if he was responsible for Genette's abduction and murder.

He said:"He was a control freak, a bastard who ruined so many lives and snuffed out the lives of so many children.

"I wonder if we will ever know the true number of girls he murdered."

Mr Tate died in a Manchester hospital late last month.

A friend said:"It is very sad that John and Genette's mother have never had that closure.

"All John wanted was an answer to where his daughter's remains were.

"It seems now as if the killer's identity will never really be known and John spent more than half his life agonising over what happened to Genette."

Photos courtesy of Nick Irving, of Irving of Exeter.