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James, 69, launches campaign on Twitter to find lost friend

PUBLISHED: 10:12 14 August 2015

James Reeves searches through social media for his old friend

James Reeves searches through social media for his old friend

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Search for pal John who went missing 53 years

Twitter users have rallied round to help a 69-year-old man to find his best friend from 53 years ago.

James Reeves has taken his search to the social media site in an effort to find John Hilton who he hasn’t seen for more than half a century.

James and John lived rough on the streets of Islington after the pair met in care in 1962.

James, who now lives in Camden, said: “He was younger than me. I was 13 and he would have been about 10 or 11. He was very timid and I used to look after him and protect him from the bullies in care.

“I didn’t always win, I’d get a smack in the mouth but I protected him. I just couldn’t let anyone hurt him.”

When James left care aged 16 he also left John behind. However, the pair would often meet up at Angel Tube station, near to where John’s mother lived in City Road, to spend the day together.

James chose homelessness rather than return to his mother’s house, due to her abusive partner.

“I used to meet John in Upper Street,” he said. “He was having really big problems. He had a really bad home life, he was always crying.

“That’s why he came to live on the streets.”

The pair were part of a group of runaways, aged 12 to 14, who spent time around Islington and Soho.

“We were in a group at a Soho arcade and I looked around and John was gone. I went looking for him at the old haunts. For days and days I used to go to the station but I never saw him again.

“As the years went on I thought about him all the time. I went to reunions and I asked ‘Do you remember John Hilton? Have your ever heard from him?’ But no one had.

“He’s always in my head because we were inseparable. I just want to know he’s safe.”

As well as James’ appeal being spread by Twitter users, support has also come from Mark Williams Thomas, the investigative journalist known for exposing Jimmy Savile’s crimes.

James, who has three children – Sam, 30, Gemma, 28 and James, 26 – has been overwhelmed by the support and is very hopeful it may lead to being reunited with his friend.

“There are loads of people helping,” he said. “I got a bit emotional when I saw the support, I didn’t expect so many. It would be great to see him again. It would be the best thing ever, and even if he lived miles away we could always talk on Skype or on the phone. Just to speak to him would be wonderful.”

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