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Sunday, May 2, 1999 Published at 17:56 GMT

40 Years Since Other-Worldly Disappearance

On May 1st 1959, Sheila Davis didn't return home from an evening spent with friends. At first believed to be a missing person's case, her disappearance sparked the most memorable alien controversy of recent times.

Sheila was 18 years old, lived in Oxfordshire, and had taken an interest in the possibility of alien life after reading about an alleged UFO sighting in the United States. She was also a keen photographer, and liked to make a record of her life in photos.

Her fascination with potential alien life was evident in the extensive notes she kept in her journal, which was found at the site of her disappearance along with several other belongings including her camera, which was still loaded with film. Her notes were filled with occurrences she deemed suspicious and her ideas of what alien life would be like.

Davis also had a group of friends with whom she shared this interest. One friend, Harold Mortimer, reflected in a 1970 interview that the group "would probably have been known as alien hippies, if the term hippies had been around at the time."

What happened?

The exact details surrounding the night of Sheila's disappearance are still unknown, as there were no official witnesses, so all that anyone can say with concrete certainty is that she was last been by her group of friends before leaving to return home, and nobody has seen her since.

However, it's the extraordinary circumstances surrounding Sheila's disappearance which makes the case so intriguing to this day. The morning of May 2nd, 1959, two local children were playing in a field when they found a tote bag on the ground, with its contents strewn across the grass. This later turned out to be the belongings of Sheila.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this case, and the aspect that has puzzled many for years, is the camera. The film inside is said by many to be definitive proof of extra-terrestrial life. Police originally suspected that Sheila had been kidnapped, and developed the film in the hope that she might have managed to photograph her attacker. Instead though, the film contained photographs which appear to show flying saucers and unearthly figures, as well as portraits of Sheila and photos of a friend- Robert Clarke, another alien fanatic.

Clarke was interviewed by police after Sheila's disappearance, and claimed she had "not been quite herself" in the week preceding. However, when questioned about the unusual photographs from the film, Clarke said he was not aware of Sheila witnessing any alien activity.

"I know that she'd been out spotting alone on the Saturday before she got taken. I'd seen her during the week, that's when she took those photos of me there. But she didn't mention anything about the Saturday. She didn't talk much at all."

The photographs

The first unusual photograph on the film appears to show three unnatural figures facing the camera, with a flying saucer in the sky above them. After initial scepticism about the authenicity of the photograph, photo manipulation experts confirmed that there appeared to be no tampering or trickery in the image.

The next photos show a flying saucer in the sky which seems to be spinning.

Though the photographs have been confirmed to be genuine, there is still discussion around what, if anything, they prove. The vast majority say they are definitive proof of alien existence, and many would ask what more proof do you need than a photograph of a flying saucer itself?

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