A mother's joy: `Here she is . . . it's amazing'

Four-day-old Lydia found safe nearly 24 hours after hospital kidnap
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The Independent Online
In the end their ordeal lasted only 23 hours, but it will never be forgotten by Christine and Michael Owens. Their four-day-old daughter Lydia was returned to them safe and well last night after being kidnapped from her cot in a North Wales hospital maternity unit on Friday evening.

At 5pm the Llandudno couple, in great distress, had made a national television appeal for the kidnapper to return their child, an appeal which evoked memories of Abbie Humphries, who last year was missing for 15 days after a similar abduction.

Only two hours later they were beaming at Lydia as she slept through a photocall. They had been reunited with her at Glan Clwyd Hospital near Abergele, from where she had been taken the previous day.

Within 30 minutes of their reunion, Mr Owens pushed his wife and daughter into the news conference in a wheelchair, as reporters applauded.

As she cradled her daughter in her arms and smiled for the cameras, Mrs Owens said the police and hospital staff had been "absolutely brilliant".

Mr Owens, a 38-year-old porter, added : "The police just said they had found a baby and they thought it was Lydia and they brought her down and here she is. It is amazing."

Paediatricians at the hospital pronounced Lydia fit and well. Mr David Thomas, a hospital consultant, said : "We found a baby, and we thought it was Lydia, but we weren't sure until we measured her."

The couple have two other children, aged three and one. Earlier, a tearful Mrs Owens had said: "It has been as if I am in the middle of a nightmare and I'm going to wake up. I just can't believe it is happening."

The 6lb baby was taken from the hospital ward at around 8.40 pm on Friday by a woman said to be in her 30s or early 40s, who had engaged Mrs Owens in conversation, saying she was visiting another woman. She went with the woman to continue their chat in the day room. Later, the woman left, saying she was going to the toilet. Mrs Owens did not see her again. When she returned to the ward, Lydia was missing from her cot. "I feel a fool.," Mrs Owens said.

Police forces throughout the country were put on alert; police dogs and a helicopter using night-vision equipment joined the hunt.

Police were reluctant to say how or where Lydia had been found, but disclosed that a man and woman from a residential area of nearby Rhyl were helping with inquiries.

The two were held overnight; questioning of them was continuing this morning.