Abbie: tears, cheers - and questions for the police

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The Independent Online
POLICE last night charged a 22-year-old woman with the abduction of newborn baby Abbie Humphries, who was reunited with her parents after being found safe and well in Nottingham, only a mile from the hospital from which she had been abducted.

The woman will appear at Nottingham magistrates court tomorrow morning. Two other people who were arrested with her and had been questioned through the day were released without charge.

Earlier Nottingham police revealed that an officer had previously visited the house where Abbie was found and had seen her, but failed to recognise her. A spokesman said officers were given a plausible explanation for the baby's presence there. 'An officer did see a baby but did not recognise her as being Abbie,' he said.

The reunion of parents and baby took place shortly after 1am at the Queen's Medical Centre, the Nottingham hospital from which Abbie was taken by a bogus nurse two weeks ago when she was just four hours old. Yesterday, a radiant Karen Humphries, 32, held her tiny wriggling daughter, in a flowery dress, high in the glare of five rows of press photographers. She said the moment Abbie was returned to her arms was 'just wonderful'.

However, questions were already being asked about the police handling of the case, their use of psychological profiling and their relations with the media. A Central TV team was allowed to film the rescue.

Neighbours say officers had twice visited the middle-class home in Brendon Drive where Abbie was found, and two police officers live just doors away - one of them reported to be a member of the investigation team. Police refused to comment on the claims.

Neighbours said that a supposedly pregnant young woman, who lived at the house, was often seen in a nurse's uniform and may have been a former nurse. David Edwards, chief executive of the QMC, would only say: 'The abductor knew the hospital very well.'

In the early hours of the morning officers raided a detached house in the Wollaton district of Nottingham. Abbie was found asleep and three suspects were taken away without a struggle. Within minutes a policewoman was on the Humphries' doorstep giving them the news. Yesterday, Mrs Humphries thanked the public and media for all their support and information and particularly an unnamed woman who tipped off the police. The informant stands to land rewards totalling pounds 50,000.

Mr Edwards said a paediatrician had examined Abbie and declared her in good health. 'In fact, she looked great,' he said. Describing the reunion, he said: 'It was a marvellous occasion and a privilege to be there.' Staff had cried and cheered on hearing the news. 'Today is a celebration,' he said. As the Humphrieses left with their baby, the press broke into a rare spontaneous burst of applause.

Professor David Canter, head of psychology at Surrey University and a leading researcher into psychological profiling of offenders last night expressed concerns about the way the investigation into Abbie Humphries abduction had been conducted.

Details of a supposed psychological profile of the alleged abductor had been released too soon, he claimed, and the decision to delay releasing video and photofit pictures of the alleged abductor was also a mistake.

Det Supt Harry Shepherd, who led the investigation, said he and his team were delighted and felt they had done a good job.

(Photograph omitted)

Doubts over police, page 3