Confused mother must wait for reunion

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The Independent Online
The mother who abandoned her four-year-old son was last night being cared for in hospital after she was found by police wandering in a distressed state in Eastbourne. Julie Lane was taken to the town's police station - more than 100 miles from where she left her son, Steven - where she was examined by a doctor.

She was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and transferred in a police car to a hospital at St Albans, Hertfordshire. Police have not been able to carry out formal interviews and it is expectedher case will be handed over to Social Services. A spokes-person for Hertfordshire Social Services said it was too early to say when Ms Lane, 33, would be reunited with her son, but that they would do all they could to support them.

Steven, who has been in the care of emergency foster parents since being found on Monday asleep in bushes near a community centre in Bour-nemouth, Dorset, is being cared for at a relative's home. A statement from the family, issued by Hertfordshire police, said: "He is very bright and chatty and full of talk about seeing the sea and going in police cars. So far there have been no ill-effects."

The nationwide hunt for Ms Lane ended when patrolling police officers spotted her walking in the town centre of Eastbourne. She was confused and may have been sleeping rough.

The police expressed concern for Ms Lane, said to be a caring mother who lived for her child. Supt Dave Burgess of Dorset Police said that officers were "overjoyed" she had been found. The search switched to Eastbourne when police learnt that many years ago she had connections there. Amember of the public called to say he had seen a womananswering her description.

Supt Burgess said the inquiry had been a difficult one because initially they had had no idea where to search. "If it had not been for the media attention and the publicity you gave us, our job would have been harder," he said.

Within hours of Ms Lane being found, Steven was being driven from Bournemouth by his foster parents to the home of his relatives. Supt Burgess commented: "He appears to be well and quite a bonny child. Obviously, for a child of this age it is going to be traumatic, but I understand he is coping with it."

During the inquiry police received a hoax call from a woman claiming to be the boy's mother. Speaking quietly and sounding upset, the woman asked after the welfare of the youngster. Inspector Glen Chalk, of the Dorset police, said that the call had hindered the inquiry. The woman has been reported.