'Deep regret' of woman accused of abducting baby Abbie

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The Independent Online
EYEBROWS raised in perplexity, Julie Kelley, 22, gazed round Nottingham magistrates' court yesterday as she was accused of abducting baby Abbie Humphries. Dressed in a shapeless blue jumper and white T-shirt, she looked past the army of journalists towards the bench as her solicitor, Michael Morris, expressed her 'deep regret' for distress caused to Abbie's parents.

After asking for reporting restrictions to be lifted, Mr Morris read a short statement: 'It is her most fervent hope that baby Abbie has not suffered unduly or at all.' Mr Morris said that for the two weeks she had had Abbie, Ms Kelley had 'looked after the baby to the best of her ability'. When he added that 'she herself experienced great distress' - the facts of which would become clear at a full hearing - Ms Kelley's eyes dropped suddenly towards the floor.

Hands clasped in front of her, Ms Kelley, a stocky, pale, dark-haired figure, spoke only once, a quiet but firm 'yes' to confirm her identity. Her father, Eric, 63, the only family member present, stood apart at the back of Court Two. A small thin man, he remained expressionless, shoulders hunched and lips pursed, during his only daughter's short hearing.

Outside an unforgiving crowd was gathering to catch a glimpse of the woman accused of robbing Karen and Roger Humphries of the first 15 days of their daughter's life. 'Jail's too easy for her after what she did,' said a young woman with a baby in a pushchair.

There was no application for bail. Ms Kelley was remanded to the hospital wing of Newhall prison for seven days for her own protection. In view of the 'nature and seriousness of the offence' the defence, prosecution, magistrates and a psychiatrist agreed that it was best to ensure her 'safety and well being'.

Last week in the same court a man accused of making hoax calls to police investigating Abbie's disappearance was remanded to a bail hostel for his own protection.

Mr Morris said Ms Kelley's family wanted journalists to put away their 'chequebooks, microphones and notebooks', but competition is still frantic for exclusives with Karen and Roger Humphries and Ms Kelley's boyfriend, Leigh Gilbert, a car mechanic.

Yesterday Mr Gilbert's solicitor, Digby Johnson, claimed his client was the real loser in the drama. He said Mr Gilbert, who was arrested but released without charge, sincerely believed Abbie was his child. 'He truly believed she was pregnant and had good reason to. He is a complete mess - he is distraught. The first time he realised the truth was when the police arrived in the early hours of Saturday.'

Mr Gilbert's story is rumoured to be on offer with a price tag of pounds 30,000. The winner of the tabloid battle for the Humphries' story may emerge later this week. Meanwhile, several newspapers this morning quote Eric Kelley as saying that his daughter is four months pregnant and he believes she took Abbie because she could not wait for her own child.

(Photographs omitted)

Mark Lawson, page 16

Beatrix Campbell, page 17