Police appeal directly to kidnapper of newborn baby

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The Independent Online
THE DETECTIVE leading the search for the missing newborn baby Abbie Humphries made a direct appeal yesterday to the woman who abducted her from a Nottingham hospital to get in touch and end her mother's anguish.

Still holding to the theory that Abbie's abductor may be a woman who has lost, or is unable to have, a child of her own, Detective Superintendent Harry Shepherd said: 'You have needs of your own and problems that have led you to take her. I realise that you love Abbie, but she is Karen's child, not yours.

'Karen is suffering such anguish that of all people you will understand; not knowing if her baby is safe or well and being unable to hold her. Please, please telephone and let Karen know that her baby is well.'

The 200-word appeal, devised with the help of psychologists, stressed that the woman would find help and understanding. Referring to the abduction, Det Supt Shepherd said: 'It must have been difficult to take such a lonely step.'

But five days after the woman, disguised as a nurse, walked on to ward B27 of the maternity unit at Queen's Medical Centre and persuaded Abbie's father, Roger, 33, to hand over his four-hour-old daughter for a 'routine hearing test', the police's softly-softly approach has yet to yield a result.

The torture continues for Abbie's parents, who await news at a secret address. On Saturday, Karen, 32, seemed close to collapse as she appealed to the abductor to return her baby. She is now being comforted by her mother.

The police are in a delicate position. They have a video picture of the rear view of a suspect and a vital female witness caught by a hospital security camera, but psychologists have warned that releasing the picture might antagonise the abductor and put the baby at risk.

Yesterday officers seemed prepared to risk the release of the picture if the woman did not respond within 48 hours. They say there is no guarantee that she has heard any of the appeals.

Monday's offer of a pounds 50,000 reward, from tabloid newspapers and an anonymous man, for information leading to Abbie's return has brought a dramatic rise in calls to the police incident room. In the first three days 300 people responded; the day after the rewards were announced the number doubled.

Abbie's abductor is believed to live locally. Witnesses report a local accent. On Friday afternoon she discarded her uniform in a lavatory before calmly walking past the main exit security office with the 9lb blonde baby wrapped in a pink blanket. Witnesses report that she paused at both the taxi rank and bus stop before crossing the busy A52 Derby road and vanishing into the nearby streets.

But Nottinghamshire police say tip- offs are coming in from all over the country. 'We just have no idea where she is,' said a spokesman.

David Edwards, QMC's chief executive, said his staff are devastated. Mrs Humphries was once a midwife on ward B27 and 'knew the midwives and medical staff involved in her care,' he said. A security guard was placed at the entrance to ward B27 to reassure parents that their babies were safe. This week the ward is 'trying to get back to normal'.

The abduction has brought criticism of hospital security. Mr Edwards is sceptical about much of it. As a university hospital which boasts considerable specialist expertise, the sprawling QMC employs 4,500 staff, and 600,000 patients a year pass through its miles of corridors. 'You need a balance between legitimate access and security; you don't want to turn a caring organisation into a fortress,' Mr Edwards said.

Yesterday as hundreds of patients and relatives swarmed through the corridor and main reception through which Abbie's abductor escaped, it was easy to understand how a woman and a baby went unnoticed by everyone except a few who wondered why there was no one to meet a newborn infant just discharged from care.