Kidnapper may have taken baby after careful planning: Kathy Marks looks at the mental anguish that drives women to abduct children

THE WOMAN who abducted Farrah Quli will treat her well but will not be prepared to return the baby to her parents, according to the Portia Trust, a support charity for women who kidnap children.

Ken Norman, the trust's organiser, said that the abduction had clearly been carefully planned. 'She will have organised somewhere to take the child and will want to keep it,' he said. 'But I am certain that the child is absolutely safe.'

The case brought back painful memories for Dawn Griffiths, whose baby Alexandra was kidnapped from St Thomas's Hospital in London in 1990, 36 hours after she was born. It was 16 days before police found the child. The woman who took Alexandra, Janet Griffiths (no relation), was sent to a secure mental hospital. 'It brings it all back to me, the pain, the fear, the helplessness,' she said. 'I would say to the poor mother that if I can be of any comfort, if you want to talk to someone who has been through this, please get in touch.

'I was told one thing that reassured me during that awful period. That is that if someone is so desperate as to snatch a baby, if they go to that extreme, they will not want to harm the child.' The longest-running child abduction in Britain is that of Ames Glover, who was kidnapped more than two years ago at the age of five months and has not been traced.

His father, Paul Glover, said Ames was taken from the back seat of his locked car, which he had parked for 20 minutes while visiting a cash dispenser and takeaway restaurant. Police said that there were discrepancies between his evidence and statements by witnesses.

Mr Norman said most child abductions were carried out by women who were not mentally ill but had either lost a child, through an accident or a miscarriage, or were unable to have children themselves.

'They cannot accept that their child is dead or have an unbearable desire for a baby of their own. They may have spent months, even years, looking for a child which resembles the one they lost and is of the same age. Sometimes they believe that the child they eventually take is a reincarnation of their own. In these situations, the child is never at risk.'

Other cases were usually copycat abductions carried out by schizophrenic or psychopathic women who had a similar longing for a child but knew that they would not be allowed to keep one of their own. 'These women generally take the child on the spur of the moment and then abandon it. They know that they have no hope of looking after it.'

Mr Norman said that women who abducted children could rarely be rehabilitated. He has been counselling one woman for 12 years after she was sent to prison for six months for taking a baby; she has recently been jailed again for the same offence.

(Photograph omitted)

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