A MAN who found a newborn baby abandoned in a blanket on a park bench today described his shock at the discovery.
Lawrence Liddell, 59, came across the girl lying peacefully on a metal bench as he left his flat in Hailesland Park, Wester Hailes, at around 1pm yesterday.
The child was taken by ambulance to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary where she was found to be in good health despite her ordeal. Police who fear the mother may have given birth at home without medical help are appealing for her to contact doctors.
Mr Liddell said: “We really couldn’t believe it when we found the baby. It was a really tiny newborn wrapped up in a blanket – she wasn’t wearing anything underneath.
“I had met my friend in the hallway of the flats and we started walking along together because we were both heading out to visit our mothers.
“As we were walking along we saw the baby. She wasn’t crying and she didn’t appear to be in any kind of distress.”
The child had been left on a bench just yards from the door to the high rise flats, behind the Kilncroft stair, and may only have been there for 30 minutes in temperatures of around nine degrees.
Unemployed Mr Liddell, who was with a pal called Rosemary, said: “The whole thing took us totally by surprise. My friend held on to the baby and I went and got the concierge from the flats and the police.
“We think the mother must have wanted the child to be found judging by where she had left it. Thank goodness the baby was found unharmed.
“I hope the mother is found. Who knows what kind of a state she is in?”
The discovery, just a short distance from the local police station and train station, has stunned local residents.
Care worker Monika Tyrrell, 70, said: “I feel so sorry for the mother. Something serious must be the matter for her to do something like this. Whatever the situation, I hope she can be reunited with her baby She could have had some kind of a breakdown.
“People walk past that bench all the time, there’s a lot of movement. There’s no-one around this area that I know of who looked like they might be pregnant.”
Chief Inspector Richard Thomas of Police Scotland said the baby girl had been found in a maroon-coloured blanket before being taken to the ERI where she is now being cared for.
He said: “We believe the baby was probably lying on the bench for a short amount of time, probably less than 30 minutes. She does not seem to have suffered in any noticeable way.
“The baby was wrapped up in the blanket and had been washed and cleaned. It seems likely she had been found within 24 hours of being born.
“She is probably white, but with newborn babies their skin can appear darker following birth so we are not able to say for certain just now. The important thing is that she is healthy and well.”
The officer said the baby girl appeared to be a “normal” weight, did not appear to have been born prematurely. Staff at the ERI have not had to take any particular precautions because she is in good health.
He added: “At this point we are seeking to trace the mother to establish that she is safe and well and receives proper medical attention. We don’t want to frighten her.
“This not a big investigation into some serious crime, our only concern is for her wellbeing and her baby’s.
“There’s every possibility that the mother lives locally, but that might not be the case. It may not even have been the mother who put the baby there, it may have been someone else.”
In a direct appeal to the mother, Chief Insp Thomas said: “We want you to go to a doctor or a hospital where you can be seen in confidence.
“You don’t have to contact the police. The important thing is to get medical attention.”
He added that a large team of officers was carrying out door-to-door inquiries and checking CCTV cameras in the area. The team is also liaising with social services.
Officers have no plans at present to conduct a DNA test on the newborn in a bid to help trace her parents. It is understood that if the mother is not traced by the time the baby leaves hospital, it will be the responsibilty of the council to find her foster parents.
Abandoned babies are often associated with teenage mums. Scotland has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in Europe and tend to be higher in poorer areas like Wester Hailes. Around two girls under 16 become pregnant in the Lothians each week. NHS Lothian is currently developing a “care pathway” for teenage pregnancy prevention and for those who go on to be teenage parents.
Hailesland Park resident Steven Brodie, 35, said: “I just hope this story is going to have a happy ending.
“It’s pretty shocking that whatever has happened, the mother has felt she had no other options but to dump the baby and run.
“You do hear about things like this happening from time to time, but it’s pretty astonishing when it happens on your doorstep.
“It’s great that the baby has been found safe and well and that it wasn’t more serious. Fingers crossed everything turns out OK.”
Anne Denholm, chairwoman of Wester Hailes Community Council, said the mum will have left her there knowing she would be found.
She said: “It’s quite a busy park and has all been done up recently. The poor girl who left her there will need help, it’s really sad.
“It’s been cold outside so it’s a good job she was somewhere she could easily be found.”
In 2005, a newborn 6lb boy was found in a plastic bag in Holyrood Park and named Gary Holyrood, after the first officer on the scene. His mother was never traced.
Ten years earlier a baby – later named Fraser – was abandoned at the former Eastern General Hospital. Both boys have since been adopted.
• Additional reporting: Kate Pickles and David O’Leary
Child would undergo thorough examination
A LEADING midwife has explained how medics would have reacted after the baby was brought into hospital.
Gillian Smith, director of the Royal College of Midwives Scotland, said the newborn would have undergone strenuous examinations.
She said: “The first thing the neonatal nurses and doctors would do is check for any infections such as strep B or pneumonia, especially given the baby has been outside.
“She would most likely be kept in a segregated unit until she passed a full infection screening.
“The other main things addressed would be her body temperature and whether she was hydrated. Her temperature would be raised using an incubator and her sugar levels would also be addressed.
“A full newborn examination would be carried out – head size, eyes, ears, mouth, spine and genitals. The child’s age will also be checked – neonatal staff will have a rough idea of how old she is and whether she is premature or not.”
Ms Smith also stressed the mother would need medical attention. She said: “You wonder about the delivery of the placenta and the afterbirth and whether there is any risk of haemorrhaging or infection.”
‘This is an act of desperation’
AROUND 16 babies are abandoned each year in the UK, the majority newborns. In very few cases is the mother traced and in most cases where she is the baby is more than a few days old.
The reasons can range from economic and social pressure, fear of rejection by the mother’s partner, failing to bond with the baby and post-natal depression.
Professor Thanos Karatzias, a practising clinical psychologist for NHS Lothian and Napier University, said child abandonment was usually “an act of desperation”.
He said: “Abandoning a child at any stage of life is not easy for any parent. It has been suggested people who abandon babies do it because they have too many, there is economic hardship or a parent is in trouble with the law. But, overall, it is an act of desperation.
“If there are no other factors like economic hardship then it could be a mental health issue of some sort. I would expect that a younger mother would be more likely to have these factors like financial hardship and the younger you are, the less likely you are to be accepted as a parent.”
Abandoned babies are officially known as “foundlings”, a term which resonates of the Victorian or Dickensian era. There is limited research on the phenomena in the UK because of the small number of cases.
The Child Abandonment Law dates back to 1861 and carries a penalty of up to five years in prison for abandoning a child under the age of two, but in reality prosecutions are rare, with cases tending to be handled by social services. The Government has been petitioned to change the UK law to stop it being classed as a criminal offence, in line with most of Europe and the US, where parents who abandon babies “in a designated safe place” are free from prosecution. Safe places can include NHS facilities, police or fire stations. Baby boxes, where people can safely leave their babies, exist in Germany, Poland, and Japan.
‘I had so many questions’
BABIES who are abandoned often grow up with unanswered questions which can be the cause of psychological trauma.
Andrew Rawson, 52, who was brought up in Dalkeith, was dumped on a Falkirk doorstep two days after he was born in 1961 with no clue as to who his mother was.
The family secret was only revealed to him upon the death of his adoptive mother in March 1993. He said: “I grew up as the only child of Margaret and Walter Rowan who ran a pub. I was 32 when I was told that I had actually been found on a doorstep. Back in the 50s and 60s you can understand the stigma attached to a child born out of wedlock. I always thought that I was the result of prostitution or sexual abuse.
“I had so many questions and there were no answers. I often wonder how anyone could do it. What circumstances could have driven her to leave me? Did she think about me on my birthday?”
Following a TV appeal Andrew, who now works as a genetic scientist and has a wife and three children of his own, was contacted by a long-lost brother who recognised his own father’s likeness in him. Retired deputy headmaster Ronnie Finlayson spotted a startling resemblance to his own late father, Dr Jack Finlayson, whom DNA tests later proved was Andrew’s father.