Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I return today to Spain’s missing babies. The majority of cases relate to between the 1950s and 70s although some reports are from the 80s. Hence most come from the Franco era when mothers suspect their babies were taken from them at birth and sold or passed to adoptive families.

The spotlight first fell on the cases from La Línea de la Concepción, the border town with Gibraltar, although there are now numerous reports from throughout Spain. The La Línea court is investigating along with the Algeciras Prosecutor and the National Police some 105 suspected such thefts. I highlight the case today of Remedios.

Once these cases were taken up by the legal system it was clear whatever the outcome for each family it would be traumatic. If they found a lost son or daughter alive and well it would be traumatic for all concerned. The opening of a tomb to ascertain whether it contained any remains would be traumatic. For Remedios the discovery of the bones in her daughter’s niche at Estepona’s cemetery has been very traumatic indeed.

In June the La Línea court ordered niches at the local cemetery, which were claimed to be the final resting places of three of these babes, to be opened with the remains taken for forensic tests. On June 29, again on the orders of a La Línea judge, the same process was undertaken at Estepona’s cemetery.

Remedios had given birth to a daughter on November 16 1981 at the then Residencia Sanitara in La Línea. As she was from Estepona, some 30 kilometres from La Línea, when her baby supposedly died shortly after birth, principally from lack of oxygen, she insisted her remains were interred in her local cemetery.

Now we come to the harrowing cry from Remedios: “These can’t be my daughter’s bones.” She was given just two hours notice to go to Estepona cemetery to meet the judge, Judicial Police officers, two forensic scientists and cemetery workers. The burial ground was sealed off and niche 26 opened. She said she had been waiting months for this moment but instead of closure she is left with torment.

Inside the tomb were the remains of a complete skeleton but Remedios asks, my daughter – also named Remedios – was hours old, how could she have such a complete skeleton? At the back of the mummified mouth are clearly tooth sockets. The ribs are four centimetres long and a centimetre wide, the size of her finger – how can this be asks Remedios when my baby just weighed two and a half kilos? The remains also had the legs crossed in an apparent effort to cram the large baby in to a small casket.

Whether this is the baby of Remedios will be determined by DNA tests being carried out at the Instituto de Medicina Legal in Sevilla. After her baby died officials at La Línea hospital offered to bury it at no charge – as has been the case with other missing babies – but she and her husband declined. The remains were taken at their request to Estepona but the parents were not allowed to see the body. Her sister-in-law asked to see the baby too but the undertaker refused saying it wasn’t allowed – an action Remedios described as inhumane and a violation of their rights.

There is one intriguing difference in this case. The gynaecologist who delivered Remedios’ baby and declared it dead is still working at a medical practice in La Línea. If the DNA tests show the remains are not the daughter of Remedios then the chief prosecutor in the Campo de Gibraltar, Juan Cisneros, who is leading the investigation, knows who to ask.

(Versions of the above article has appeared in Panorama, Dscriber (USA) and other publications)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.