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Police Return Kidnapped Baby to Parents
May 28, 2014 permalink
The newborn daughter of Simon Boisclair and Mélissa McMahonand was kidnapped from the delivery room in Trois-Rivières Quebec. Police issued an Amber alert and asked the public for help in getting baby Victoria returned to her parents. The public responded and three hours later police nabbed the baby from her kidnapper.
What is unusual about this case is that the police sought to reunite parents and child. In most contemporary kidnappings parents cannot call on the police for help because the police conducted the kidnapping at the request of children's aid.
How Facebook helped find an abducted Quebec newborn: ‘Help us please… our daughter has been stolen’
With nothing else planned for a Monday night, a group of four Facebooking Quebec friends decided to pile into a car and try their hand at solving a baby snatching.
“We had nothing to do that night,” the Trois-Rivières searchers said in a statement to local media. So, “we went off in search of a red car.”
The quartet of three women and one man, all in their early 20s, had been spurred into action by Facebook reports of an unusual kidnapping from Sainte-Marie Hospital.
Just before 7 p.m., a woman dressed in red scrubs had walked into the room of Mélissa McMahon. Grabbing Ms. McMahon’s six-pound newborn, the woman wrapped the infant in a blue blanket and told Ms. McMahon she needed to take it away to be weighed.
In “less than a minute,” Ms. McMahon wrote in an online account of the kidnapping, a quick chat with hospital staff convinced her that “my baby had been stolen.”
The mother ran for the hospital’s entrance, only to find that the kidnapper had already fled the property in what witnesses said was a red Toyota Yaris hatchback with a “Bébé à bord” (Baby on Board) sticker on the back window.
“The possibility of a worst case scenario was turning loops in our heads,” wrote Ms. McMahon. “Unfortunately, the endings to these situations are rarely happy, particularly in cases like this.”
Within minutes, local police erected roadblocks and launched a full scale search as radio, television and social media were flooded by Amber Alerts for the missing baby.
“Help us please, after one day our daughter has been stolen,” read a Facebook post by father Simon Boisclair, asking friends to spread the news as “fast as possible.”
“Woman is 5’ 4”, 130 lbs, driving a red Yaris,” read a Monday night Tweet by the Sûreté du Québec. “If seen, dial 911.”
It was this scant information, collected from Facebook, that sent sisters Mélizanne Bergeron and Charel Bergeron into the warm night, along with friends Marc-André Côté and Charlène Plante.
The initial plan was simply to drive around the city of 126,000 looking for the fire-engine red car described in police alerts. But the far-fetched mission yielded results almost immediately after Mélizann checked her smartphone to see a recently-released security camera image of the suspected kidnapper.
Ms. Plante recognized the woman. “She was my neighbour; I moved two weeks ago so I knew it was her,” the barista later told Rouge 94.9 FM.
The quartet set course to Ms. Plante’s recently vacated apartment and, sure enough, a red Toyota Yaris with “Bébé à bord” bumper sticker was parked outside.
As one of the four snuck forward to try to and hear anything from within the suspected kidnapper’s home (they heard the sound of a “running tap,” according to Radio-Canada) Mélizanne reported the address to police.
Officers arrived without sirens to avoid attracting suspicion, broke down the front door of the suspected apartment and located the baby within a matter of seconds. A shaky cellphone video recorded by Mélizanne captured the exact moment an officer emerged carrying the missing child, eliciting tears from the young searchers.
From kidnapping to rescue, the baby, a girl named Victoria, had only been missing a total of three hours.
As for the four searchers, only minutes after beginning their hunt for the baby, they were being applauded by hospital staff and feted as heroes across Quebec.
“It all happened so fast, but to have her safe and sound in my arms after only three hours of intense searching was very surreal,” wrote Ms. McMahon, thanking Facebook for leading “four incredible people” to her baby. “Every click, every share made the difference.”
The suspected kidnapper, a 21-year-old woman, is believed to suffer from mental health problems.
As of Tuesday evening, she has not been criminally charged.
Strangers abducting newborn babies from Canadian hospitals is “rare,” but not at all unprecedented, according to a 2008 RCMP report on the phenomenon.
About half a dozen times since the 1990s, hospitals in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta have been subject to incidents of a stranger stealing a baby under false pretexts, often while disguised as hospital staff. In every case, though, the infant was safely recovered soon after its abduction.
“The typical hospital abduction may involve a stranger,” reads the paper, penned by the RCMP’s National Missing Children Services.” “The abductors are usually females who really want a baby of their own. They are often overweight, compulsive, impersonators, married or cohabitating, and live in the community where the abduction takes place.”
On Tuesday, Quebec health minister Gaétan Barrette called on all the province’s hospitals to review their security procedures.
Source: National Post