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Baby girl found in shopping bag has two siblings who were also abandoned

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A baby girl found abandoned in a shopping bag in east London earlier this year has two siblings who were found in similar circumstances in 2017 and 2019, it can now be reported.

A judge at East London Family Court ruled on Monday that reporting restrictions could be changed to allow the publication of the link between the three children, following an application by the PA news agency and the BBC.

It comes after a child, named Baby Elsa by hospital staff, was found by a dog walker in Newham on January 18 this year in sub-zero temperatures.

DNA testing has since shown she has a brother and sister, known as Baby Harry and Baby Roman, who were discovered abandoned in similar circumstances in the same area of the capital in 2017 and 2019 respectively.

The children’s parents are yet to be identified, with the Metropolitan Police investigation into their identities ongoing.

On Monday, Judge Carol Atkinson ruled restrictions should be lifted to allow the reporting of the relationship between the children, claiming it was needed for the “openness of justice”.

She said: “There is a clear public interest in reporting this story.

“The abandonment of a baby in this country is a very, very unusual event and there are years where there are no children abandoned, and because of that it is the story of the abandoning of a child that is of public interest.”

She continued: “It is for the same reason, in our current society, of enormous interest and importance that people know that there is a mother and father out there who felt the need to relinquish their children in this way, three times, and that is of considerable interest, it seems to me.

“If I restrict these rights and the reporting of that story, I think that does impact on public consciousness of these sorts of matters. It restricts the openness of justice.”

While journalists can usually attend family court proceedings, reporting restrictions limit what can be published to protect the anonymity of those involved.

A pilot scheme to increase transparency in the family court system, which began with three courts in 2023, was expanded earlier this year to allow accredited journalists and legal bloggers to report on cases at 16 courts across England and Wales.

Judges can set out what details may be reported under a Transparency Order, with journalists also allowed to access some documents.

Following an application made by PA and the BBC, Judge Atkinson varied the Transparency Order in Elsa’s case to allow reporting of the fact she has two siblings and other details.

Only certain other details of the three children, who are black, may be reported.

Baby Elsa was believed to be less than an hour old when she was found abandoned in a shopping bag at the junction of Greenway and High Street South in East Ham on January 18 this year.

Her sister, Baby Roman, was found in similar circumstances in a play area off Roman Road, Newham, in late January 2019, as freezing temperatures and snow gripped the capital.

In September 2017, Baby Harry was found wrapped in a white blanket in Balaam Street, Plaistow.

Harry and Roman – not their real names – have since been adopted.

But barrister Kate Claxton, representing Newham London Borough Council, previously told the court that the ongoing investigation means that Elsa’s birth cannot be registered, meaning no final decision regarding her care can be made.

A further hearing in her case is expected to be held at a later date.

Detective Sergeant Laurence Dight, from the Metropolitan Police, told the court on Monday that the police investigation into the identity of the parents remained ongoing, with anyone with information as to the parents’ identities asked to contact the force using the reference CAD 6876/18 Jan.

In a statement on Tuesday, the force said it had made extensive inquiries including media appeals, analysing CCTV, going door to door and examining forensic evidence.

Detective Inspector Jamie Humm, who is based in Newham, said: “We understand the significant public interest that will come following the lifting of restrictions that allow this information to be reported.

“It is significant news and our work has focused on trying to locate the mother and provide support to her.

“We have worked 24/7 in each of these three cases to identify the parents, so far without success.

“We have also had to be mindful of the sensitivities that exist now all of the children are being cared for. Their welfare, including their privacy, is paramount.

“We continue to investigate, and will consider the next steps in our investigation.”

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