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Police hunt for parents who abandoned three newborns: Mystery over who left babies in shopping bags in London parks over seven years – after DNA test found they were related

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Police are searching for the parents of three newborn babies who have been abandoned in east London over the last seven years.

The trio of children were dumped in parks with the most recent – a baby girl – being found at just an hour after she was born in a shopping bag in Newham amid sub-zero temperatures in January this year.

DNA tests have since shown that the child, who was called Elsa by hospital staff after the character from Frozen, is a full sibling of baby Harry who was found abandoned in a park in Plaistow in 2017 and Baby Roman who was found in a park in Newham in 2019.

Police said at the time it was ‘highly likely’ Elsa was born after a ‘concealed pregnancy’ and her umbilical cord was still attached when she was found. She was not injured in any way.

Police have today said they are continuing to look for the children’s’ parents, with officers believing a woman seen in the area just before Elsa was discovered by a dog walker might have vital information.

The female was wearing a large dark-coloured coat with a light-coloured scarf or hood around her neck, and was carrying a rucksack.

The mother and father of the three babies – which were dumped within 1.7 miles of each other – have still not been identified and on Monday a judge allowed details revealing the link between them to be reported in public for the first time.

The three children were found in parks in east London over a seven-year period and their parents have still not been found

Baby Harry (pictured) was found abandoned in a park in Plaistow, east London, in September 2017

Baby Harry (pictured) was found abandoned in a park in Plaistow, east London, in September 2017 

Baby Roman (pictured) was found abandoned in a park in Newham, east London, near a year and a half later in January 2019

Baby Roman (pictured) was found abandoned in a park in Newham, east London, near a year and a half later in January 2019

Judge Carol Atkinson at the East London Family Court amended restrictions to allow the familial link between the three to be reported following an application by PA news agency and the BBC.

She said it was of ‘great public interest’ and doing so could help identify the biological parents who still have not been found.

Detective Sergeant Laurence Dight, from the Metropolitan Police, told the court on Monday that the police investigation into the identity of the parents is continuing, 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.’

The oldest child, known as Harry, was found in a park close to Balaam Street in Plaistow, east London, on September 17, 2017.

He was found wrapped in a white blanket at 8.20am before being rushed to hospital, sparking a police appeal for the mother to come forward.

A street view of the park where Harry was found close to Balaam Street in Plaistow, east London, on September 17, 2017

A street view of the park where Harry was found close to Balaam Street in Plaistow, east London, on September 17, 2017

This was followed by the discovery of the second baby who was found inside a shopping bag next to a bench in a park in Newham, east London, on January 31, 2019.

The child, who was named Roman after being found on Roman Road, was reportedly wrapped in a towel and placed in a Sainsbury’s bag. 

The newborn was found by a Lithuanian grandmother and her son while they were walking their dog 100 yards from their home. 

Rima Zvaliauskiene said at the time: ‘There was a crying noise from the bag. She was crying for her life. The baby saved herself.’

She added, in an interview with Sun Online: ‘At first I thought it was an animal’.

Her son, Ovidijus, added: ‘She looked a bit purple. She very cold to the touch. Her forehead and ears looked like they were a bit frosty, she was cold.

‘We feel great that we helped save the baby’s life. I’m glad we were there or the baby might not have survived too much longer’.

Police launched another appeal for the mother to come forward after this, but the fact that Roman was related to Harry was not made public knowledge.

Rima Zvaliauskiene, 50, and her son Ovidijus Zvaliaskiene, 27, who found Roman abandoned in a park in Newham in 2019

Rima Zvaliauskiene, 50, and her son Ovidijus Zvaliaskiene, 27, who found Roman abandoned in a park in Newham in 2019

An aerial view of the park next to Roman Road in Newham, where baby Roman was found abandoned in 2019

An aerial view of the park next to Roman Road in Newham, where baby Roman was found abandoned in 2019 

The bench where Roman was found dumped in a shopping bag in a park near Roman Road  in Newham, east London, on January 31, 2019

The bench where Roman was found dumped in a shopping bag in a park near Roman Road  in Newham, east London, on January 31, 2019

Then on January 18 this year a third newborn, known as Elsa, was found by a dog walker at the junction of Greenway and High Street South in Newham after being alerted by her crying.

Like with Roman, Elsa was found dumped in a shopping bag and was believed to be just one-hour old when she was found at 9.13pm as temperatures plunged to -4C on the cold winter night.

One local restaurant manager, Tania Iurac, told how she saw a ‘commotion’ while walking home from work after the newborn was left in a ‘really visible area’.

Ms Iurac, 25, said she and her flatmate saw up to seven police officers at the scene around two hours after the baby was discovered.

‘I saw a commotion by Greenway park. We saw a white towel on the floor surrounded by six to seven police officers.

‘The towel was by a red route clearway sign. But the baby and the plastic bag weren’t there.

‘I think the mother wanted the baby to be found. The towel was in a really visible area next to the main road. It was absolutely freezing last night.’

Her friend Andreea Plic, 26, explained that she was concerned by the number of officers in the area as she walked back from work at around 11pm and decided it was best to get home.

She told The Times: ‘I talked with my friend, Tania, and I said, let’s go outside to ask what happened. So when I go outside, I just saw the towel.’

Ms Iurac said that it was ‘horrible’ finding out someone had done this, but added to the newspaper: ‘She may be a teenager and being scared about what happened in her life and not being ready for it, and left it outside for someone to find it.’

Andreea Maria Plic (left) and Tania Iurac said they saw police officers huddling around a white towel after Elsa was found in Newham in January this year

Andreea Maria Plic (left) and Tania Iurac said they saw police officers huddling around a white towel after Elsa was found in Newham in January this year

Speaking a day after Elsa was found Chief Superintendent Simon Crick, local policing commander for north-east London, said the child was believed to be black or mixed race and urged the mother to make herself known.

He said: ‘We are extremely concerned for her welfare as she would have been through a traumatic ordeal and will be in need of immediate medical attention following the birth.

‘Trained medics and specialist officers are ready to support her and we urge her to get in touch by phone or walk into the nearest hospital or police station. If you are the baby’s mother, please know that your daughter is well. No matter what your circumstances, please do seek help.’

Harry and Roman have both since been adopted, while Elsa is still in care. The names of all three have since been changed.

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

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

Judge Atkinson ruled on Monday that reporting the information that the three children were biological siblings was in the public interest.

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.

‘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.’

It comes following efforts to increase transparency in the family court system.

Baby Elsa was found abandoned in a shopping bag at the junction of Greenway and High Street South (pictured) in Newham, east London, on January 18, this year

Baby Elsa was found abandoned in a shopping bag at the junction of Greenway and High Street South (pictured) in Newham, east London, on January 18, this year 

Chief Superintendent Simon Crick, local policing commander for north-east London, pictured at a press conference in Newham following the discovery of Elsa in January this year

Chief Superintendent Simon Crick, local policing commander for north-east London, pictured at a press conference in Newham following the discovery of Elsa in January this year

Previously, reporters have had access to courts dealing with sensitive matters involving children, despite them being closed to the public.

However, reporting has been highly restricted to only what a judge will allow, to protect the identities of those involved.

Under a new transparency pilot scheme, introduced last year, accredited journalists and legal bloggers could access three family courts – Leeds, Cardiff and Carlisle – to report on cases more freely.

This was expanded earlier this year to allow accredited journalists and legal bloggers to report on cases to 16 courts across England and Wales as they happen, as they would do in the criminal courts.

This includes East London Family Court, as well as Manchester, Nottingham, the Central Family Court in London and others.

While the identities of the families and certain professionals involved remain protected, judges can set out what details may be reported under a Transparency Order, with journalists also allowed to access some documents.

Families can also talk to a journalist about their case, without risking punishment for contempt of court.

However, judges can still decide that some cases may not be reported on or that reporting should be postponed in certain circumstances.

In Baby Elsa’s case, the PA news agency and the BBC applied for the court to vary the terms of the Transparency Order to allow reporting that she has two siblings and other details.

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