First ‘stolen baby’ doctor, 85, in the dock in Spain
First ‘stolen baby’ doctor, 85, in the dock
A DOCTOR believed to have been involved in Spain’s huge undercover ‘stolen baby’ scandal will appear in court tomorrow (Tuesday) – the first person in history summoned to the dock over the decades-long racket which started after Franco gained power through the Civil War.
An estimated 300,000 babies born between 1965 and 1990 were taken from their parents, who were normally told their infants had died and in many cases were even handed coffins, although many more may have been stolen and sold on in the 25 years prior to this.
The figures are quoted by the association ANADIR, founded by Juan Luis Moreno and Antonio Barroso seven years ago after they uncovered the racket when they discovered the people they grew up believing were their parents had actually bought them in Zaragoza from a priest.
This number is based upon calculations that ‘stolen babies’ made up 15% of all adopted children in the last 35 years, although judge Baltazar Garzón, who started investigating the case a decade ago, believed 30,000 were kidnapped and sold during the post-war years alone.
Many nursing homes – as maternity wards were then known – were staffed by nuns who, at the behest of doctors and, prior to Franco’s death 43 years ago, authorities, took babies away as soon as they were born and sold them on.
Parents who fell victim to the scandal were normally Republicans, or thought to be, meaning they opposed dictator General Franco’s régime.
In other cases, the babies had been born out of wedlock, either to single mothers, mums in a relationship with but not married to the father, or via extra-marital affairs.
One mother, Mari Carmen, who was reunited in Madrid with her 30-year-old daughter Pilar in 2011, said the nuns even told her that they had given her baby away because she was a ‘loose woman’ as she was not married to the father.
Mostly, the parents were told the child had died, but were not allowed to see the infant’s body, and were given sealed coffins – usually empty, or filled with stones or other material to weigh them down.
Five years ago, María Gómez Valbuena – known as ‘Sister María’ – then aged 87, was set to be the first person to stand trial over the infant-trafficking horror, but died before she was able to appear in court.
Now, Dr Eduardo Vela, 85, a retired gynaecologist, will face a judge tomorrow.
He is believed to have been behind the first-known baby-kidnapping – that of Inés Madrigal Pérez, now 49.
The couple she has always believed were her parents – Pablo Madrigal and Inés Pérez – were reportedly told that the infant had been the result of an extra-marital affair, born to a woman whose husband was away working and who had ‘played away’.
They were told Inés’ birth mother had decided to give her up for adoption as she was unable to keep her.
Inés discovered the truth when she and her parents took DNA tests and found they were not related.
The mother who raised her died two years ago, but had already given a statement in court.
She said she and her husband had been unable to have children, but that a Jesuit priest introduced them to Eduardo Vela who gave them their baby girl as a ‘gift’, telling them the tale of how her birth was ‘inconvenient’ to her real mother.
Although Dr Vela recognised the signature on the birth certificate showing Inés Pérez and Pablo Madrigal as the infant’s biological parents as his own, he claimed he ‘did not read it properly’ before putting pen to paper.
It is believed that many of the parents who bought, or were given, stolen babies did so in good faith, having been told the birth mothers had given them away voluntarily.
Infants were often taken away from their mothers purely because they were poor, and sold to middle-class or wealthy couples who were unable to have children.
As yet, only 3,000 cases of suspected infant-trafficking have come to light, but the overwhelming majority have been thrown out by the prosecution.
The photograph, from Inés Madrigal’s own collection, shows her as a little girl in the early 1970s alongside her adoptive mother Inés Pérez.