On June 6, 1969, Dr. Eduardo Vela delivered a girl of a few days, "out of legal channels," to a woman who had not given birth. The lady, aged 46, was registered as a biological mother, "without evidence that there was consent and not even knowledge on the part of the parents of the newborn whose identity does not appear in any part", according to sentence of the first trial for the alleged theft of a baby, dictated on Monday by the Provincial Court of Madrid. The adoptive mother, Inés Pérez, assured during the investigation that she did not pay anything and that she was told that the child was the daughter of a married woman who had delivered the baby because it was not her husband's. It is impossible to verify what really happened, because the San Ramón Clinic in Madrid, where the girl was born, closed in 1982 and the birth registration books have not been found. Vela, 86, said in the oral trial that he did not remember anything.
It is a historical sentence. Since the possible existence of a plot of abduction of newborns that would have operated between 1950 and 1990 in Spain was reported, some associations of those affected have calculated that there are 300,000 victims. In 2012, after receiving a collective complaint from more than 250 families, the State Attorney General's Office summed up the assumption modus operandi: "It consisted basically in informing the mother and relatives that a newborn child had died, offering the hospital center to take charge of the remains. That child was given to other people. "
The graves of these children should be empty. Since 2010, the Office of the Prosecutor has initiated 2,100 investigative measures of alleged theft of babies. Most of it has been shelved, due to lack of evidence or because, after 40 years, there were not even hospital records or potential witnesses lived. But 522 cases have reached the courts, according to sources from the Prosecutor's Office. In 120 of them, before signs of a theft, prosecutors and judges have ordered to open the graves of the babies to see if they were empty. And, in which bone remains have been found, they have requested the identification of their DNA. None of these analyzes has served to confirm a theft, according to a technical report conducted by the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences (INTCF) on the occasion of the visit to Spain in 2017 of a delegation from the European Parliament to investigate the alleged mafia.
"We do not know of any case in which the theft of babies could be confirmed. What we have seen is that it was true what they told the parents: that the baby had died, "he says. the biologist Antonio Alonso. His team has been able to recover skeletal remains in 117 of the 120 exhumed burials, 97%. In two other cases, there were no bones, but fetal hairs, surgical drapes, umbilical clamps and traces of corpse-eating insects. The total number of open procedures amounts to 128 because in 14 of the newborns, genetic research of biopsies that were kept in hospitals was used, as a sole analysis or as a complementary test.
The DNA analyzes were extremely complex, due to the state of degradation of the remains. Only the genetic profile of 90 of the newborns could be obtained. In 81 of these cases (90%), the scientists were able to identify the babies as children of the parents who sought them. In the other files, there were doubts about whether the exhumed remains – often in old graves – were the correct ones. Alonso remembers that, decades ago, unborn babies were buried in nursery cemeteries, without tombstones, in different rows and levels. "The circumstances of the burial make the analysis very difficult," he laments.
The technical report does not support the existence of a plot of theft of babies, but notes "the understandable uncertainty" of many parents on whether his son actually died, after a hospital treatment that, decades ago, could be cold and opaque, according to Alonso . In 1976, the early neonatal mortality rate exceeded nine babies per 1,000 births. To think that a child did not die, but was stolen, is the last hope for many parents to see their child alive again. A father synthesized it during an exhumation in Málaga in 2012: "I would like the remains not to belong to my son. That would mean he is still alive. "
"There are parents who do not believe our DNA analysis. They believe that it is a conspiracy of the State. They question our work and our honesty, "laments Alonso, one of the greatest experts in Spain in forensic genetics. He has worked on the identification of the victims of the 11-M attacks, on those killed in the Spanish Civil War and even on attempts to find the mortal remains of the writer Miguel de Cervantes.
The director of the Institute of Legal Medicine of Murcia, Rafael Bañón, has participated in four exhumations, in Cartagena, Beniel, Alcantarilla and Fortuna. "We have found what we expected: the children of the complainants," says the coroner. The supposedly stolen babies were in their graves. "I think there has not been a systematic theft of newborns in Spain, but a problem of irregular adoptions," says the coroner. The ruling in the case of Dr. Vela cites a police investigation that concluded that there was "a plot" in which "there was a shelter for single mothers, Villa Teresita, where they kept the girls during pregnancy in exchange for giving them their babies for adoption. "
"Sometimes what happened was that a mother who could not take care of a child gave it up for adoption and registered as the biological son of another mother who had not given birth," agrees the lawyer Carmen de Troya, coordinator of the Information service to affected by the possible removal of newborns, dependent of the Ministry of Justice. At its office, opened in 2013, some 770 people have attended. The De Troya team has created a DNA Profiles File to try to piece together the same puzzle. The database is managed by the INTCF and today has 563 profiles, with a disproportionate number of mothers and fathers looking for their children (74%), compared to adopted children who want to find their biological parents (13%) ). The rest are brothers. "There has been no coincidence between all these profiles," says De Troya.
"Many of the adoptive children who look for their biological parents were abandoned in inclusive. We do not say that there have not been any stolen children, but the casuistry that we have seen so far is another ", underlines Alonso. "Maybe we have been investigating the modus operandi wrong".
María Bueno is convinced that her child was stolen. She gave birth at the Municipal Hospital of the Línea de la Concepción. His daughter, the nuns told her, was born dead. "There are judicial writings in which it is said that we suffer a generalized psychosis because of the media. I have a death certificate from my daughter on Christmas Eve 1981 and another one that is not registered in the cemetery ", says Bueno, general coordinator of the International Platform for Victims of Child Forced Disappearances We are looking for you. His organization groups half a dozen associations, but Bueno acknowledges that he does not know where the figure of the 300,000 stolen babies comes from. "They can be 300,000, 400,000 or 250,000, that's not the bottom of the matter," he says. During the Franco regime, he maintains, "children were robbed at will".
"What neonatologists have done in this country is to save lives, not steal babies," he says. Francisco Etxeberria, Professor of Legal and Forensic Medicine at the University of the Basque Country. The researcher maintains that there has been "a collective psychosis", in which many parents have believed themselves to be victims of the theft of newborns. The complaints increased after they met cases of open graves without babies in Euskadi. "It was said that the coffins appeared empty, but they were not empty," says Etxeberria.
The apparent absence of the corpses has a scientific explanation, as demonstrated in 2012 a technical report of the Anthropology Laboratory of the Criminalistics Service of the INTCF, made at the request of the Provincial Prosecutor's Office of Guipúzcoa. The authors, led by Amparo Jiménez and Teresa Cabellos, presented a study of 16 exhumations documenting that "the degree of skeletal representation and degradation of the remains have been very variable, from a newborn inhumed in 1972 that was practically preserved integral by a process of mummification, even an individual with similar data and in which macroscopically the presence of bone remains was not evident ". Etxeberria, tanning in more than 500 graves of the Civil War, insists that "the remains are degraded and can become almost negligible waste".
In Euskadi, in 2012, the then Lehendakari, Patxi López, came to insure an interview for Basque public television that there was a business of stolen babies. "It has to be well orchestrated among the doctors, the hospitals, the cemeteries themselves … For me, of course there is a plot and that we have to investigate it thoroughly to purify all the responsibilities that have been given in this case," he said. Months later, the then senior prosecutor of the Basque Country, Juan Calparsoro, announced that they had not met "Not even reasonable indications" of any child abduction, following the investigations of a group of the Ertzaintza created ex profeso.