‘We are all concerned’ Locals say mother who abandoned three babies needs support

Baby Roman (L) Baby Harry (R) were found abandoned off the Greenway in Plaistow  (Met Police)
Baby Roman (L) Baby Harry (R) were found abandoned off the Greenway in Plaistow (Met Police)

An east London neighbourhood is desperate for answers about how three baby siblings came to be abandoned and left in freezing parks.

This week it was revealed that Harry, Roman and Elsa – each abandoned over a seven-year period – were all from the same family, and the mother is thought to have been local to Plaistow, in east London.

All three were dumped just off a popular jogging path called the Greenway, just metres from a maternity ward at Newham University Hospital.

The latest baby, named Elsa by hospital staff after the Disney character, was less than an hour old when she was found in a shopping bag in sub-zero temperatures on 18 January.

Her sister Roman was discovered in 2019, in a park used by rough sleepers and, according to residents, frequented by dangerous-dog owners. One pensioner told The Independent he carries a flick knife whenever he walks his pug there.

The oldest sibling, Harry, was found in a park off Balaam Street in 2017, wrapped in a white towel.

One local primary school teacher said: “I was in shock when I found out they were all related. It is someone from the area, definitely.

“At first I was a little bit worried it was one of our mothers but we would have seen any parent that was showing, even if it was very small... it’s all very sad.”

Dog walker Tom Harris, 76, passes the bench where Roman was found, off Roman Road, every day. He said: “She must be local and very lonely. Someone must know something. To give birth the old-fashioned way, to cut the umbilical cord, someone had to help her. No one can do that alone, surely?”

He said it is “a wonder” Elsa survived the cold on the night she was abandoned.

“It’s good the children have each other to grow up. But the latest one, Elsa – it is a wonder she survived it was so cold that night.

“I didn’t put them all together until now. When I saw the latest one on the news I thought back because I could’ve sworn this happened before.

“It’s never the kids’ fault. No one asks to be born.

“Knowing they have siblings that can be reunited is good news. It’s a nice end to a bad situation. Or is it going to be the end?”

Greenway is a popular footpath snaking through east London (The Independent)
Greenway is a popular footpath snaking through east London (The Independent)

Rob, a caretaker at a local secondary school, told The Independent: “At first I thought it was a young girl who was scared to bring shame on the family or something. But it’s all so strange.

“Maybe she isn’t allowed to use contraception. To go through it once is terrible. But to go through with the pregnancy knowing you are going to abandon it?

“Elsa was named because it was freezing outside, Roman was found on Roman Road but you can’t call a baby Balaam Street.”

He added: “It brought things up for my friend. He saw the news and admitted to me for the first time he was a ‘Barnados baby’.

“He was left outside a front door of a house in Kensington by his parents hoping he would have a better life. That’s how people did it in the old days.”

A headteacher of a nearby school added: “We are all concerned for everyone, the children, the mother, everyone involved. It’s a human thing isn’t it?

“I don’t understand why they haven’t found the family by now if it has happened more than twice.

“I just suppose what is lucky is they have all been found alive.”

A child walks past the sign where Elsa was discovered (The Independent)
A child walks past the sign where Elsa was discovered (The Independent)

One neighbour who saw the third being picked up by police in January 2019 said: “I can’t believe there are others.

“I was there in 2017 as well. We saw everything but we try to keep it in the past. It’s all so sad.”

Harry Fairbank, 37, spoke from his doorstep overlooking the playing fields, “The person who found it used to live here. We were in the area, the poor family I wonder what the mother must be going through. It is just so strange.

“If you know the area you know The Greenway is so busy with dogwalkers.

“The hospital is so close by too. It has a good maternity ward our son was born there. It was absolutely fine.”

 (Met Police/PA)
(Met Police/PA)

On suggestions the mother could have given birth in nearby Newham University Hospital, which has a maternity ward, a Met police spokesman said: “We continue to work with hospitals, social workers and local charities.

“All of the information we have so far suggests it’s highly likely Baby Elsa was born after a concealed pregnancy and her mother was not a service user of these agencies.”

All the babies were found close to The Greenway, a raised footpath that cuts through east London; passing gardens, Newham University Hospital and schools on either side. It is often teeming with cyclists and dog walkers.

It was a favourite sunrise walk of Mahatma Gandhi when he visited London in 1931 under its old name the Sewerbank.

Police patrol the Greenway (PA)
Police patrol the Greenway (PA)

Harry and Roman – who now have different names – have since been adopted.

But barrister Kate Claxton, representing Newham London Borough Council, previously told a 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 Met Police, told the court on Monday that the police investigation into the identity of the parents remained ongoing.

Laura Eden, Director of Children and Young People, Newham Council said: “In each case Newham Council has worked closely with the Metropolitan Police and partners to try to establish the identity of the parents, but despite extensive and ongoing enquiries this has not proved possible.

“Children having knowledge of their identity and history is important for their emotional development and future wellbeing and therefore we would welcome anyone contacting us on mash@newham.gov.uk with any new information about the children; you can be assured any conversation will be dealt with the utmost care and sensitivity.

“All three children are safe, well and being cared for in loving environments.

“We hope their privacy will be respected and promoted for the sake of their future emotional health.”

Anyone with information regarding the parents’ identities is asked to contact the force using the reference CAD 6876/18 Jan.