Charges can still be filed in 1978 baby-snatching case, court rules

Madrid nun identified as “Sister Maria” told parents that newborn had died although the body was never revealed

A Madrid provincial court on Thursday ordered the reopening of a 34-year-old baby-snatching case, ruling that there is no statute of limitations on “illegal detention charges” under Spanish law.

“This is a very important ruling because it states that the main charge [illegal detention] has no statute of limitations and neither do the overt acts linked to this crime,” said lawyer Guillermo Peña, who filed the case.

The allegations involve the 1978 birth of a child to Felisa Tomico Orusco and her husband Juan Antonio Panadero Galiana. After delivery at the Casa de la Madre clinic on Goya street, a nun named “Sister María” told the husband that the child had died but would not let him see the body.

The mother said that she cannot be sure whether it was the same Sister María Gómez Valbuena of the Sisters of Charity Order who was charged earlier this year in connection with a 1982 baby-snatching case.

“I will never forgive those who took my baby,” Felisa said, adding that the pediatrician who examined her said the fetus was fine.

The father attended the baby’s funeral but never got a chance to see what was inside the little white coffin.

“I always suspected that they took our child but I had to overcome my own obsessions so as not to destroy my marriage,” he said.

The Madrid provincial court decided to reopen the case after finding serious discrepancies in the burial license and the baby’s death certificate, which states that the child died at eight months and 15 days of gestation when in fact the mother had carried the baby for the full nine months.

Hundreds of people have approached prosecutors across Spain to report possible instances of baby-snatching during and after the Franco era.

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