A women stolen from a hospital in Valencia almost half a century ago — just one of many alleged abductions of newborn babies during the Franco era — has been reunited with her biological mother, say police in the Mediterranean port city.
The woman, now aged 48, has asked for her identity and that of her mother to be kept private, saying that her adopted mother is seriously ill and close to death.
In the wake of several stories that appeared in the media in 2011 — revealing that during the Franco years a network of nuns and doctors at certain hospitals had taken babies from poor families or single mothers and given them to wealthy parents unable to conceive — the woman in question decided to try and trace her biological mother. The abductions are believed to have continued for several years after the death of Franco, in 1975.
The woman, who strongly suspected she was a stolen baby, lodged a judicial request to find her mother, the National Police said in a statement.
She filed a request with the relevant authorities, and the Valencia force began investigating.
Campaign groups say thousands of newborns were stolen during the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco
"It has been a very complex and difficult investigation given the time that has passed since the theft, in 1964, as well as the problems associated with locating the records from that time," said the statement.
Police officers eventually found hospital records dating back to when the woman's mother was admitted.
They then cross-checked those records, making a list of 200 women who could have been her biological mother, eventually contacting each of them. When they found a woman who had been told that her child had died during birth, they carried out DNA tests, which confirmed that she was the woman's relative.
"She was very surprised and happy to hear the news," the police statement said.
"All these years the biological mother had lived believing that the baby, whose gender she had never even been told, had died in childbirth," it added.
Campaign groups for suspected victims of the practice, such as SOS Bebes Robados and Añadir, say thousands of newborns were stolen during the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
They say that around 1,500 court cases have been filed with prosecutors but that judges have shelved many on the grounds that the deeds were committed so long ago.
"Police are continuing investigations to locate those responsible for the abduction," the police said.
In April last year, Sister María Gómez Valbuena, 87, was the first person to go before a judge over the scandal. She was questioned over the kidnapping of a baby girl from a Madrid hospital three decades ago.
Last month, 47-year-old Quique Olivert, from the southern town of Huelva, said he tracked down his birth parents with the help of SOS Bebes Robados after his adoptive parents died.