Amber Alert credited with return of abducted newborn

`It went like wildfire across the province pretty amazing': Deputy chief of Greater Sudbury Police

Nov 03, 2007 04:30 AM

Staff Reporter


As soon as she saw the newborn girl being carried by a woman dressed in white hospital scrubs on the maternity ward, the member of the housekeeping staff at Sudbury Regional Hospital knew something was wrong.

"I just saw a woman carrying a baby," the worker is said to have told a nurse on the floor, where hospital policy discourages staff members and parents from carrying infants in their arms.

That initial sighting set into motion a chain of events that led police to activate an Amber Alert.

It soon had news of an abduction scrolling across television sets, subway platform screens and even lottery terminals until the day-old girl was found safe and sound in Kirkland Lake, Ont. later Thursday night.

"It was quick and it was everywhere," stated Const. Bert Lapalme of the Greater Sudbury Police Service.

Police believe the woman arrived on the floor about a half hour after visiting hours on the third-floor maternity ward began at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Video footage obtained by police allegedly shows the woman changed her clothing twice, the last time into an outfit resembling a hospital uniform.

Video footage issued by police as part of the Amber Alert shows a woman carrying a baby, wrapped in a hospital-issued white flannel blanket, at 12:46 p.m.

A few minutes later, the member of the housekeeping staff told a nurse what she had seen and the hospital immediately issued a code yellow for a missing patient, went into lockdown and called Sudbury police at 1:08 p.m.

A police officer arrived on the scene by 1:09 p.m.

Within the next 20 minutes, police had confirmed the abduction and had notified local media, and begun calling local taxi companies and public transit especially since a bus stops right outside the hospital.

Soon afterwards, the Ontario Provincial Police set up roadblocks at the Sudbury city limits.

Meanwhile, Sudbury police were trying to figure out if the situation met the criteria to ask the OPP to activate an Amber Alert.

They had already satisfied the three main criteria: the abduction was confirmed; the child was younger than 18; they believed she was in grave danger, but what they needed was information that could lead to finding the child if shared with the public.

And the clock was ticking fast.

"The first three hours are fairly critical just because the statistics indicate that within the first 24 hours only 1 per cent of children survive a stranger abduction," said RCMP Corp. Marie-France Olivera of the National Missing Children Services.

Then they found the video footage.

Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Bill Lee said the request for an Amber Alert came in around 2:30 p.m. and was ready to go by 3:30 p.m. for posting on electronic highway signs that usually show traffic updates and to be sent to cell phones via text messages and even to screens inside elevators.

"A whole bunch of things happen once we push the button to send out that information," Lee said.... The more people we have looking, the better the chances of safe recovery."

Sudbury police deputy chief Frank Elsner credited the Amber Alert with helping to bring in the tip that led police to the baby.

"It went like wildfire across the province pretty amazing," he said.

The Amber Alert program was created in 1996 in Dallas, Texas. after the kidnapping of 9-year-old girl Amber Hagerman.

The alert has been activated 13 times in Ontario since it was implemented province-wide in 2003 and has been successful in all but three cases of returning children home safely.

The baby is now back with her unidentified parents, who said in a statement issued yesterday that they are grateful for the happy ending but wish to have their privacy respected.

Brenda Batisse, 29, and her boyfriend Trevor Schramm, also 29, have both been charged with child abduction.