York & North Yorkshire

Spanish 'stolen' baby case goes to European court

Ruth Appleby
Image caption Ruth Appleby said she had exhausted all the legal options in Spain

A woman who believes her baby was abducted at birth by staff at a Spanish hospital is to have her case heard by the European Court of Human Rights.

Ruth Appleby, from North Yorkshire, was told her daughter had died hours after being born apparently healthy in 1992.

She later learned that thousands of Spanish babies were taken and given up for adoption.

Mrs Appleby has pursued her case through the Spanish legal system without success.

"The last appeal that we did was to the constitutional tribunal," she said.

"When that was rejected that was considered there was no where else we could go, so it opened the door for us to the European Court of Human Rights."

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Image caption Mrs Appleby travelled to Madrid in May with a delegation of MEPs

Mrs Appleby, from Catterick Garrison, gave birth at a hospital in La Coruna in northern Spain where she was living at the time.

The following day she was told her child had died.

When she returned to the UK in 2010 she had her daughter's remains exhumed for cremation but said the skeleton she saw in the coffin appeared to be that of a much older infant.

The following year she learned of the scandal of stolen babies in Spain and went on to report the matter to police in 2012.

In May, she travelled to Madrid with a number of MEPs from the European Parliament who were investigating the claims of child abduction.

Labour MEP for the North East, Jude Kirton-Darling, who has campaigned alongside Mrs Appleby, said: "The... decision to hear Ruth's case is a great step forward for both finding the truth about her child, and the countless other mothers who have had their children taken from them.

"One of the human rights which is defended in Strasbourg is the right to fair justice, a fair hearing in court.

"The second right that Ruth is really challenging on is her right to a family life. Her child has been gone for so long and that's a child that's missing from her family.

"It could be a massive precedent which will really blow open this whole scandal and allow people to finally get the justice they have been calling for."

Spain's 'Niños robados' (stolen children)

  • The practice began in the late 1930s under the fascist regime of dictator General Francisco Franco and was aimed at removing babies from families deemed "undesirable"
  • By the 1950s it is thought organised criminal gangs had become involved selling infants for adoption to make money
  • Nuns, priests, nurses and doctors have been implicated in the mass theft and trafficking of infants
  • It is estimated that as many as 300,000 children could have been taken
  • Several organisations in Spain dedicated to reuniting stolen babies with their birth parents have been formed in recent years

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