Girl who was snatched as a baby meets cop who helped track her down 24 years later
More than 20 years after being snatched from a maternity ward as a day-old baby, Alex Griffiths beams as she meets the policewoman who helped her mum through the horror.
Mum Dawn laughs along as Alex, now 24 and a maths graduate, tells ex-policewoman Nicky Pearse: “It’s nice to meet you – at last!”
Nicky was just 24 herself in January 1990 when she was assigned as the family liaison officer to Dawn after Alex became the first baby to be abducted from a British maternity ward . Nicky stayed at Dawn’s side day and night as a nationwide hunt was launched to find the infant.
Dawn said: “Nicky became my rock. I don’t know what I’d have done without her. The bond we built will never be broken.”
After the trauma Nicky went to live in Saudi Arabia and Dawn moved to America – but reunited 24 years on, this bond forged in adversity is clearly as strong as ever.
Dawn broke down and wept when she first saw Nicky again, saying: “I missed her a lot and felt like I needed to see her again just to say ‘thank you’.” And Nicky said: “I just wanted to tell Dawn and Alex that I love them to bits.”
Alex was just 36 hours old when she was abducted by unemployed nurse Janet Griffiths – no relation – who took her from her mother’s arms at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, claiming to be a health visitor.
The case made headlines around the world and even Princess Diana wrote to Dawn in a letter described as a “personal message from a mother to a mother”. Nicky was the calm at the centre of the storm. She recalled: “Dawn was absolutely distraught, she was shaking, it was so hard for her, but we quickly formed a bond.
“I was there when she woke up in the morning and I was there as she slept at night. I’d go home and be in floods of tears to my parents on the phone, but that got it out of me to go back.”
Nicky, now 47, admitted there were dark days when she feared they would never see Alex again. “It was hard, but I had to remain positive, that was my job,” she said.
Dawn, 44, agreed: “I didn’t know if she was dead, I didn’t know if she was alive, it was just emptiness.”
Dawn returned to her home town of Middlesbrough, where the agonising wait continued with Alex’s dad Geoffrey Harris.
Then two weeks after the abduction Alex was finally found, and Dawn and Geoffrey were reunited with her at Witney Police Station in Oxfordshire. Proud mum Dawn joked: “All I wanted to do was to show Nicky and say ‘this is Alex’.”
Nicky added: “Dawn’s smile seemed to go right around her head it was so big. Even big burly policemen were crying.”
Nicky became Alex’s godmother, but living on different continents the three did not see each other. Dawn said: “I was really, really sad because she was such a major part of my life.”
But while Dawn’s relationship with Geoffrey broke down and a subsequent marriage failed, her friendship with the woman who saw her through her darkest days has survived.
Brought face to face with Nicky again for BBC1’s Real Lives Reunited, Dawn said: “It was lovely for her to see Alex and how she is now.”