Sun | Dec 3, 2023

Baby snatchers! - Experts say desperation and mental illness among the factors leading to the abduction of children

Published:Friday | January 11, 2019 | 12:00 AMCarlene Davis
Walton Evans (left) kisses the head of his baby girl being held by Detective Eulett Lewis in St James while the child’s mother, Latoya White, looks on, after the abducted baby was recovered by the cops.

The abduction of two babies in less than a week has sparked fresh debate about the reasons Jamaicans, mainly women, would want to snatch babies to whiom they did not give birth.

Psychiatrist and Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the University of the West Indies Frederick Hickling argues that the pressure society places on women to have children could be one of the factors.

"There is a cultural thing in this country where there are a lot of women who don't feel complete if they don't have a baby, and, therefore, they will go to very strange ends to meet those needs that they have," Hickling told The Sunday Gleaner as he listed mental illness as another possible factor.

"There are certain kinds of mental illnesses that would make women want to do that kind of stuff. In other words, if they become mentally depressed enough, they could attempt that kind of situation. The other reason, psychologically, is that they have some form of personality disorder, where they don't have any children and they just see an opportunity and they take it.

"It's really not something that we should pathologise. I don't think we should try and make it into a sickness. We have to recognise that people who will do that are in need of something, and that they are prepared to steal to get what they want. Clearly, it's a very cruel act," added Hickling.

Responding to claims that persons who want a child could always adopt, Hickling said that while he encouraged this route, the process could be difficult and could turn people off.

"It's very common in this culture that a family will adopt a child within the family. That has always happened in the Jamaican environment, but there are occasions when there are women who don't have that opportunity, and, therefore, they take matters into their own hands.

"I think they should really apply to the Adoption Board and go the legal route of trying to have a child. The adoption process in Jamaica is difficult. In most countries, it's difficult, but it is very difficult here. I think the Adoption Board should really try to open up the facilities for adoption to take place more readily," said Hickling.

He argues that there are many women who just want to have a child, with the most important thing in their lives being to have a child.


Not Unusual


"So it is not an unusual thing for a young woman who doesn't have a child to want to have one, and so I think we need to be more understanding about the problem and understanding about women who want to have this experience," said Hickling.

For psychiatrist Dr Yvonnie Bailey-Davidson, infertility, miscarriage, or the death of a child can also push someone towards abducting a child.

"She can be infertile, or the man can be, so the couple doesn't have children, and the couple wants children, so they have an arrangement to steal somebody's child," said Bailey-Davidson.

"For some people, the mother is desperate to have a baby for her man, and there's no baby, so she goes and takes one. Also, if the mother herself lost the baby and she wants a baby to represent the one that was lost, then they would also steal a baby," added Bailey-Davidson.

She said that depending on the mother's state of mind, it would determine how the baby would be treated.

"Sometimes, they treat them as their own, and sometimes they can get angry and frustrated with the baby and might abuse them. It depends on the state of mind they are in," said Bailey-Davidson.

On December 10, 2016, a day-old baby was snatched at the University Hospital of the West Indies. The baby was found five hours later and a woman arrested and charged.

The woman, who is 47 years old, later said that she took the baby because she had told her common-law husband that she was pregnant and had given birth and wanted to present him with the baby when he arrived from overseas.

On Friday, January 4, 2019, a three-week-old baby was abducted from the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, St James. That baby was found two days later by the police and a 26-year-old female arrested and charged.

In another incident, a day-old baby was abducted from the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston last Wednesday. Up to press time yesterday, the police were still searching for that baby.