Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sri Lanka family reunited with abducted baby on Christmas Eve

COLOMBO (AFP) — The abduction of a newborn boy from a Sri Lankan hospital ended happily on Christmas Eve with police finding the baby after a search that kept the nation on tenterhooks.

"We are Buddhists but prayers from everyone helped. Yes, this is our Christmas baby," the child's father Wasantha Fernando told reporters after he and his wife were reunited with the baby at a police station here.

A round-the-clock search by police led them to a woman who allegedly grabbed the boy, named Gavishra, hours after he was born last week while his mother was in the restroom of a Colombo hospital.

President Mahinda Rajapakse thanked the police for their efforts in quickly solving the case and spoke with the officers to convey his gratitude, spokesman Chandrapala Liyanage said.

"The president was very pleased to hear that the baby had been found," Liyanage said. "This was a case which attracted attention of everyone and the president is very happy with the work of the investigators."

The parents thanked police and the media for keeping the story in the public eye.

Thousands of people had called in with information that led authorities early Monday to Gavishra and the alleged kidnapper, police said.

Fernando and his wife Shamalee, 29, sobbing with relief, said they were overjoyed their nightmare had ended.

"We had not done any harm to anyone so we knew we would find the baby," Fernando said.

Tears ran down the parents' cheeks while week-old Gavishra, dressed in a blue shirt, slept cradled in his mother's arms as photographers mobbed them.

Two more newborns were abducted from the same Colombo South hospital in the past two years and police said they were questioning the same woman in connection with those cases.

"We want to see if there has been an organised racket in selling stolen babies," police deputy-inspector general N. K. Illangakoon said, adding that hospital staff were under investigation for possible collusion.