Stolen at birth: Police save baby from abductor in Voi

Medics at the Moi County Referral Hospital in Voi, Taita Taveta, examine a newborn moments after she was recovered from a woman who allegedly stole him at the facility. The suspect is being held at the Voi police station.  

Photo credit: Lucy Mkanyika I Nation Media Grou

On Monday morning, Ambrose Maundu and his wife Kezzy Wawira checked into the Moi County Referral Hospital in Voi, Taita Taveta County, for an elective Caesarean delivery of their firstborn son.

After some tests by the hospital's gynaecologist, the couple were informed that the surgery would take place on Tuesday at 10am.

Mr Maundu told the Nation that he went home that night excited that he would be a father the next day, unaware that his newborn son would disappear under unclear circumstances.

"When I came here on Tuesday morning, I was told that my wife was in the theatre. They told me they took her for surgery at 2am," he said.

Although he questioned why he had not been informed of the new developments, he was asked to wait for his wife and baby. 

A nurse at the maternity hospital did not tell him that his son, whom he had named Raphaela Mwakima, was missing.

"I waited until 1.30pm, then I demanded to see my wife and child. They told me that the baby had been stolen. I was devastated," he said.

He was told that his wife had already been informed of the incident and that the matter had been reported to the police.

After hours of frantic searching by police, hospital and family, a 31-year-old woman was caught with the baby on Tuesday night at her home in Mabomani village, on the outskirts of Voi town.

The woman, who is 28 weeks pregnant, had reported to the hospital's maternity ward on Monday night claiming to be in labour.

According to the hospital report, the suspect disappeared a few hours later with the baby, who was in the neonatal ward waiting to be reunited with his mother, who was recovering from surgery.

The hospital management said the nurse in charge had rushed to the casualty to receive a pregnant woman referred from Mwatate sub-county hospital for an emergency Caesarean section.

When the nurse returned to where she had left the baby, she could not find it and the woman was also missing.

She reported the matter to management and the police.

The hospital and police were able to trace the suspect through her husband's phone number, which had been used to pay for tests at the Lancet laboratory in Voi town.

"I thank God because I got my baby back. It was a long day and at one point I had given up. But the hospital should close such loopholes to avoid such incidents in the future," said Mr Maundu.

Voi police chief Bernastain Shari said they were investigating the suspect and then she would be charged at the Voi Law Court for stealing the baby.

Mr Shari said police were also investigating whether the suspect was part of a child theft syndicate and how she managed to escape from the hospital without being spotted by security guards. 

"We don't understand why a pregnant woman who has other children would steal a baby. We are investigating whether she is part of a child stealing syndicate," he said.

She told police that she had given birth in a private facility, but when asked for the baby's identification papers, she told investigators that she had lost them.

The hospital's medical superintendent, Dr Jeremiah Shem, said the hospital regretted the incident and had taken steps to prevent such occurrences in the future.

"From tomorrow, we will ensure that we install more CCTV cameras around the hospital," said Dr Shem.