One year on: New appeal to find mother after death of baby abandoned in Tesco bag outside Leeds church

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Police are still trying to find the mother who abandoned a newborn baby in a Tesco Bag For Life outside a Leeds church - exactly one year later.

Only the hardest of hearts could have failed to be moved by the discovery of a newborn baby left under cover of darkness outside a Leeds vicarage a year ago today.

The carrier bag in which the baby was found outside a Leeds church

The carrier bag in which the baby was found outside a Leeds church

Swaddled in a blue striped towel and white men’s shirt, the little boy had been placed in a Tesco Bag for Life which read: “It’s What’s Inside That Counts.”

And it was that bag which was spotted by the Rev Paul Crabb as he set off to lead the morning service at St Peter’s Church in Bramley on November 23.

Nobody knows for certain when the white baby boy was left near the door to the vicarage, but Mr Crabb’s wife had not noticed anything outside when she returned home at around 10pm the previous night.

That night had been a cold one and paramedics would try without success to revive the newborn, who was later pronounced dead at Leeds General Infirmary.

Candles left outside the church for the baby

Candles left outside the church for the baby

Naturally, police and others had grave concerns for the wellbeing of the baby’s unidentified mother who may well have been alone as she gave birth.

It was quickly established that her son had reached full term and the placenta was still attached, so in all likelihood he had been left at the church soon after he was born.

But one of the enduring mysteries is whether it was the mother herself or someone else who visited the vicarage, which is not readily identifiable to those unfamiliar with the area.

While the police focused on establishing the mother’s identity so that she could get any supported needed, the local community were also inspired to act by the tragic events.

Floral tributes, teddy bears and notes began to appear outside the church in Hough Lane as news of the baby’s death became more widely known.

Members of the press gathered there later that day to witness lead investigator Detective Nicola Bryar making the first of several public appeals.

Speaking at the time, she said: “The death of this baby boy in these circumstances is a real human tragedy and we need to establish exactly how this situation has come about.
“The last thing we need is for that tragedy to be compounded by the ongoing risks to the mother which is why we urgently need to find her.”

Two days later, the church continued to be the focal point of the community response as prayers were said for the boy and his mother during an outdoor ceremony.

Among the 50 or so people in attendance were local residents and staff from nearby St Peter’s Primary School.

Lisa Longbottom, who lived locally, said: “I hope they find the mum. Having given birth three times myself, I know it is traumatic at the best of times so for her now to be on her own and the state she must be in... it’s heartbreaking.”

Fellow Bramley resident David Kennedy added: “I just hope they find his mum safe and well – that’s the main concern now. It’s tragic.”

People lit candles, paused silently together in reflection and added bouquets of flowers to the growing tributes.

Addressing the crowd gathered, Mr Crabb said: “We’re here to be together, to share our sadness and to express our love for a little boy we never knew, yet whose death has changed our lives.

"We gather to hold in our hearts his mother, hoping and praying that she will find the help that she needs.”

Meanwhile, Haley Hodgson set up an online appeal to raise funds for a headstone for the baby and this swiftly surpassed its £1,500 target.
She wrote: “The circumstances surrounding his birth, who gave birth to him, where and how he was born are unknown. What we do know to be true and all share is the sadness, grief and loss of this beautiful baby boy.”

Many of those donating also left messages of condolence.

One anonymous, but particularly fitting, message read: “His mother may not have been able to hold him but this baby was embraced by the people of Bramley.”