Share on Facebook  |  More Articles

Published Wednesday November 4th, 2009 at 6:01pm

Original Article by Tom Geoghegan

When just a few days old, David Stevenson was abandoned outside aflat in London. Forty-nine years later, he's trying to piece togetherwhat happened on that fateful day in 1960.

Taking a deep breath, David Stevenson felt like he was opening his life story and about to read the first page.

Inside the red-brick mansion building in front of him, in the winter sunshine, lay the clues to his true identity.

Heimagined being carried through those front doors in his mother's arms,38 years before, then her leaving empty-handed, never to see her sonagain.

This was his first visit, in 1998, to the flats in north London where he was abandoned as a newborn baby.

Retracing his mother's steps, he waited for someone to leave so hecould slip in the front door and make his way up two flights of stairsto the second floor. Outside Flat 39, he looked at the spot wheresomeone - he believes his mother - placed him on the cold, concretefloor. If it was her, it was the last time they were ever together.

"My story starts at that point. Everything I know about my life since then starts there.

"Iwas trying to imagine a young woman carrying a baby walking through thedoors and leaving a baby on the floor in the corridor.

"I'vebeen back a few times since and there's still an emotion associatedwith going there because that's the first location I can identify of mebeing somewhere. It's very poignant - there's a ghost there somewhere."

At 5pm on 15 December 1960, the police station in Golders Greenreceived a phone call to say a newborn baby had been left abandoned inWest Heath Court.

As one of the few female officers, Wpc TegwenCurl was sent to the scene, where she saw a crowd of residents in thecorridor around the baby, which was still on the floor outside Flat 39.

"My overwhelming feeling is that I was left in that particular blockof flats on that particular floor for a reason and there's a connectionwith someone who had lived there at the time."

When he got hisadoption papers in the late 1990s, he visited the flats where he wasleft and looked at old newspapers to see what was reported at the time.He was stunned to find he and President John F Kennedy had togethermade the front page of the Daily Mail, who nicknamed him the "rainbowbaby" because of the coloured clothes he was found wearing.

"Therehad always been an itch to scratch. But what sparked my interest washaving children of my own. Holding my baby son in my arms for the firsttime was a realisation that this was the first blood relative I hadever met."

Attempts to find his parents were half-hearted andhe had no idea how he would go about it, until his partner Julie Howellspurred him into action a year ago.

David (front) was adopted and had a happy childhood.

Emotional reunion

Thesoftware product manager, who lives in Watford and has three sons,began investigating who had lived in those flats at the time.

He immediately ruled out the elderly widow in Flat 39 and presumed he had been moved there by someone else in the corridor.

David and Julie tracked down the officer who found him, Mrs Curl,and the two had an emotional reunion. They have since become veryclose, she like a mother figure to him.

She is Welsh and hadnamed him David after her father and brother, and drew inspiration forhis middle name, Charles, from a colleague called Charlie. A magistrategave David the surname Archer, saying a name beginning with "A" wouldgive him a good start in life. Archer was replaced by Stevenson whenDavid was later adopted.

Mrs Curl told him it had immediately struck her as odd that the baby had not been gathered up in someone's arms.

"There'ssomething suspicious," he says. "It's almost as though the baby wassomewhere else and for the purpose of calling the police the baby wasput back on the floor again. My extremities were cold so I had beenthere for a while, on a cold floor."

The nephew of one couplewho lived in Flat 36 came to the UK and took a DNA test to see if itmatched David's but it was negative, so he was ruled out as a relative.

The focus for David and Julie's investigation is now on a man called Richard Hamer, who lived on that second floor at the time.

David would like to speak to anyone related to Mr Hamer, who died in 1978.

Thereare many unanswered questions that push him forward in trying to piecetogether the events of that day, but he has his theories about whathappened.

"What drives me forward with this search is trying to discover the truth and the circumstances that led me to be left there.

"Why did it happen? Did a young woman in her teens get pregnant? The social mores at the time looked down on unmarried mothers.

"Wasshe in desperate straits or was she a bit older and possibly evenmarried and had an extramarital affair? One can imagine all sorts ofpossibilities."

David says he was relieved to find the block was not shabby.

A doctor who examined the baby David soon after he was discoveredestimated he was about four days old, and his new birth certificate puthis birthday as 10 December, which is the date David accepts andcelebrates.

"Those details I'm quite likely never to knowunless my birth mother was to come forward and reveal all. A lot ofpeople take these things for granted but I can't."

Many other people can empathise with David, as there are dozens of babies that are abandoned in the UK each year, and what happens to them is an issue covered by the Magazine in the past.

Davidsays he has no anger towards his mother, accepting that she acted in away she felt she had to. His adopted parents fully support his questand are excited by it, and he hopes more details will emerge as hewidens his search.

"I do feel a bit incomplete. It's part of myidentity and part of my children's identity. Doing this story is aboutpursuing information for them, as well as for me."