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 a flat in London. Forty-nine years later, he's trying to piece together what 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.

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

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 he could slip in the front door and make his way up two flights of stairs to the second floor. Outside Flat 39, he looked at the spot where someone - he believes his mother - placed him on the cold, concrete floor. 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.

"I was trying to imagine a young woman carrying a baby walking through the doors and leaving a baby on the floor in the corridor.

"I've been back a few times since and there's still an emotion associated with going there because that's the first location I can identify of me being somewhere. It's very poignant - there's a ghost there somewhere."

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

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

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

When he got his adoption papers in the late 1990s, he visited the flats where he was left 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 together made the front page of the Daily Mail, who nicknamed him the "rainbow baby" because of the coloured clothes he was found wearing.

"There had always been an itch to scratch. But what sparked my interest was having children of my own. Holding my baby son in my arms for the first time was a realisation that this was the first blood relative I had ever met."

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

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

Emotional reunion

The software 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 very close, she like a mother figure to him.

She is Welsh and had named him David after her father and brother, and drew inspiration for his middle name, Charles, from a colleague called Charlie. A magistrate gave David the surname Archer, saying a name beginning with "A" would give him a good start in life. Archer was replaced by Stevenson when David 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's something suspicious," he says. "It's almost as though the baby was somewhere else and for the purpose of calling the police the baby was put back on the floor again. My extremities were cold so I had been there for a while, on a cold floor."

The nephew of one couple who lived in Flat 36 came to the UK and took a DNA test to see if it matched 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.

There are many unanswered questions that push him forward in trying to piece together the events of that day, but he has his theories about what happened.

"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.

"Was she in desperate straits or was she a bit older and possibly even married and had an extramarital affair? One can imagine all sorts of possibilities."

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

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

"Those details I'm quite likely never to know unless my birth mother was to come forward and reveal all. A lot of people 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.

David says he has no anger towards his mother, accepting that she acted in a way she felt she had to. His adopted parents fully support his quest and are excited by it, and he hopes more details will emerge as he widens his search.

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