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Long Lost Family

  • Episode:

    10 of 10

  • Title:

    Born Without Trace: What Happened Next

  • Transmission (TX):

    Tue 14 Sep 2021

  • TX Confirmed


  • Time

    9.00pm - 10.00pm

  • Week:

    Week 37 2021 : Sat 11 Sep - Fri 17 Sep

  • Channel:


  • Published:

    Wed 01 Sep 2021

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Long Lost Family Special
Born Without Trace: What Happened Next

Over the past four years, 30 foundlings abandoned as babies have contacted the Long Lost Family team to help unlock the secrets of their pasts. Incredibly, through DNA testing and detective work, many of them have found answers and their identities have been discovered. But it’s not always the end of the story.

In this special episode of the BAFTA-winning series Long Lost Family Born Without Trace, presented by Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell, the search continues to unfold for two foundlings left either side of the Irish border, as more shocking secrets are uncovered and suspicions are confirmed at last.  

Just over eighteen months ago, DNA revealed that foundlings David McBride and Helen Ward, left as newborns on either side of the Irish border, were full brother and sister. Davina explains: “We thought the case of David and Helen was solved, but incredibly, new information keeps coming to light that we could never have imagined.”

David McBride started life in the most extraordinary circumstances. On a winter’s night in 1962, he was wrapped in a shawl, placed in a tartan bag, and left in the front seat of a car on the outskirts of Belfast.

When we first met David in October 2019, the street where he was found was the only clue to his beginnings. David visited the newspaper archives to find out more about his start in life. Looking down at the first photo of himself ever taken, he shared his thoughts on being left as a 2-week-old baby: “I’m sad that it happened. I’m sad for myself… but I’m also sad for my mother because it must have been heart-breaking for her.” In pursuit of answers, David shared his story in a national media campaign, but got no closer to identifying his birth parents. With nowhere left to turn, he submitted his DNA to an online database.

David had no idea at the time, but another Irish foundling was on the same DNA database. Helen Ward was left six years after David on the other side of the Irish border, in Dundalk, in a telephone box. In October 2019, Helen re-visited a former adoption centre that she’d come to earlier in life, hoping to find out her birth mother’s name. Helen was given a birth certificate, which describes her parentage as ‘unknown’. She reflected: “It broke my heart that day before I left. It absolutely broke my heart.” 

Like David, Helen felt she had no choice but to share her story on national radio, and it led to an unexpected reunion with the man who found her in a telephone box as a baby. In 1968, retired truck driver Donal Boyle had stopped to make a call when he came across Helen, wrapped up warmly in a tartan bag with a bottle of milk next to her. Donal revealed to Helen that he spotted a woman at the scene and Helen wondered if it could have been her birth mother: “Who was it? I don’t know. But whoever it was they just didn’t walk away until they knew that I was safe.” 

Despite David and Helen being found six years apart in remarkably similar circumstances, nobody connected the two foundlings until the Long Lost Family search team used DNA to establish that they were in fact full brother and sister. Back in 2019, Davina met with David to share the news and Nicky met with Helen, who explained how astonishing it is to find a brother after a lifelong search. Later the same month, they met for the first time, just next to the Irish border, which separated them as they grew up. Helen said: “After 51 years, it’s a miracle, it really is.”

But there was more to come. Three months later the search team made further progress and were able to identify David and Helen’s birth parents, both sadly deceased. It’s revealed that the siblings were born out of a forbidden relationship which spanned decades, and that David and Helen have multiple half-siblings on their birth father’s side. Helen says of her mother: “It must have taken a huge amount of thought to have to give us up for the man she loved, but that was perhaps her only way.”

We catch up with Helen and David in the present, and Helen mentions another Irish foundling whom she’d heard rumours of, starting an intriguing new mystery. She speculates whether this third foundling has any connection to her and David. To find out more, we meet journalist Paul Murphy, who lived in Drogheda in the 1960s. He describes a remarkable discovery he made in the middle of the night, aged 21 - a baby found in a telephone box, left in a holdall bag with a warm bottle of milk. 

Paul called a local newspaper the very next day and the story made headline news. He says: “The baby’s image has never left me.”

Knowing there was a third Irish foundling left in the 1960s, could David and Helen’s parents have been forced to leave another baby? 

Produced by Wall to Wall for ITV.