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Long Lost Family Special: Born Without Trace

  • Episode:

    1 of 1

  • Transmission (TX):

    Mon 25 Feb 2019

  • TX Confirmed


  • Time

    9.00pm - 10.30pm

  • Week:

    Week 09 2019 : Sat 23 Feb - Fri 01 Mar

  • Channel:


  • Published:

    Tue 12 Feb 2019

The information contained herein is embargoed from all Press, online, social media, non-commercial publication or syndication - in the public domain - until Tuesday 19 February 2019.


Long Lost Family Special: Born Without Trace


“I was straight out of the womb and put into a pillowcase and left on the doorstep…where is my history? Where did I come from? Being a foundling, I’ve got nothing” Alley Lofthouse


“Somewhere in this vicinity, my birth mother felt she had no choice but to abandon me.” Jamie Duffy


Foundlings are people who were abandoned as babies, often in the first hours and days of their lives. Born without a trace, they have had no way to unlock the secrets of their past. But this ground-breaking new 90-minute documentary combines new DNA technology with painstaking detective work, to finally help solve the mysteries of people with unknown beginnings who are desperate for answers. Presented by Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell, the team behind Long Lost Family use an extraordinary new technique to try and identify birth families and find answers for people who have spent decades trying to find out where they came from. 


This special programme features a man who was found as a newborn in a hospital car park, a woman left at five days old in a cardboard box in Manchester and a woman abandoned on a doorstep in Scotland. All three are desperate to piece together their pasts and find answers, with astonishing and at times, heart-breaking, results.


One of the most famous foundling cases to hit the headlines was Jamie Duffy. Thirty years ago, newborn Jamie was wrapped in a towel, placed in a carrier bag and left in the grounds of a hospital in Portsmouth. Appeals to find his mother at the time led to a woman calling a police hotline in tears, to say that she couldn’t look after him. A copy of the recording is all that Jamie has from the person he believes to be his mum. 


Two months after being found, Jamie was adopted and at 14, his parents told him the truth about his start in life. But his birth mother was never found. Jamie says: “I recall having a conversation with my mum and it got a bit emotional because I just couldn’t grasp as to why someone would abandon a child at such a young age…Having been abandoned you feel that you’re not wanted, unloved, sort of discarded. There must be very strong circumstances to leave me. I want to know why it happened.”


Jamie does a DNA test, with a new glimmer of hope of finding his blood relatives. In the meantime, Nicky contacts him as the team have successfully traced one of the girls who found him in the grounds of the hospital and is desperate to meet him. Marie was just 11 years old when she found Jamie as a baby and they have a very emotional reunion. Marie takes Jamie back to the hospital to show him the exact spot where she found him.


Marie says: “We’d been out playing and it was on our way back home, we heard a small noise and the bag was moving. We thought it was kittens and pulled the front part of the carrier bag back and you were just looking up at us.”


Meanwhile, Jamie’s DNA is analysed by online DNA databases, which compare his DNA with millions of others who have already tested and can come up with matches with people who are biologically related. Leading DNA detective Julia Bell and renowned specialist in tracing missing family, Ariel Bruce, work together to try and identify his family members. Incredibly, they find a match for a close relative and are then able to investigate how they were related.


Ariel explains to Davina: “We made contact with various people within the wider family group and asked whether they would consider undertaking tests for us. And several people did. We then worked out who Jamie’s mother was. She had been living in the right area at the right time.”


From further detective work they also have an idea who his father is and make contact. It’s early days and will take time to resolve. Jamie is told the news away from the camera, before being visited at home by Davina.


Jamie explains: “Everything is still sinking in really slowly. I went into this hoping that I’d find my mum, not expecting to find my mum and my dad…it’s just mind-blowing and amazing. We don’t know how well she’s coped with it…I want to be able to forgive her and tell her that it’s alright. I’ve turned out to have a wonderful family of my own and the life that I have had has been wonderful.” 


Karen Waterton was abandoned in a cardboard box on a doorstep in Manchester when she was just five-days-old. Sixty years on, Karen re-visits the place where she was left, which is now a car park. Karen explains: “I think my birth mother left me there knowing that I would be found because I was well looked after and I was warm. That means an awful lot to me to know that.”


Karen was taken into care and then adopted at five months old, she grew up just a few miles away in Manchester. After having children of her own and aware of her adoption but not the circumstances of how she came to be adopted, at age 38 Karen asked to see her adoption file to find out who her birth mother was. The first thing she saw inside her file was the word ‘abandoned’. Karen says: “I just felt devastated, but shocked as well. I was just not expecting to read that, in any way. It made me feel like rubbish. Like, I didn’t exist…I just went home and cried and cried and cried and cried.”


Ever since discovering that she was a foundling, Karen has spent 20 years searching for her birth mother, desperate to know what led her to behave in such a desperate way.


The team incredibly find a half-sister on one of the DNA databases, who must either have the same mother or father as Karen. The chromosome results show that they share a father but further investigation reveals that he sadly died many years earlier. Karen is given the difficult news off camera before Davina visits her to explain more about who her father was. Karen says: “Oh my gosh I really came from somewhere, I didn’t just appear in the street one night.”


Karen is also overwhelmed to learn the good news that her half-sister has been found and would like to meet her away from the cameras. Karen says afterwards: “We literally got on from the beginning, just really natural in a way. I could see physical similarities between all of us.”


A first cousin is then identified related via her mother, who was one of five sisters, one of whom therefore has to be Karen’s mother. The sisters have all sadly passed away but the team manage to test one of the other children and the results show she is Karen’s half-sister, therefore confirming who Karen’s birth mother was. 


Nicky meets Karen’s half-sister Kim, who had no idea she had a sister or that her mother left Karen as a baby. Kim says: “We were very poor, my mum struggled feeding and keeping me but she wasn’t a bad mum at all.”


Kim is desperate to meet Karen and tell her all about their birth mother. Davina visits Karen to tell her about Kim and to show her a photograph of her birth mum. The sisters have an emotional meeting in Manchester. Karen says: “Sixty years of age and not knowing anything about my past, who I am. And now, I know who my birth dad is, my birth mum.  I can see where I come from. It makes me feel complete. It’s unbelievable.”


Foundling Alley Lofthouse was just a few hours old when she was discovered on a doorstep in a block of flats in Grangemouth, Scotland in 1967, wrapped in a pillowcase. Alley appeared on Long Lost Family in 2015 desperately searching for information about her birth mother. In 2003, she discovered she had a younger half-brother, who had also been abandoned as a baby. Alley says: “The fact that we were both foundlings made it even more difficult. It meant my natural mother had abandoned two babies and I felt it would be even more difficult for her to come forward.” 


Having exhausted all other options, the DNA search is Alley’s last hope to identify her mother. Alley’s initial matches are distant cousins but then a new, close match comes in. The team discover Alley has a half-sister on the DNA database and believe they share a mother, who has sadly passed away but further research confirms they have identified Alley’s mum. Nicky meets Alley’s sister Anne at her home in Plymouth and she is still struggling with the news that her mother abandoned two babies within 18 months. 


Anne says: “I can’t get my head round it. When Alley was born I’d have been 10. We lived with my nana, my brother and sister, and she (my mum) managed to hide it from everybody.”


Alley is given the news off camera that her mum passed away in 2007 and Davina visits her with more information and to explain that Anne would love to meet her. Alley is overwhelmed to meet her big sister and tells her: “My heart hurts with the emotion of it all…. I’m just looking at your hands, you have the same skin as me, exactly the same….I never ever really thought I would be lucky enough to find you...”


Alley reflects: “To be a foundling means that you have no roots, you have no connection. But I’ve got some answers. I know the answers to who I am, the answers to where I came from, I have those and that is, that’s phenomenal.”


Produced by Wall to Wall Media for ITV.