Elderly father refuses to give up hope

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SPAIN’S “stolen babies” drama does not go away but grows by the week.

Babies were routinely snatched from mothers in Franco’s prisons during and after the Civil War.

They were given – or sold – in adoption and the practice continued for decades.

Unmarried women and married women of modest means with several children and often illiterate were the principal victims.

The scandal emerged when adopted children wanted to contact their birth parents. Others doubted that their babies died at birth and tried to trace them.

Jesus Lizaso, a retired taxi-driver of 81 and his wife are amongst the latter.

He refuses to abandon the search for his child born in December 1972 in the La Pilar clinic in San Sebastian.

He remembers the nun who attempted to stop him seeing the dead baby his wife had supposedly given birth to. “‘No, no and no again!’ she shouted.”

“I stood my ground and told her I would not leave until I kissed my baby,” he said. Relenting, she told Jose to wait while the baby was washed. She reappeared with the body of a baby boy.

“He was very cold, wrapped in sheets. I was convinced it wasn’t my child’s body,” he recalled. The clinic would arrange for the baby to be buried, Jose was told.

He insisted on doing this himself and despite her protestations, he drove with the baby to the cemetery. When he arrived the gravedigger was waiting for him and told him to leave the body.

“I left the baby. We didn’t have more children.” The doctors told him that the child had died in the womb a week earlier, which Jose is convinced was a lie.

“A day before my wife went into labour, she said to me ‘see how the baby is moving!’ I put my hand on her belly and felt it myself,” he said.

Jose’s wife attended the La Pilar Clinic because taxi-drivers had an agreement with the clinic.

“They never sent a bill. I paid nothing,” he remembered. Years later, he met another taxi-driver who had a similar experience at the clinic. “They took his baby, too.”

A suspicious Jose returned to the clinic. “They wouldn’t hand over the case notes and said my wife had had a girl. But the baby they gave me was a boy. I saw him.”

“My wife is in a bad way. She cries a lot; she has never forgotten,” said Jose, who has lodged an official complaint with the Prosecution Department.

“That body they showed me was not my child,” he repeated. “It could never have been dead for so long. When I touched her belly it moved. It moved…”

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