MONTREAL — The mother of a day-old infant snatched from a Quebec hospital says she’s grateful to everyone who helped bring home her baby — especially the group of people who used social media to hunt down the alleged kidnapper.
Police issued an Amber Alert on Monday night after the newborn was abducted from the mother’s hospital room in Trois-Rivieres by a woman allegedly wearing scrubs and posing as a nurse.
The alert, which included a security-camera photo of the suspect and a description of her car, was splashed across mainstream and social media within minutes.
Four young locals wasted little time picking up the cause and guided police to the woman’s home, where officers found the baby safe and sound three hours later. Police also arrested a woman in her early 20s in connection with the kidnapping.
“Every click, every share made the difference,” Melissa McMahon, the infant’s mother, wrote Tuesday in a post on her Facebook page.
“Four marvellous people, whom we had the chance to meet, identified this woman thanks to Facebook … We felt a huge amount of support from the public. This victory is for you, too!!!”
The online detectives who helped find baby Victoria were identified as Charlene Plante, Marc-Andre Cote, Sharelle Bergeron and Melizanne Bergeron.
Melizanne Bergeron told reporters Tuesday in Trois-Rivieres that she came across the information about the kidnapping on Facebook and showed the photo of the suspect to her friend Plante, who realized the woman was her neighbour.
She said they spotted the vehicle described in the alert parked outside the building, saw signs that someone was inside and called police. Officers, she added, arrived on the scene quickly and broke down the woman’s door.
“Thirty seconds after, the baby was in the hands of the police,” said Melizanne Bergeron, who touched Victoria as the officer cradling her walked past.
“It was the best moment in my life. We were crying.”
Plante told reporters they went with police to the hospital, where McMahon and her spouse, Simon Boisclair, asked to meet the people who had helped rescue Victoria.
“The mother was crying and she was very happy,” said Plante, who received hugs and kisses in exchange for her sleuth-like work.
“I don’t realize it (yet), I’m just a person like (anybody else) and I saved a life.”
Asked if they considered themselves heroes, Melizanne Bergeron replied, “Yes, we are,” before saying most of the credit should go to Plante for recognizing the woman.
“It was a very big night,” said Melizanne Bergeron, who also posted a video Tuesday on her Facebook page of young women crying as they greeted a police officer carrying a tiny, blanket-wrapped baby.
“An evening rich in emotions,” read the video caption.
McMahon, who also thanked hospital staff, police, the media and the public for helping find Victoria, called those hours without her infant the worst of her life.
She and Boisclair posted a photo of themselves Tuesday holding Victoria.
“The powerlessness we felt in this situation was difficult to accept,” wrote McMahon, who said she sprinted after the woman toward the hospital exit after sensing something was wrong.
“The worst-possible scenarios were looping in our heads … To no longer have her in my arms after barely 16 hours of life was unreal.”
McMahon said patients and visitors near the door provided information about the suspect and her vehicle, described in the Amber Alert as a red Toyota Yaris hatchback with a “Baby on Board” sticker on the rear window.
Quebec provincial police Sgt. Claude Denis said it was too early to say whether the suspect would be arraigned Tuesday.
Possible criminal charges include kidnapping, Denis said.
“The suspect is in hospital right now and investigators will meet her when her condition allows for that,” he said in an interview.
He said a woman was dressed as a nurse when she entered the hospital room.
“She left the room with a little girl she had wrapped in a blanket,” Denis added.
Plante said she had seen police at the woman’s home in the past, but she did not know why.
A 2008 RCMP background document on infant abduction at Canadian maternity wards said this type of kidnapping was rare, but that such incidents have happened over the years.
The paper stated the cases led to training sessions for hospital employees to improve security. It said hospital staffers must remain on “high alert” and prepared to handle such an incident.
“The typical hospital abduction may involve a stranger,” says the document, produced by the RCMP’s National Missing Children Services.
“These persons sometimes pose as an employee, nurse or relative in order to gain access to the baby … The abductors are usually females who really want a baby of their own.”
McMahon urged parents to check a nurse’s badge and to always ask questions. She told the 98.5 FM radio station the suspect told her she needed to take Victoria to be weighed.
The mom said she wouldn’t have Victoria in her arms today without the help of the thousands of people who rapidly shared the Amber Alert and the photo of the suspect on social media.
McMahon asked that the public spread her latest message: “Thanks again and share one more time, please.”