Forty-three years ago this week, a baby boy was found abandoned in Walsh’s department store on Sheffield High Street.
The youngster, aged three to four weeks, was discovered wrapped in a blue checked blanket in the second-floor toilets, coyly called a powder room in an initial newspaper report.
He had been left lying on the floor in a cubicle with a plastic bag containing dried milk beside him.
He was taken to the Thornbury Annexe of the Children’s Hospital. Nurses gave him the name of Gerry, after police inspector Gerry Broad, who took him in.
Elizabeth Lee, aged 18, from Fulwood found the blue-eyed, auburn-haired baby and told a cloakroom attendant, who contacted police.
Some of the labels in Gerry’s clothing were in Spanish.
The store was described as being crowded and witnesses soon reported seeing a young couple carrying a baby in a blue-checked blanket up an escalator.
Police later released an artist’s impression of the young woman. The drawing shows a big-eyed girl with long, dark hair.
About a month later, the morning Telegraph reported: “There will be no happy family Christmas this year for two-month-old Baby Gerry.
“Auburn-haired Gerry, a bouncing 11-pound baby, will spend his first Christmas alone in his cot at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. For Gerry was abandoned by his mother six weeks ago.”
The paper reported that “big-hearted detectives and policewomen have clubbed together” to buy Gerry his first Christmas gift of a cuddly panda.
Det Insp Eddie Hepworth, who was leading the hunt for Gerry’s mother, said: “He is a beautiful baby, a really pleasant kiddy.
“Wherever the mother is who abandoned him, she should be having a few heart pangs now.”
Plans were being made to find Gerry a foster family and Insp Hepworth appealed for the mother to come forward so that they could look at adoption proceedings.
In January 1972, a young woman called Patricia Ann Hancox appeared before Sheffield magistrates, charged with abandoning baby Gerry.
It was revealed in court that the youngster was actually called Pablo David Hancox and he was born in Ibiza.
Patricia Ann, aged 23, whose address was given as Edgbaston, Birmingham, was a market researcher had worked as a tourist courier.
Her solicitor, Marian Norrie, described her as being of good character and from “an extremely good background”.
The court heard that Pablo’s father wanted Patricia Ann to go out to him in Ibiza, but without their baby.
When she appeared in Sheffield Crown Court in May 1972, the judge Mr Justice Chapman described Patricia Ann as “callous and selfish” and put her on probation for three years for abandoning Pablo in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering.
He said that the sentence was designed not to add to the punishment she had already inflicted on herself.
The youngster was likely to be adopted, the court heard, although the signature of the father was needed to go ahead. Patricia Ann was said to be reluctant to go ahead but realised it was the best course of action.
Paul Kennedy, defending, said Patricia Ann had suffered many knocks without anyone to turn to for advice.
He said that she became desperate when the baby’s father had not followed her from Spain and had left little Pablo where she hoped he would quickly be taken care of.
Michael Walker, prosecuting, explained that she was traced when a Spanish coffee bar proprietor recognised the baby on a poster.
Patricia Ann had been working for a travel firm in Ibiza and Majorca and had delivered the baby herself in a block of flats.
In May 1973 The Star reported that Patricia Ann had gone missing and Sheffield social services, who had the care of Pablo, were trying to trace her.
There’s nothing else in our files to indicate what happened to Patricia Ann or baby Pablo. It’s certainly a very sad story, though.