Police, social workers and airport employees were soon on the scene with the abandoned child, who was determined by doctors to be about 10 days old. According to the Guardian, a social worker wrapped the cold baby in her scarf. The child’s clothes were wet, so the airport’s public relations staff used their tea money to buy him a new outfit. A police sergeant and father of three bought something to feed the baby, and even offered to take him home if the mother and father never materialized.
No one came forward. Instead, newspaper headlines across England began filling up with stories about the orphaned newborn. They dubbed him “Gary Gatwick” after the airport’s teddy-bear mascot. The boy was bundled off to foster care. For the next 20 years, as Wright would later say, she did not go a day without thinking about what happened to the little boy she discovered alone in the bathroom.
The details of the day would also eventually hound the boy himself, who was adopted by a local couple and christened Steve Hydes. After growing up in a loving household, and starting his own family with a partner, Hydes decided around 2004 to launch his own effort to fill in the blank spots of his backstory.
“I want [my mother] to know that I’m not angry with her and there will be no publicity if she comes forward,” Hydes told the Guardian in 2011. “But there are so many things I’d like to ask her, and so much I’d like to know about my background.”
After years of false starts and frustrating dead-ends, Hydes announced earlier this month he had discovered his birthparents. On a Facebook page set up to document his search, Hydes said genealogical research had led to the breakthrough.
But Hydes now only has part of the picture. “[W]e have been able to trace and confirm my birth family,” he wrote on Facebook earlier this month. “Unfortunately my birth mum has passed away so I am unable to find out exactly what happened and why.”
As Hydes told the Independent in 2016, the tragedy of his abandonment was countered by a loving childhood with his adoptive parents, Sandra and John, and three sisters. Hydes, now a landscape gardener, only began to wonder about his roots after he and his partner, Sammy, had their first child, a daughter named Alanna.
As he began his search in 2004, it became clear he was facing a difficult job. First, he assembled everything he could related to Gary Gatwick’s 15 minutes of fame. Press reports from the time documented the kindnesses showered on the abandoned boy on the day he was discovered.
According to the Guardian, the airport’s public relations team arranged for him to return to Gatwick to meet them — the police officer who fed him; the staffers who used their tea money for new clothes; the woman who wrapped the baby in her scarf; and Wright, the one who discovered him on the floor.
“They knew more about me in some ways than I knew about myself,” he told the paper. “What amazed me was how much they cared.”
Official documentation was less helpful. When Hydes requested the official police files from the investigation, he learned the paperwork had been destroyed.
Hydes was particularly troubled because the records would probably contain more information about one of the more interesting leads buried in the press reports: two days after he was found, a woman called the Gatwick police claiming to be the baby’s mother. According to the Guardian, the caller said she had been too young to have a baby, his name was Michael, and gave the name of another woman who would look after the child.
Police traced the caller down and interviewed her. The claims were dismissed. But the police files might have contained useful information.
Hydes’s search was equally frustrated by the location of where he had been abandoned. If the baby had been dropped at a church or police station, it would have anchored the search in a geographic location. But the baby was found in an airport — he could have been from anywhere. Hydes might not even be from England. He began collecting the records of every flight touching down and taking off that day at Gatwick.
In the early 2010s, a DNA test helped clear up some of his heritage. A population geneticist at the University of Edinburgh used Hydes’s Y chromosome to trace his male bloodline to England’s eastern side. But the testing at the time could only go so far.
In 2010, Hydes published an open letter to his mystery mother in a tabloid, the Guardian reported. It was a Hail Mary, a hope to finally nudge the woman to step forward.
“Of course I realise that she’s gone to a lot of trouble to stay hidden, both at the time and over the years,” Hydes told the Guardian a year later. “But times change, and circumstances change. It could be that, while she couldn’t acknowledge me in the past, she can now — or in the future.”
The letter did not get a reply.
Scientific strides would end up furnishing Hydes with his answer. According to his Facebook post, genetic genealogists — the same group of analysts who have helped solve so many cold cases in recent years — eventually tracked down his birth family.
Although his mother has passed away, Hydes was able to connect with his birth father and siblings from both parents, “who were all unaware of my existence,” he wrote.
However, the details of how he ended up abandoned in an airport bathroom on that day in 1986 are still unknown, he acknowledged.
“As you can imagine this is quite a sensitive issue to all involved and very new to us all, but I wanted to take this time to thank everyone for their continued support over the years,” he wrote.
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