He looked at his watch, four-thirty! What the hell? He was about to pull the covers over his head when he heard it again.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
It sounded like someone was trying to kick in his front door. He jumped out of bed, and looked out of the window, he saw the police car, two uniformed officers were stood at the front door. He pulled on his dressing gown and ran downstairs.
‘I bet it’s that bloody alarm again! Richard is meant to be on duty tonight!’
He opened the door and was about to go into his usual apology for wasting their time, but he stopped, ‘it’s not the alarm’ he thought.
“May we come in sir?”
He could tell from the look on their faces that this had nothing to do with work, he stepped back to allow them inside, his heart pounded inside his chest. They walked into the lounge, he followed, the male officer turned and told him that he might like to sit down. He declined, he was getting nervous.
“Please, just tell me what this is all about.”
It was the female officer who spoke.
“It’s your daughter sir.”
“My daughter? What’s happened, she’s only just been born? Is she okay?”
He was panicking now, desperate for answers.
“Sir, please, try to remain calm. It appears that she’s been abducted.”
He couldn’t stop himself, he fell back onto the sofa, his legs would no longer support him, he sat and stared at the officers. He struggled to comprehend what she’d just said.
“Abducted? How? She’s in hospital.”
“Sir, I don’t have all the details, we need you to come with us, your wife, she needs you.”
This seemed to focus his attention.
“My God Susan! Oh, Susan. Of course, I’ll need to get ready.”
He managed to get to his feet and rushed upstairs to his bedroom. The male officer went with him and stood outside his room as he dressed. As he did, he bombarded the officer with questions which he did his best to respond to, but he knew very little other than what he had been told by the sergeant who had sent them to get him.
The journey to the hospital was rapid, sirens and flashing lights, he walked into her room, a doctor and nurse were attending to her. When she saw Alan, she broke down.
“She’s gone, Alan! Someone’s taken our little girl!”
Her whole body shook as she cried, he had never seen his wife like this before, he’d never seen anyone like this before, there was grief, and then there was what he was looking at. All he could do was hold her as she sobbed. As he held her the doctor took her arm and Alan watched as he injective a sedative, the doctor looked at him.
“She’ll be asleep soon Mr Charlton, we need to keep her blood pressure under control, she’s bleeding again, and right now, my priority is your wife, this will help, and the sleep will do her good.”
Alan looked back at his wife lying asleep as he left the room, his eyes fell onto the empty crib at the foot of her bed where a few hours ago he had kissed his daughter goodbye. After Alan had left, the doctor told the nurse to remove the crib from the room.
Dazed, he was taken to one of the relatives' room, with a couple of sofas, chairs and a large table with chairs placed around it, the place was full of people. Everyone turned to face him as he entered, he looked around the room, in front of him were a couple of detectives, a doctor, a nurse, two uniformed officers, close to the door, and two men in suits, looking very nervous. One of the detectives walked towards him as Alan couldn’t contain himself any longer.
“Can somebody tell me what the hell happened here. And where my daughter is?”
The lead detective approached him and spoke calmly.
“Mr Charlton, please, why don’t you sit down, and I’ll tell you everything that we know.”
Alan wasn’t interested in sitting down but was eventually persuaded to sit at the table and was joined by the doctor and the men in suits, then the detective summarised what they knew.
“Okay, Alan, I’m Detective Inspector Rogers, and this is my colleague, DS Collins, and, from what we know so far, which is not a lot, it appears that a woman, dressed as a nurse, entered your wife’s room. You wife was awake briefly, she remembers the nurse, she told her that they needed to do some checks on your daughter. You wife fell asleep when the nurse left.”
The doctor interrupted him.
“Sir, your wife was still under the influence of the medication we had given her, she wouldn’t have been able to stay awake. I am surprised that she even remembers what she has.”
The detective continued and explained that they had found CCTV footage of a woman leaving the hospital with what looked like a bundle under her coat. That bundle, they assumed, was his daughter. The time was three-fifty-four is.
Alan just stared down at the desk, he did not respond, the detective continued.
“It wasn’t until four-thirty when a nurse came in to check on your wife that it was noticed that your daughter was not in her crib. The alarm was raised, and, well, here we are.”
There were a few moments of silence before Alan finally responded.
“You mean to tell me, that someone, came into this hospital, and just walked into my wife’s room and took our daughter out of the hospital, and no-one noticed? No-one tried to stop her?”
He was starting to raise his voice.
“Mr Charlton, we are cooperating fully with the Police on this matter, we are doing everything we can to help them find your daughter.”
Alan slowly raised his head and turned to look at who had spoken to him, he glared at the man in the suit.
“And who the hell are you?”
“Sir, I am David Thompson, I am CEO of this hospital trust.”
Alan inhaled, he pressed his palms into the desk, he could feel himself getting close to exploding.
“I see, and you are here I presume, to make sure that I don’t make a scene, or take you and the trust for everything that you own!”
The detective gently put a hand on Alan’s arm, Alan pulled his arm away.
“I’m okay, I’m not going to hit him.”
After a few seconds, he stood up and walked away from the table.
“Detective Rogers, can you get these people out of here? Before I do something that will get me arrested.”
The men looked at him, and then at DI Rogers, Alan continued.
“Either they leave, or I do! And I go straight to the press!”
Reluctantly, the executives left the room. Alan, now seated on one of the sofas, was joined by the two officers. They went over what they expected to happen over the next twenty-four hours. Alan struggled to take it all in, he heard them tell him about the alerts at all the UK airports and seaports, but he couldn’t understand how someone could walk in and take his daughter away.
He shook his head and looked up at the senior detective, he explained that they had found the car that they had used to leave the hospital, it was abandoned just outside Durham, out of sight of any CCTV cameras. As expected, it was stolen, DI Rogers explained that their Forensic team would examine the car and try to get any evidence that might identify the perpetrators.
He spoke about what might be expected of Alan over the coming days and the involvement of the press. Alan knew that he meant a press conference, but he didn’t think that he’d be up to the task.
“Alan, I know it sounds awful, but we will need the full cooperation of the press on this, I urge you not to rule it out. You will get all the support you need, we have specialists who will help you get through it.”
The meeting ended as more officers entered the room and began to set up laptops, and move desks in, it had now become their incident room.
He was woken by the gentle shake of a nurse. He looked around, he was back in the relative's room. She told him that his wife was awake. He shook himself awake and he stood and followed the nurse. He paused outside the door to her room, he looked at the nurse.
“What do I say to her?”
She put her hand on his arm.
“Just be there for her, you must be there for each other, this is a challenging time for you both, not just her.”
He took a deep breath and then slowly pushed the door, she looked up as he entered, and as soon as she saw him, the tears began to fall. He rushed to her side and held her as she sobbed.
“She’s gone Alan, she’s gone.”
A nurse slipped quietly into the room, did some checks on her drips, made a few adjustments and as she left, she whispered that she may start to feel sleepy again, Alan nodded and held his wife whilst he reassured her that everyone was working hard to find Alice, he stayed with her until she fell asleep. He held her as she slept, his eyes focussed on the foot of her bed, where less than twenty-four hours ago, their daughter slept.
He was woken gently by a nurse who whispered that the Police wanted to talk to him. He entered the room which the detectives had made their incident room and was handed a coffee which he sipped as he sat down.
“So, have her parents been informed?”
D I Rogers nodded.
“Yes Alan, they have, they are in a room just along the corridor.”
Alan got up, the detective tried to stop him.
“Alan, I need to talk to you.”
“Later, first I need to speak to her parents.”
Without another word he left and walked down the corridor towards an officer who was standing guard outside a door. Alan didn’t acknowledge the officer, he just walked straight past him and into the room.
Both sets of parents were there. His mum rushed to meet him, she was crying as she hugged him. Slowly the others got to their feet and he hugged them all in turn. Eventually, everyone regained their composure and they sat down. He sat between the two mothers and repeated everything that he’d been told.
“To be honest, they don’t know anything concrete yet, but they’re doing everything that they can. But it won’t be easy.”
He struggled when Susan’s mother asked about her daughter.
“Honestly? She’s devastated, I’ve never seen her like this before. She’s had to be sedated, it’s just too much for her to deal with at the moment.”
There was a knock at the door and a PC entered and asked Alan to come to the incident room. He didn’t move, he looked at the officer.
“They know where I am, if they want to talk, they can talk to us all.”
The officer left. Shortly after the door opened again and the DI Rogers entered with DS Collins behind, Alan could see a uniformed officer stood outside of the room. Introductions were made, and the DI began to give his update.
He explained that they were confident that it wasn’t a spur of the moment crime, a lot of planning had taken place, they knew all the weak spots in the hospital’s security system, including where the cameras were. He explained that the woman had worn a uniform, they also had to assume that her ID was false but good enough to get through what little security there appeared to be at the hospital. She wore a wig inside the hospital when she emerged with the baby, her hair was shorter and a different colour. When she left, she was wearing a long overcoat, under which it looked like she had a hooded jacket, with the hood pulled up, obscuring her face.
The car was spotted on several cameras in town, and they switched vehicles in a layby outside of Durham, on the road to Crook. Where it was found in a layby.
His father spoke.
“So, officer, they could be anywhere in the country?”
“Yes sir, they could. But these crimes are extremely rare, and the success rate is quite high.”
Everyone fell silent, the officer continued.
“I know it seems that things aren’t happening fast enough for you, but I have to tell you that we have a lot of officers on the case, and we are liaising with all the other forces in the United Kingdom. Trust me when I tell you that everything that can be done, is being done. We are waiting on the forensic reports from the car, hopefully, they might have left us something to identify them by.”
Before the officers left, they discussed the press interest in the case. DI Rogers explained that the press had taken up their story, it had quickly gone to the front of all the major TV and Radio stations in the UK, and in Europe.
He also explained that they would provide officers to assist them when they left the hospital, and officers would be posted outside their homes.
“We will, of course, give you all the support you need, but bear in mind that, the press, whilst they all want their pictures and the quotes, they can be very useful. And, we will probably need to give an appeal in the next twenty-four hours or so.”
The room fell silent after they had left, the only sounds were the sniffing of tears from the mothers, Susan’s father looked at the others.
“Well, what do we do now?”
His wife lifted her head.
“I’m not going anywhere until I’ve seen my daughter.”