Grandmother 'thought box was refuse'
The baby boy discovered in a shoe box in a Cospicua alley on Sunday was discarded by his grandmother who mistook the package for a refuse bag, she told The Times.
Rocking back and forth on her bed as she agonised over the incident, the 37-year-old grandmother spoke on condition of anonymity.
She said she spotted the shoe box in her washroom. It was standing vertically against a drainpipe inside a transparent plastic bag, and she simply assumed it was refuse.
She picked up the package and took it to Guliermu Street, just around the corner from her house, where residents regularly place rubbish for collection.
The baby boy, who is being cared for in hospital, was discovered by three neighbourhood teenagers in a white carton box on Sunday at about 3.30 p.m. by the side of Guliermu Street, a pedestrian alley on the corner with St Michael's Street.
"I keep blaming myself that I didn't even bother to open the box to check what was inside. I had no idea my daughter was even pregnant," she said, breaking down.
Dressed in the same black and white striped sweater she had been wearing the previous day and visibly in shock, the woman recounted the story that has shocked the nation.
On Sunday morning, the woman realised that her 19-year-old daughter was not feeling well, but was assured that it was merely a stomach upset, so she left the house to run some errands.
All alone, the daughter gave birth to a baby boy at 10.30 a.m., cutting the umbilical cord herself before wrapping him in a beach towel and placing him in a white shoe box. Then, acting as if nothing had happened, she picked her mother up from Hamrun and they returned home.
"She looked fine," the baby's grandmother said, clutching the official statement she had just made to the police.
It emerged that her daughter had not said a word to anybody and kept her pregnancy completely secret - even from her best friend - putting on weight to disguise her growing bulge.
"My niece was the girl's best friend and they frequently went out together. Last night (Sunday) she was crying because her friend had never shared her secret," a neighbour told The Times yesterday.
The single mother's relatives used to tease the girl about her weight and would jokingly ask if she was pregnant, but she always pooh-poohed the suggestion.
"I think my daughter was scared of telling me she was pregnant because I too had her as a single mother and was forever telling her to be careful not to get caught out. I always used to stress how difficult it would be," the baby's grandmother said.
"I once suspected something and asked if she was having her periods, but she just said everything was fine."
The woman described how she herself was just 18 when she gave birth to her daughter. The two had been living with her mother, who died barely three weeks ago throwing the household into complete disarray.
"We've been through so much in the past month, but I cannot believe how she never said anything. We could have raised the baby boy together, just like I did with her. It wouldn't have been a problem," she added.
On Sunday, shortly after the baby boy had been found, the neighbours gathered in the area theorising on what could have happened. At one point the baby's grandmother - evidently unaware of what she had done - popped out onto her balcony and joined the debate about what time the baby could have been placed in the street.
One of the neighbours said she had recognised the beach towel in which the baby had been wrapped. In about three hours, the police had a clear indication of the baby's mother's identity.
However, instead of approaching her they worked around the situation and arranged so that she would be persuaded to go to hospital. The 19-year-old was still in the hospital's gynaecology ward yesterday recovering from the ordeal. Police sources said: "The case is very sensitive and intricate. One has to evaluate what is being said at this point in time, because people would be in shock and may not necessarily be telling the whole truth".
A magisterial inquiry is still underway and a number of experts, including psychiatrists, have been appointed to establish the new mother's state of health.
On a different level, social workers have started working on the case to determine the baby's future.
Sources said it was likely that an interim care order would be issued so that the baby will be placed in someone's care for the next 21 days.
"The situation is very complicated and the woman cannot be denied her baby. However, it has to be established whether she is fit to care for the baby or not. That decision will be taken after evaluating the reports being drawn up by professionals," the sources said.
According to the law, anyone found to have abandoned or exposed a child under the age of seven faces a prison term of up to one year.
However, legal sources said it was still too early to speculate over whether legal action will be taken.