The shocking scandal first drew attention when two men, Juan Luis Moreno and Antonio Barroso, learned that they had been stolen when they were babies. The man who Juan Luis had always believed was his father confessed on his deathbed that he had bought him as a baby from a Roman Catholic priest in northern Spain; and he also said that he had been accompanied on the trip by the couple who had bought Antonio at the same time, from a nun. They had paid 200 000 pesetas, which at the time was a huge amount of money. Antonio said, “That was the price of an apartment back then. My parents paid it in instalments over the course of ten years because they did not have enough money.”
The nun who sold Antonio has now confessed to the crime, and DNA tests have proved that the couple who raised Antonio were not his biological parents.
These two men went public with their stories, and this caused mothers all over Spain to come forward and tell their own stories of how they had been told that their babies had died at birth or soon afterwards, although they did not believe it.
A BBC documentary entitled This World: Spain’s Stolen Babies, followed one mother’s search for her son. It also featured an interview with a woman, named Ines Perez, now 89 years old, who admitted that a priest encouraged her to fake her pregnancy so that she could be given a baby who was due to be born in 1969 in a clinic in Madrid. Perez said, “The priest gave me padding to wear on my stomach.” This clinic, the San Ramon clinic, was a major centre for the stealing of babies, it was claimed. Many mothers who gave birth in this clinic have said that when they asked to see their supposedly dead child, they were shown the corpse of a baby that appeared to be freezing cold. The documentary showed photographs taken in the 1980s of a dead baby in a freezer, allegedly shown to the mothers.
In addition, some of the babies’ supposed graves have now been exhumed, only to discover that the graves contained bones belonging to adults or animals – or they were empty.
Today, hundreds of families whose babies were taken from Spanish hospitals in those decades are now calling for a government investigation into this terrible crime. But thus far they have failed to get the government to act, because amnesty laws passed after Franco died mean that crimes which occurred under his government are not usually examined. But there are 900 cases currently being reviewed on a case-by-case basis by regional prosecutors! This gives some idea of the sheer scale of the crime committed. Nevertheless, according to journalist Katya Adler, who investigated this scandal, “There is very little political will to get to the bottom of the situation.”
According to Adler, “There are men and women across Spain whose lives have been turned upside-down by discovering the people they thought were their parents actually bought them for cash. There are also many mothers who have maintained for years that their babies did not die – and were labelled ‘hysterical’ – but are now discovering that their child has probably been alive and brought up by somebody else all this time.”