A BRITISH mother separated from her newborn baby by a Spanish hospital is finally back home at her Malaga rental property after three traumatic weeks.
Stacie Cottle, 27, has been forced to endure three torturous weeks at the hospital in Torre del Mar, near Malaga, after a paediatrician claimed the baby she brought in for a check-up could not be hers.
She was reunited with her daughter yesterday afternoon after DNA results finally proved she was the mother.
After the Olive Press visited the court dealing with her case to demand answers, she was allowed to finally leave the Comarcal de la Axarquia hospital with baby Anzelika for the very first time.
“I am so grateful for all your help,” she said last night. “This has been the most horrendous month of my life and I have been treated like a common criminal.
“It makes me think twice about ever coming back to Spain.”
The shocking chain of events unfolded after Cottle, a dental nurse from London, arrived in Malaga with her mother and three-year-old daughter Anabella on June 1.
The family stayed in several hotels while looking for accommodation for her mother Veronica to rent in the area longer term, as she hoped to find work teaching English.
But the night after signing a rental contract on a house in Arenas, in the Axarquia region, Cottle’s waters unexpectedly broke two weeks early at 1:30am.
Half an hour later in the two-bedroom house, a healthy girl was born, triggering a series of events which turned the family’s Spanish dream into a nightmare.
They took her to hospital for a routine check-up the next day, where the paediatrician immediately claimed the baby did not in fact belong to her.
She insisted it had actually been born three to five days previously.
“She said ‘it was impossible’,” Cottle told the Olive Press. “I felt so helpless, I couldn’t believe what they were saying.”
She and her mother promptly left, upset and confused, to return to the new house.
But within an hour police officers were knocking on the door, asking them to return to the hospital for tests.
Upon arrival, baby Anzelika was separated from her mother and placed in the neonatal ward, where she remained, separated from her family, for 20 days, effectively a ward of court.
A second doctor who later performed a medical examination concluded that Cottle had indeed given birth, but, incredibly, not to the baby she brought to the hospital.
The extraordinary case was then handed over to Velez-Malaga courts and the national police, who took DNA tests and placed the baby under the care of social services while waiting on the results.
Meanwhile a distraught Cottle was discharged from the hospital, but refused to leave while her healthy baby remained alone inside.
Bizarrely, she was allowed to breastfeed the child once every three hours under doctor’s supervision.
“I was treated like a criminal, with everyone thinking I stole my own baby,” said Cottle, whose father has a PHD from the University of Oxford.
“This has been extremely hard on my three-year-old, who was not allowed near Anzelika and has been asking for me and the baby, who she hadn’t seen since the day she was born.
“It has been such a confusing time for us, I even brought the placenta to the hospital, which I understand was destroyed.
“They were asking me if I was from Senegal despite the fact we all have British passports,” she added.
Staff at the hospital however denied any possibility the situation was linked to the fact Cottle is mixed race, or that it was related to the area’s problem with immigrants crossing over from Africa.
“This has absolutely nothing to do with the immigration problem. She is a tourist and that is the only thing which has made it more complicated with regard to paperwork,” said a hospital spokesperson, after numerous requests for comment.
The Olive Press then liaised with the police, courts and social services on the family’s behalf, before witnessing the moment Cottle and her daughter walked free from hospital yesterday afternoon at 3.30pm.
“I am so over the moon, but I’m really surprised it is all over so suddenly,” Cottle said last night.
“I’m so grateful, this would never have happened today without the Olive Press’ help.”
“I feel like these three weeks have been stolen from me, the baby has grown so much I was worried she wouldn’t fit into the clothes I bought her.”
However, the struggle is not over yet, as the baby has not been registered as a UK citizen within ten days of its birth. It might take up to a year now before the family can return.
What’s more, after the landlord witnessed them being taken by police on their first night in the new apartment, he decided to evict them.
“I was so excited to start a life here, but not now. We haven’t left this hospital for 15 days,” Cottle’s mother Veronica, who came to Spain hoping to work permanently as an English teacher, told the Olive Press.
Cottle is separated from the baby’s father, who the Olive Press understands is aware of the birth but not of the associated troubles.
Neither the paediatrician who first claimed the baby is not Cottle’s, nor the second doctor, was available for comment. The hospital hasn’t commented either.