Line One News

2 June, 2000

The fight for custody of airport baby

FROM TOBY MOORE IN BOSTON
Line One News


THE MOTHER: Kelly Angell, who abandoned the child in an airport toilet
BRITISH student Graeme Clifton was yesterday caught in a battle for custody of his son, born in an airport toilet and then abandoned by his mother.

The 21-year-old from Norwich looked pale as he arrived at the Juvenile Court in Boston, Massachusetts, yesterday.

He was said to have been unaware that Kelly Angell, 20, was even pregnant when she tried to board a Virgin flight from the US to visit him a week ago.

Her parents are claiming custody of the 8lb boy, who is as yet unnamed and being treated at a local hospital for pneumonia. He was left in a self-flushing toilet bowl at the city's international airport as Kelly went to board her flight minutes after giving birth.

She has been charged with abandoning the baby and assault and is currently undergoing psychological tests.

Legal expert Karl Spitzer said last night that Judge Paul Lewis faced a difficult problem. "The baby was born in an American city, the father's British and the mother has been charged with harming him. The judge has to decide who will serve the child's interests best." Under a local law grandparents can only ask a juvenile court for visitation rights.

The problem for Judge Lewis is how to award custody to Graeme, a second-year student at the University of East Anglia. His dilemma is compounded by the fact that Kelly has not yet been found guilty of a crime.

"He's going to need the Wisdom of Solomon on this one," said a source close to the judge. "The best thing for the grandparents and parents is to present a united front. The judge would normally give the child over to the closest responsible family relative. That would normally be the father." Kelly has been granted bail and could be freed from detention, after her tests, within two weeks. She normally lives with her parents in Maine.

The source close to Judge Lewis said: "What the judge is going to be concerned about is the prospect of the mother, who has been charged with serious offences, going back to live potentially under the same roof as her baby if the grandparents win custody."

Graeme met Kelly last summer when both worked at a New England amusement park and holiday camp. He returned to university in the autumn.

The baby was last night in a stable condition at Boston Medical Centre. A spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services said: "The baby will not be well enough to leave the hospital before Tuesday at the earliest."Graeme's parents, Janice and Melvyn, last night declined to comment at their home in the hamlet of East Lound, near Retford, Notts. A relative said: "They don't want to say anything. They are very upset. They think Graeme is in a terrible situation."

© Express Newspapers, 2000