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News Every Day |

I was abandoned as a baby at a train station…it took me 50 years to find family – that was just the start of the mystery

AS a youngster, Tom Yeo vividly remembers being told by a family friend that he had ‘Irish eyes’.

The throwaway comment always stuck in his mind – for Tom had been adopted and knew nothing about where he came from.

ITV
Tom Yeo (far right), pictured with his adoptive siblings, knew nothing about where he came from[/caption]
ITV
Tom, pictured with presenter Davina McCall, is stunned to discover his cousin was also foundling too[/caption]
Reading Chronicle
An appeal to find out more information about Tom’s birth mum featured in the local paper[/caption]

It was only as he became a father himself that he decided to find out more – and was stunned to discover when he got his adoption file that he had been abandoned at Reading train station as a two-week-old baby.

Incredibly, he was seen with the woman who left him there. Yet, despite police issuing a full description and his plight featuring on the front of the local newspaper, she was never found.

Dad-of-five Tom, 58, who now lives in Nottingham, tells The Sun: “It was a big shock.

“She bought a ticket to Bristol but she vanished.”

With no leads, he turned to ITV’s Long Lost Family: Born Without Trace, who discovered he has a biological cousin, Martina Evenden, 56, living in Dublin.

But in a fresh twist, after spending decades hoping a surviving relative might finally shed light on his roots, Tom found Martina could not help because she was a foundling just like him, after being left outside a church when she was just a few hours old.

It is the first time in the show’s history that they have found and brought together two cousins who were both foundlings.

Now, the pair’s emotional story features in the first episode of the latest series, which starts tonight.

Tom tells The Sun: “When they told me, I thought, ‘Oh we’re both in the same situation.’ We’ve got something to link us in a way.

“It was incredible to meet Martina. We are really close.”

And he adds: “It was the first part of the family I knew. Up until that point, my children had been my only blood family.”

Martina, 56, who lives in Dublin, says: “It was amazing at last to find someone related to you as I’ve never had that.

“From day one, we just gelled. We hit it off. I feel I’ve known him for years. We just get each other.”

The pair are related through Tom’s birth mum, Margaret – known as Peggy – and Martina’s birth dad, Joseph, so it appears a complete coincidence both women gave up their newborns.

ITV
Foundling Tom pictured with his cousin Martina Evenden[/caption]
ITV
Ariel Bruce, Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell present the ITV documentary series that combines new DNA technology with painstaking detective work to find answers for foundlings[/caption]

Very few babies are recorded as abandoned at birth in England and Wales these days.

However, last week, it was revealed three newborn babies that were found dumped in parks in London in seven years belong to the same parents.

Pregnancy ‘shame’

Foundling Tom, an accountant, was found tucked underneath a waiting room bench on October 15, 1965.

A police report details how he was well nourished and cared for, noting there was also a spare nappy and a bottle wrapped in a bag.

ITV1
Tom Yeo at Reading station during filming for the show[/caption]
ITV
Presenter Davina McCall with Tom and his wife Dani[/caption]

Cameras from the touching hit show follow him as he returns to the place where his mother chose to leave him, now a pub, for the first time.

Tom was later adopted, something his adoptive parents explained from an early age.

Tom says: “I remember it from my earliest recollection really. Every year, they would mark the official adoption date with presents.

“But there was never a conversation about how I was found. I can understand why really.”

He adds: “I had a brilliant upbringing with my adoptive parents but I always wanted to know where I came from.”

And Tom’s family friend is proven right about her comment as the show’s search team discover Peggy and his birth dad, Stephen, were both Irish, and were from the same area in County Leitrim.

The team also track down another cousin, Maria, who is able to give more information about Peggy, who is believed to have been 35 when she gave birth to Tom, and was living in England and working as a nanny.

Three newborns abandoned by same parents

BABIES are rarely abandoned in the UK but last week, it was revealed a newborn found inside a shopping bag has two siblings deserted in similar circumstances.

‘Baby Elsa’, named after the protagonist in Frozen, was found in sub-zero temperatures in Newham, east London, in January.

She was believed to be less than an hour old when she was discovered by a dog walker, wrapped in a towel inside a reusable shopping bag with her umbilical cord still attached.

The Metropolitan Police suspect Elsa was born after a ‘concealed pregnancy’ – where a woman does not tell health professionals she is expecting.

DNA tests have since revealed Elsa has two siblings – a brother and a sister, who were abandoned in 2017 and 2019 respectively, within miles of where she was found.

The other babies, Harry and Roman, were discovered wrapped in blankets. They have both been adopted.

The parents of the three children are yet to be identified

At East London Family Court last week, Judge Carol Atkinson ruled the biological link between ‘Elsa’ and the other two children could be reported.

It was deemed of “great public interest” due to babies rarely being abandoned in modern Britain.

The trio are among five cases of children being abandoned at birth within the last four years in England and Wales.

In 2020, a baby was discovered in Hackney, east London, and another was found in Birmingham in 2021. Both of their mothers were tracked down several months later.

She would have known she couldn’t have kept her baby for fear of losing her job and, as an unmarried woman, she couldn’t return to her native Ireland due to the shame.

Tom says: “My birth mum was a nanny so she knew how to look after children. She did everything she could for me. She left me in a place where she knew I would be found fairly quickly.

“But in that era it was just not possible for her to bring up a baby.

“I felt sorry for her to be in that situation. She was someone who looked after children but she couldn’t look after her own baby. When I found out she was a nanny, I thought it must have been doubly hard for her.”

‘Big sin’

Martina, an office administrator, was found by the team as she had uploaded her details to a DNA site in her bid to find her own birth parents.

Before that, she had even managed to track down the sacristan who found her outside St Joesph’s Church in Dublin to see if he had any more information but he couldn’t help her.

Martina says: “I had been looking for a long, long time.

“After being found, I was taken to hospital before being sent to a mother and baby home for three months until I was adopted by my parents.”

She left me in a place where she knew I would be found fairly quickly… in that era it was just not possible for her to bring up a baby.

Tom

The team discovers Martina’s birth mother, coincidentally also called Peggy, was a housekeeper and was 41 when she had her – and that she has three older half sisters.

She says: “They were born in mother and baby homes. I found that a bit shocking.”

With contraception unavailable in Ireland during that period and mother and baby homes were extremely common in the country.

These institutions mainly housed women who became pregnant outside wedlock, widely considered shameful throughout most of the 20th Century in Ireland.

Martina says: “It was considered a big sin.”

Tom discovers that his birth mum Margaret later moved to Australia to start a new life
ITV
ITV
A young Martina Evenden at her first Communion[/caption]

In 2015, an investigation was launched to look into the mass deaths of children and mistreatment of women at mother and baby homes.

Martina says: “You realise what my mother might have had to deal with and maybe she didn’t want to go into one again with me.”

Sadly, both sets of birth parents are no longer alive. Tom’s mum died in 1990 and his dad passed away in 2000.

Martina says: “My mother died in 2018 so I just missed her.”

Very little information is known about her dad, Joseph. He was last known and heard of in the 80s.

But they take comfort in getting to know their other relations.

I felt sorry for her to be in that situation. She was someone who looked after children but she couldn’t look after her own baby.

Tom Yeo

Martina, who doesn’t have any children and lives with her husband Gerry, 56, a sales manager, has since met a half-sister and a cousin who knew her birth mother.

She says: “I was nervous but excited to meet them. They are so nice. They told me I look a lot like my mother.”

She is due to meet another half-sister but a third, who was adopted to America has yet to be tracked down.

And during filming, Tom gets to meet three of his five half-siblings – Deidre, Mary and Stephen – from his dad’s side.

ITV
Foundling Tom (left) with three of his paternal half siblings Deidre, Mary and Stephen[/caption]

He says: “It was a shock for them to find out they had a half brother but they have been so nice to me.

“Everyone says I am the spitting image of my dad.”

Since then, his siblings have also travelled over to England to visit Tom, his wife Danniella, 56, a first aid trainer, his three children, from his first marriage and two stepchildren.

While Tom never got to meet his birth mother, who later moved to Australia and is not believed to have had any more children, he has been thrilled to find out she may have found happiness in later life.

He says: “I recently found out that she had a partner in Australia. I was quite happy to hear that.”

Long Lost Family Born Without Trace airs on ITV1 and ITVX on consecutive nights from tonight, June 10, at 9pm

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