Police still searching for family of baby found dead in Cambridge recycling centre one year on

The newborn’s body was found by staff at the Waterbeach waste management park  (Google)
The newborn’s body was found by staff at the Waterbeach waste management park (Google)

One year after the body of a baby boy was found in a pile of rubbish at a Cambridge recycling centre, the newborn's identity remains a mystery.

The boy, given the name Gabriel by medics because he was found just before advent, was discovered by staff at the Waterbeach waste management park on 29 November.

Twelve months on and, despite a police investigation and a DNA profile, it seems increasingly unlikely we will ever know his real name.

Cambridgeshire Police have previously said the newborn is likely to have been collected from a household bin before arriving at the recycling centre.

According to the force’s investigation report, CCTV footage was not detailed enough to identify the exact time Gabriel’s body entered the centre.

The report explained that once a refuse truck arrives, recycling is emptied onto the floor in the “reception area” of the centre. It is then pushed back using a shovel loader to keep the floor clean and intermittently scooped up to begin the sorting process.

It is estimated that baby Gabriel was in the sorting process for 15 minutes before staff found him and pressed an alarm button. When found, it was likely he was dead for at least 24 hours but less than “several months”.

Police arrived at the scene at 12:10pm and Gabriel was confirmed dead by paramedics at 12:20pm (PA) (PA Archive)
Police arrived at the scene at 12:10pm and Gabriel was confirmed dead by paramedics at 12:20pm (PA) (PA Archive)

The investigation report said that Gabriel’s “naked body was lying in the middle of these [rubbish] items”. It added that his head was tipped far back and the “remains of the umbilical cord were still attached to the body”.

Police were called to the scene but their report states no samples were taken initially from the rubbish found near Gabriel due to the “very dirty environment” and his body was taken away.

The only item seized was a sanitary towel, but subsequent examination showed that it had no blood on it.

Therefore, most of what authorities know about Gabriel has come from his post-mortem examination.

It appears he was born without any medical assistance and had nothing in his stomach. He also had a low birth weight which had likely caused issues with keeping warm and being able to feed.

They were not able to ascertain his ethnicity and unfortunately were also not able to conclude his cause of death, although he was likely to have drawn breath.

However, the report states there were no signs of there is no signs of “inflicted injury or medical interventions” nor any evidence to show that the child’s death was caused by another person.

His DNA also returned no match when put through a database and all media appeals have failed to encourage his family to come forward.

Other inquiries were made to narrow down the area Gabriel may have been picked up by recycling trucks.

Almost 900,000 people live in the area serviced by the recycling plant, and so police worked to find the vehicles he was possibly in by focusing on the nine that arrived on site two hours before he was found.

The report says that six of these vehicles serviced Cambridge, one from a southern village of Melbourn and two from “satellite stations” nearer Peterborough and March.

The report added that the possibility that the body arrived at the centre or satellite stations prior to the assumed dates cannot be ruled out and so he could have come from other locations.

This means that Gabriel could have come from 980 streets and so police chose not to knock on doors or review CCTV.

The report stated: “Due to this very high number of potential originating streets, combined with the wide timescale (two weeks between bin collections), and the low likelihood of any suspicious activity being visible (given the small size of the child’s body) it was decided that no CCTV or local enquiries would be carried out in these streets.”

The Cambridgeshire Constabulary have now closed the investigation due to there being no further lines of enquiry.

Detective Chief Superintendent John Massey said: “This is an incredibly sad and upsetting incident for everyone involved.

“All efforts, including a thorough investigation and appeals, were made to locate the mother of the child to ensure she was safe and to try to fully identify baby Gabriel. However, these were ultimately unsuccessful.”