Why we snatched toddler Sophie and fled to Scotland
'We just wanted to be a family. That’s why we took her'
A couple who abducted their own baby from care have told how they have lost forever the chance to be full-time parents.
In their first interview Stuart Creaney (21), from Banbridge, and Lucy Anderson (30), from Portadown, claimed they snatched Sophie Anderson because they believed she was going to be adopted.
This led to them risking a jail sentence and snatching the 17-month-old from care.
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Creaney and Miss Anderson described the three days they spent on the run in Scotland as “the happiest days of their life”.
But they also spoke of the moment their bid to remain a family came to a dramatic end when police officers stormed the caravan they were hiding in.
Mr Creaney also admitted he has a conviction for sexual assault when he was a minor, but insists this is “in his past” and is not a factor in caring for his daughter.
Miss Anderson says their families are “all aware” of his criminal record and support him 100%.
“They all still think we should be given a chance to look after Sophie,” she said.
The drama unfolded last Monday when Lucy had been expected to attend a mother and toddlers group but failed to show up.
Instead she took Sophie, who had been in foster care, and travelled to Scotland by ferry. Stuart had gone to Scotland earlier via ferry.
“We believed she was going to be put up for adoption,” Mr Creaney said. “We were risking going to jail, we were prepared to go. It was a protest to what was happening.
“It was the best time, the happiest time. Just sitting watching her sleep,” Mr Creaney added.
“She was well-fed and was content,” Miss Anderson added.
Both, however, said it was in the back of their minds that police were hunting them.
“We were just trying to enjoy the time with Sophie, but we knew we would be found. But we just wanted to get away and try and have as long as we could.
“It is really hard being away from her. We really miss her. They say to me it is good that you have contact every day, but they don’t understand. The more time we spend with her the more we miss her.”
They also spoke of the moment their time with Sophie came to an end.
“We were in the caravan and the police knocked the door a few times then put the door clean in with a spade,” he explained.
“Sophie was screaming, she was really scared. She was shaking, physically shaking.
“They just grabbed her. We were handcuffed, and Sophie was taken away,” Mr Creaney added.
After their arrest they both received a 12-month conditional discharge for abduction of a child in care.
Both believe that any chance to be full-time parents to Sophie are now over.
“We knew we weren’t going to get Sophie, and we know we aren’t going to get Sophie now.
“We are very angry with Social Services. We don’t feel we are being told everything and I think we are being treated as if we are stupid.
“To be honest, we are sad about the future, we just wanted to be a proper family.”
But both say they have received support from their families.
And Mr Creaney — who revealed he had a conviction for sexual assault — said he is still a good parent.
“That is in my past it was nearly six years ago,” he said.
“I’ve kept my nose clean and I haven’t been in any trouble. I don’t think it should be held against me forever. I still think I can be a good parent — I think I deserve that chance.
“That’s when I was a child. Everybody makes mistakes, you have to learn from your mistakes and move on.
“We are not alcoholics, we are not ‘druggies’, we are not going to hurt Sophie.”
The Belfast Telegraph asked Social Services if Mr Creaney’s conviction was a factor in why the baby was placed into care but a spokesman said that due to patient and client confidentiality “the trust cannot comment any further on the individual circumstances regarding this case”.
Miss Anderson said she supports Stuart “100%”.
“We need to get across that we have changed, that we will be good parents.
“It might be because of his past but then they can’t say that he didn’t look after Sophie when we were over there because he did that.”
The court heard the main concern in the case was the couple’s “limited capabilities” to take care of the child.
But Miss Anderson said while she has learning disabilities, that shouldn’t be held against her.
“They got Sophie back, she was well-looked after and there was no harm to her.
“Social Services need to give us another chance, they haven’t helped us enough.”
But in a statement Social Services said they had a “constructive relationship” with the couple.
A spokesman for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust said: “Our priority has always been the welfare of Sophie.
“The trust has in the past always had a constructive relationship with this family and will continue to work with them to ensure that Sophie's best interests are met.”