Found the daughter stolen 24 years ago.

Dorothy spoke to Photo-Features after being re-united with the baby stolen from her 24 years ago.

HANDS trembling, I picked up the phone and dialed the number. Seconds later I heard the word I had waited 24 years to hear: ‘Mum?’
 
Tears rolled down my face as I explained to my daughter Shaymaa, 26, that I had never stopped looking for her since she had been taken from me when she was just 18 months old.
 
The phone call was the end of a long and heartbreaking search that had dominated most of my life.
 
I was 18 and working in Greece as a nanny when I fell in love with an Egyptian man 12 years older than me.
 
He started hitting me, but before I could leave I found out I was pregnant and we got married. Shaymaa was born in May 1989 but when she was weeks old I fled back to the UK to escape the violence.
 
I got a flat and we settled into life at home, but when she was one he tracked us down and begged me to return.
 
I was still only 20 and didn’t want to deprive Shaymaa of a father so I agreed. We flew back to Greece as a family but within days it was clear I had made a mistake.
 
But when I told him I was leaving again he vowed not to let me.
 
Days later a group of his friends showed up and told me it was time for me to go home – alone.
 
I said I wasn’t leaving without my baby. She was sleeping soundly on the bed, but when I went to pick her up my husband stood in front of me.
 
He said if I tried to take her he would cut off both our heads.
 
Petrified I begged him not to harm her and promised to do what I was told.
 
I was then marched outside, put into a car and driven to the airport crying for my baby.
 
I was scared and in shock – my child had been kidnapped – but I convinced myself that if I could just get home the authorities would help me get my baby back through the courts.
 
In arrivals my family were waiting, but I was too upset to tell them what had happened. I locked myself in my flat and cried for days. I didn’t qualify for legal aid and had no money to pay for legal help.
 
But the British Embassy in Athens were great. Staff searched for Shaymaa but it was too late, she had already gone. They suspected her father had fled to Cairo.
 
I sunk into depression unable to cope from being parted from my baby. But every legal route I took drew a blank because Shaymaa was now out of juridstriction.
 
All I had left of her were some clothes and a few photographs. But I swore never to give up.
 
In time I had three more children, Dean, 22, Charlene, 20 and Dwayne, 17. I loved them all dearly but nothing could replace my daughter.
 
The out of the blue when she was eight I received a photograph through the post of her in a red dress. She was even more beautiful than I had imagined and my heart broke again at the thought of what I had missed.
 
But with no forwarding address I still had no new leads.
 
Then in 2004 the British Embassy called and said there had been a sighting of her in Cairo. She would have been 13.
 
With new hope I raised £15,000 to fly to Cairo and search for her. I spent day and night walking the streets with British Embassy staff but there was no news.
 
After several weeks I came home crushed battling suicidal thoughts. Some days I felt I physically could not go on any longer without my daughter, other days I knew I had to for my other children.
 
Then I had my daughter Miriam, now five, from another failed relationship. I realised that my relationships never worked because I was too damaged from what I had been through losing Shaymaa.
 
But last August I picked up the phone to a voice I had not heard in 24 years, my daughter’s father.
 
To my astonishment he told me he would tell my where our daughter was if I helped to get him a British passport.
 
Of course I knew I never could but decided to play along anyway in the hope of getting information.
 
My plan worked and we spoke daily for months before he finally gave me a number for Shaymaa.
 
During our first emotional chat she told me she lived in Egypt with her husband and three sons and had nothing to do with her father.
 
She said he had taken her there as a baby and dumped her to be raised by his sister.
 
I was so relived that she did not blame me. Weeks later in December I flew to Egypt taking Miriam and Charlene to meet their big sister.
 
We were picked up at the airport and driven to a house. Shaymaa ran outside and we hugged for the first time. I broke down when I saw how much she looked like me.
 
We spent three magical weeks getting to know each other better. When I flew home I vowed to help her in any way I could. Her life is so different to the one she would have had with me. There is no running water and poor sanitation.
 
I vowed it to her to help so I contacted the British Embassy and set about arranging to replace the British passport she had as a baby.
 
I have been denied looking after her for so many years and I am determined to make up for it now.
 
Shaymaa said: ‘My mum is a good woman and I am so pleased that she never stopped looking for me.
 
‘I do not blame her for what happened. My father is a bad man to do what he did. I have not seen him since I was very young and do not want to.
 
‘I want to come to the UK to meet my brothers who I have not seen yet and the rest of my family.
 
‘But my life is here where I have grown up with my husband and my children. But I always want to stay in contact with my mother and my family.
 
‘I missed her so much. We speak every day on the telephone and she wants to be a good mother to me.’
 
 
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