How Facebook baby kidnap plot was foiled
As two teenage girls are detained for conspiring to kidnap three babies, a mother explains how her child was almost snatched from her - and how she helped lead police to the perpetrators.
Even now, eight months after it happened, the 20-year-old struggles to believe how close she came to losing her young son. He was just two weeks old when two 17-year-old girls came to her home in Derby and tried to kidnap him.
"I don't think I've ever fully got it into my head," says the mother, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.
"I've always been in shock. I didn't think it was real."
Holly Kelland and her friend Cody Farrar had obtained her address through a bizarre Facebook ruse. They approached her offering free baby socks before Farrar posed as a social worker at her address to try and take the newborn away.
Their motives for trying to kidnap the little boy were equally as strange - Kelland had been pretending to be pregnant, and police believe she was trying to find a baby to pass off as her own.
Analysis of her iPad showed she had been researching how to fake a pregnancy - she had even bought fake baby scans from a website called Fakeababy.com.
Police do not know why she was faking a pregnancy.
However, her barrister told Derby Youth Court that she had previously been pregnant, then lost the baby when she was assaulted by her boyfriend.
The court heard she also had serious mental health problems and had been the victim of bullying and domestic violence.
The girls tried to kidnap the baby from Derby on 21 September last year, but they had been plotting long before then. They set up a fake profile on Facebook and used it to contact various mothers, spying on them to obtain details about their babies and where they lived.
They messaged the mothers using the fake name "Clare Farrant" and said they were giving away free socks to promote their business. They also pretended the Derby mother had won a raffle, and could have either a Segway or £100 of baby clothes as her prize.
The Derby mother asked for the baby clothes and gave her address so they could be posted to her. The girls lived in Wolverhampton and Evesham, Worcestershire, but they pretended to be based in Devon so that the mother would not be able to pick them up in person.
The very next day, the girls got a train to Derby and then a taxi to the woman's house. Kelland stayed back, while her friend knocked at the door.
"She [Farrar] was saying she was a social worker saying she has to take my son for a medical check for half an hour without me," says the mother.
Farrar had come dressed in smart clothes - a blouse, black trousers, long cream coat and high heels - in an effort to look older and more convincing.
The mother was momentarily taken in and let the girl hold her little boy, but fortunately she became suspicious and took him back.
After the girls left, the woman phoned social services and then police.
She suspected the kidnap attempt was linked to the fictitious Clare Farrant - and her own mother started doing detective work on Facebook.
Her mother then uncovered a plot to kidnap a baby in Wolverhampton - which she foiled by getting in touch with the other mother and warning her.
"The convictions would not have been possible without the assistance of the victims," said Det Sgt Duncan Gouck, of Derbyshire Police.
"It was incredibly serious in terms of the potential impact on the victims if the offenders had been successful in their plans to take a baby."
How the girls were caught
- The girls tried but failed to kidnap a two-week-old boy from Derby on 21 September - so they contacted another mother, this time in Wolverhampton, later that same day
- The Derby mother suspected the kidnap attempt was linked to the offer of baby clothes from the "Clare Farrant" Facebook account
- The grandmother of the Derby baby monitored the bogus Fakebook account and noticed a video of a faked prize draw which produced the name of a mother in Wolverhampton on a piece of paper out of a bowl
- The Wolverhampton mother's Facebook account was tagged in the video, so the Derby grandmother sent a message to warn her
- The Wolverhampton mother asked "Clare Farrant" for a phone number - police then used this phone number to trace Farrar
- Police inquiries then led to Kelland - who repeatedly told police she was seven months pregnant and had no reason to take a baby
- Analysis of Kelland's iPad showed she had been researching how to fake a pregnancy. Police checked her medical records and found no evidence she was expecting a child
Further investigation revealed the girls had planned to kidnap a baby from Huddersfield before they targeted the mother in Derby. They had obtained the Huddersfield mother's address through messaging her on Facebook, but there is no evidence they ever went to her house.
The girls, now aged 17 and 18, both admitted conspiracy to kidnap at Derby Youth Court, where they were given 12-month detention and training orders.
The Derby mother still finds it difficult to get over what happened.
"I've calmed down now but obviously it still affects me now," she says.
"I just think they shouldn't get treated any differently because of their age. Because at that age I knew what I was doing. I knew right from wrong.
"I'm only two years older than them. I think they must have something mentally wrong with them to do something like that."
Speaking after the sentencing, Det Sgt Duncan Gouck said it had been a "unique and challenging investigation".
"I am pleased that the offenders have been convicted and hopefully this will help to restore the peace of mind of the victims," he said.