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The Hamburg Baby Burglar

, , , , , , , | Legal | May 7, 2022

Back in 2011, we moved to Hamburg, Germany from The Netherlands. My German was basic at best, but I tried. One day, I was coming back from a jogging session and I saw a neighboring building on fire. It was nothing massive, but black smoke was coming out of a couple of kitchen windows on one of the stories.

In front of that building, I saw my neighbor: a young woman with her four-month-old daughter in a pram. The neighbor was completely in distress, obviously trying to reach someone on the phone without any luck. She was screaming into what I suppose was a voicemail:

Neighbor: “Pick up the d*** phone. Why don’t you answer me?!”

I approached her to see what was wrong and whether I could help. Apparently, one of the kitchens burning belonged to a friend of hers — the one she couldn’t reach. She was in complete panic, afraid that the friend was still inside. The street was starting to fill out with various emergency vehicles, being extremely loud. I offered to help her and she gave me her kid so that the baby wouldn’t be in all that noise. Mind you, I had been living there for just a couple of months and more than knowing we were neighbors could not be said about our relationship. 

I took the kid in the pram to a safer place and had to ask for permission to enter the street, as it was closed off by the police officers. I was wearing a bright neon pink shirt — the typical “don’t run me over” jogger outfit. The kind police lady let me pass after I told her I live in the building next door and advised me to go inside with the kid to avoid breathing in the fumes. In all the confusion, I didn’t tell the neighbor where I was going, and she didn’t tell me where to take the kid. We each assumed the other one knew. I’m sure you all already know where this is going.

I took the kid inside, into my apartment, as advised. She was tired, and as I rocked her in my arms, she fell asleep. I put her on the sofa and sat beside her, not knowing if the could turn and fall down. All of a sudden, I could hear helicopters flying over, quite low. My heart leaped; I was sure that the building on fire was in a very bad condition.

Suddenly, someone rang the doorbell. When I opened it, I saw two police officers standing in front of me. They looked at me, up and down, and asked if I had seen a baby girl, matching the description of the baby sleeping on my sofa. 

Me: “Yeah, she’s here, sleeping.”

Officer: “What? Wait… This was all a misunderstanding. What luck. Oh, dear, what luck! Could you pick her up and bring her along?”

Me: *Completely confused* “Sure.”

I picked up the still sleeping girl and, guided by the two police officers, stepped out of my apartment onto the street. What I saw scared the living daylights out of me. There was an entire corridor of the police force: a full K9-unit, motorbike police officers, police officers on horses, uncountable police cars, ambulances, etc.

Apparently, the neighbor — the little girl’s mother — finally reached her friend and, happy that the friend was okay (she wasn’t at home, but working, to begin with), she turned around to her kid… who was gone… and she had no recollection anymore to whom she had given the child. So, her first reaction was to go into full-blown panic mode and claim that someone had kidnapped her kid.

In a street full of emergency services due to a fire, it wasn’t difficult to organize a full search. And then, it hit me: those helicopters were looking for me!

All is well what ends well: we (me and my husband, who missed the whole ordeal due to work) went to visit the neighbors a couple of days later with some newborn presents, and we had coffee, cake, and a good laugh about everything. I even ended up babysitting on a couple of occasions.

And, ladies and gentlemen, that is how I ended up having a true story of how I, once upon a time, was Hamburg’s most wanted criminal, even if it was for a very short period of time.

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