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'I love my baby' - Abandoned child's mother says she could not cope

The stories which emerged late last year about a promiscuous teenager who abandoned her physically handicapped baby to attend the annual stage show Sting do not ring true when one looks at the soft-spoken teenager of a Denham Town, west Kingston, address.

There are no tattoos, no signs of skin bleaching and no figurative horns one would expect to find on a 'devil' who could leave her baby at the mercy of the elements in premises fit only for wild pigs and dogs.

"What happened is that I just could not manage. I love my baby very much, but I couldn't keep her any more and there was no one in my community that I wanted to turn to for help," said Nicolette Letford, with tears streaming down her face.

"I did not tie her up and I did not want her to die. What I was hoping was that someone would find her and give her a better life."

Her voice broke as she recalled the trouble she had taking care of a physically handicapped child.

"She couldn't walk and when she saw the other children walking and playing, she cried," she said as the tears increased.

Promising student

Letford said she was a promising student at the Denham Town High School, but got pregnant quickly after leaving school.

With the baby born with a deformity of the legs, the then 17-year-old and her mother were the ones left to cope.

"After seeing me and the baby with the deformity one time, the father abandon we. Him never take care of the baby," Letford said.

She has seen the child's father around the community, but they have no contact and he has offered no material or emotional support, she said.

Determined to make a life for herself and the child, Letford said she enrolled in the National Youth Service and, after training, was placed at a secondary school where she worked for a week.

When the classes broke for the Christmas holiday, she was told to return in January.

However, the December news report then surfaced and she was arrested on Boxing Day.

"I tried to call the school this morning (yesterday) to find out if I still have a job, but I did not get through," Letford told The Gleaner with pain etched in her face as she appealed for work.

However, who would want to employ a woman who tied up and abandoned her baby for four days to attend a stage show?

"Yes, I left her for four days but I did not tie her up and I was not going to Sting," she declared with the first hint of anger in her voice. "The police held mi with a friend doing a wig on mi head, but she was just using my head to fix the wig. I was not going to Sting."

She added: "People don't understand that there were days when I would be glad if I had some 'turn cornmeal' to eat. Now mie just want to see mi baby, if even to visit her. I love my daughter."

Thought of suicide

Letford's voice dipped in volume as she hinted that while she was in police custody for the more than six weeks after December 26, the thought of suicide crossed her mind.

"Jail was hard, even though the other prisoners were friendly. Sometimes, I had to sleep on the floor and it was cold and the food never good and it sick me. But the other prisoners told me don't do anything stupid," Letford said, sounding more like the child she really is.

Her mother recalled the trials and tribulation that the teenager faced in caring for the physically challenged baby for two years.

"Mi have two of them and her twin brother is sick, but mi love them the same way and mi glad she come home. I just want her to put that in the past and move on with her life," Patsy Burrell, Letford's mother, said.

Letford's twin brother was admitted to Bellevue Hospital with a mental illness on the day she was arrested.

The baby remains in the care of the State.
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