true crime

In 1994, Julie Kelley told her ex-boyfriend she was pregnant. Then she snatched a baby.


When she was just three hours old, Abbie Humphries was stolen from a hospital in Nottingham UK by a former dental nurse.

22-year-old Julie Kelley had recently been dumped by her boyfriend. In an effort to win him back, she told him she was pregnant with his child.

Her lie worked and the young couple began to prepare for their ‘baby’, turning a bedroom in their home into a nursery.

The story captured media headlines in 1994, and inspired the book (and now TV series) The Secrets She Keeps.

WATCH: Here’s the trailer for the series if you’re yet to sink your teeth into the new drama. Post continues after video. 

Video by Ten

Author Michael Robotham had been working as a journalist in London when the story of baby Abbie broke.

The newborn’s parents, Karen and Roger Humphries, spent 17 days not knowing if their newborn was dead or alive, with Princess Diana among those who sent well-wishes to the distraught couple as they appealed for news.


Disguised as a nurse working in the hospital, Julie asked Abbie’s father to hand her over for a hearing test. Still in a state of elation from the birth, and not thinking anything of it, he obliged. Then she simply walked out of the hospital with Abbie in her arms.

Karen Humphries
Karen Humphries with her daughter Abbie who she held for only three hours before she was stolen. Image: PA Images via Getty.

"I'd had those first three hours with Abbie, cuddling her and feeding her," Karen told the Nottingham Post. "The bonding had begun. It was a terrible wrench to lose her so quickly, but I knew I had to be strong and believe that I would get her back."


Roger had held his daughter for no more than half an hour before she was taken.

"I ran everywhere like a crazy man," he told the Post. "I was in a terrible state. I dashed along corridors and ran up the ramp of the car park, checking vehicles, looking for a woman with a baby, but by then she was well away."

The couple appeared on TV and appealed desperately for Abbie's return, taking their son Charlie and moving in with their friends to avoid the media glare.

Police went to a home on Brendon Drive in Wollaton three times over the next 17 days. Julie was living there with her 25-year-old boyfriend, his mother, and unbeknown to police, baby Abbie.

Julie Kelley
Julie Kelley abducted baby Abbie in 1994. Image: Malcolm Croft - PA Images/PA Images via Getty.

Neighbours told The Independent, "We were a little surprised when the young woman announced that she had given birth to a girl. She had had a 'scan' and told us there would be a boy".

Many in the street were suspicious of the timing, and it was eventually a neighbour's tip-off that led to the baby's recovery.

"I knew immediately that she was mine," Karen told the Post. "She had lost a lot of weight but you couldn't miss that shock of blonde hair she had been born with. But it was more than that: I just knew this was my baby. There's something between a mother and her child that's stronger than all the tests."

Once in court, Julie expressed her "deep regret" for the distress she caused. "It is her most fervent hope that baby Abbie has not suffered unduly or at all," her lawyer told the courtroom.

She was sentenced to three years probation, and the Herald reports she gave birth to a baby girl the following year in 1995.


Her boyfriend's lawyer told The Independent: "He truly believed she was pregnant and had good reason to. He is a complete mess - he is distraught. The first time he realised the truth was when the police arrived in the early hours of Saturday".

Abbie Humphries is now 26. But when she was 16, she told the Daily Mail she was considering becoming a police officer when she grew up.

"I learned how hard the police worked looking for me — perhaps that's why I've been thinking about joining up," she said.

When she was 10, her family moved to New Zealand. Her mum was a midwife and her dad owned a plumbing business. They also welcomed a third child, four years after Abbie, who they named Alice.

"We had moved to New Zealand when I realised how big it all was. We were unpacking all the boxes and I saw the press cuttings. That's when I realised what a huge deal it was. But it didn't stir up any emotions of horror or anything. To be honest, I thought it was rather cool," Abbie said.

Author Michael Robotham told a Facebook Live this week, sitting alongside the stars of the TV adaptation of his book, that while Julie didn't know the Humphries, he knew for a fictionalised story he was going to make the women familiar with each other.

The Secrets She Keeps on Ten
The Secrets She Keeps on Ten, was inspired by the true story of Abbie. Image: Ten.

"Rather than stealing a random baby, what if she actually chose the baby she wanted to take? What if she identified a woman that she thought had a perfect life and already had a couple of kids and - in her mind - was almost greedy wanting a third. What if she took that woman's baby?" he said.

From there he had a seed to create the web of lies and secrets we see unfolding in the TV show on Ten. A fictionalised version of a terrifying real life story from 1994.

Feature image: Ten/Getty.