Chesterfield woman abandoned in a bag as a baby 'never gave up hope' of finding birth family after they are reunited 34 years later
A Chesterfield foundling – who was left in a bag as a baby – has spoken of the closure she has gained as an adult, after being reunited with her birth father and brother following a 34-year search.
Victoria Vardy was abandoned as a newborn in the stairwell of a department store on Elder Street in 1987 and was found inside a zipped up, brown holdall, wearing a pink onesie after a shopper alerted a security guard.
Originally named Katie Elder, Victoria was adopted by John and Joyce Vardy following a police appeal to find her biological parents and grew up in Chesterfield
She frequently visited the Co-operative department store where she was found as a baby, with her mum Joyce.
The 34-year-old who now has a daughter and recently moved to Hillstown in Bolsover, decided to appear on the ITV series Long Lost Family: Born Without Trace, which aired on May 24, after she launched a national appeal on Youtube 10 years ago to find her birth family.
When no one came forward after the Derbyshire Times broke the story which then made national headlines, Victoria spent hours researching ways of getting in touch with her biological parents.
"It was a bit of a strange one, I didn't really know what to do because I'd done everything and I wasn't really expecting to find parents through the campaign I did to be honest", the 34-year-old shared.
"I just needed to put myself out there because in that situation it is not like you've got a paper trail, or anyone's name or information to go on.
"I thought maybe if there was other people involved in what happened, they might have passed or not be on the scene anymore so I thought it might be a safer time before people get older and do start unfortunately passing away.
"I didn't want to leave it later in life where I would have less chance of knowing and I just wanted to give them an opportunity to contact me, or anyone in the family contact me.
"I hadn't really lost hope, it was just something in the back of my mind I just didn't really know what avenue to go on.”
The mum of one watched the bafta-award-nominated programme which features DNA expert Julia Bell and got in touch with the contact tracing specialist which led to her featuring on Long Lost Family along with Helen Knox – who was also abandoned 18 months after Victoria outside the former Scarsdale hospital.
She praised the advances in DNA technology which led her to eventually being reunited with her birth father and brother in a meeting off-camera, after they were found on a database used by experts on the show.
"When I first did my search [DNA searches] wasn't really being done, it was only really a thing in America and it wasn't really being done here", Victoria said.
"I only knew for sure that my mother knew about me, no one else so it was a bit of a shock when they said [they'd found] my father first.
"It was just a shock, if you watch it I'm a bit stunned and I think that's just how I felt, I don't think I took it in really.”
The 34-year-old saw a picture of her biological mother who was also tracked down by the ITV search team and she was told she had two older, siblings.
While contact continues to develop with her birth mother who she hasn’t yet met, the Victoria expressed how she felt to finally have some answers about her start in life after meeting some of her relatives on her biological father’s side.
She added: "It's been really positive, it's been going really well since.
"It was obviously strange because they are strangers but you do share biology, but you don't know each other so there was some common interests that I had with both of them that were shared and that was really lovely as well.
"I do feel like I've got answers, I think knowing the circumstances was kind of enough in a way.
"Because [before] I knew nothing I didn't know if the situation was more distressing but I think in most adoptions there is that kind of fear that something awful has happened if you don't know your history.
"I'm not saying what has happened wasn't awful or distressing or traumatic for especially my mother who did that because it's a very desperate situation.
"It wasn't a situation where the choice was someone else's to give me away, I wasn't snatched from anyone's arms or anything like that.
"I was dressed appropriately and I was left inside and I've always felt very much like I was left to be found and I wasn't just abandoned as such.
"It was just settling to know what happened, regardless of what happens in the future.
"I've always felt like it must have been an awful choice to have made at the time."
The mother of one stressed what a ‘sensitive’ situation tracking down her biological relative had been, adding there was ‘hope’ but no expectation of also ‘gradually’ being reunited in person with her birth mum and siblings on the other side of the family.
"Whatever I find out and whatever I know and whoever I do and don't meet and whatever relationships come out of it, at least I know what happened”, Victoria said.
"Apart from my daughter, I've never looked at anyone and seen my features and things in my family.
"It is very, very early days and I don't want to put any pressure on it at the moment but at the moment we are really getting on and in regular contact and I am really thankful for all that has happened so far with that.
"It is really fun at the moment getting to know everyone on that side.”