It is a service to “celebrate the life” of a child with no name – that we know of.
Both words – celebrate, life – appear on the service sheet of tomorrow’s funeral at St Michael’s Parish Church, Kirkham, for the abandoned baby found dead in Spen Brook on October 1.
The words have been chosen carefully as a community gathers in what amounts to a collective embrace of a baby forsaken by those who should have loved him.
The people of Kirkham have taken the baby to their hearts.
The funeral marks anything but closure of the ongoing police investigation.
Det Chief Insp Andrea Barrow will never give up hope of learning how the little lad came to be placed in a brook, in a remote area.
It was so far off the beaten track, it could have only been known to someone familiar with the locality.
“It wasn’t the kind of area you discover by chance,” she adds.
DCI Barrow admits she is haunted by the case of the baby in the brook.
“Some cases get to you, and this is one,” she explains. “I would say the same applies to the whole investigation team.”
She can remember getting summoned to the scene as if it was yesterday.
“It was an unusually hot day and we had a trek across the fields to get to the brook. It is quite remote.
“You would have to either specifically have gone to the area or know the area to realise it was there. It’s not a place you would come across by accident.”
A call had been received that a dog walker had found a baby’s body in the brook.
DCI Barrow admits: “You go off with some expectation, fearing the worst but hoping for the best. It’s a horrible moment when you realise no mistake has been made.”
What she found was every parent’s nightmare.
Including that of whoever abandoned the baby?
DCI Barrow suspects so. “You can’t do something like that and not have it live with you forever.
“Whoever did this will remember it every day of their lives. It will be immensely traumatic. That’s why it’s important they get help too, tell us what happened.”
The conditions and elements had done their worst. Closer examination had to determine he was a little boy. Even his ethnicity remains unknown, although DNA and forensic tests continue.
“Initially, we thought he had been there far longer, but an expert told us no more than a number of days.
“Because of the weather and the condition, the timescale reduced.”
The baby was carried full term but abandoned soon after.
DCI Barrow admits: “We don’t know whether he ever lived after birth. We don’t know the cause of death. We don’t want to speculate.”
The baby boy’s tragic tale has touched the hearts of Kirkham’s close-knit community members.
Local councillor Elaine Silverwood acted as a channel for that concern.
She has worked closely with Reverend Richard Bunday, of St Michael’s Parish Church, Kirkham, who will conduct tomorrow’s service. She has liaised with funeral director Alan Billington and others, church, printers and more, who are giving services, and time, free.
BBC 1’s Crimewatch has sent flowers. The community has donated cash which will be given to appropriate charities.
DCI Barrow is deeply touched by the com-munity’s gesture. “I think we all felt we wanted to do some-thing. It such a sad case.”
It is DCI Barrow who will light the candle in memory of Baby Boy – as he will remain known until formally identified. Including on the headstone donated by McMurray Brothers.
“I couldn’t think of a better person to light the candle than Andrea,” adds Coun Silverwood. “She has put heart and soul into this investigation. This won’t give her closure, but a more peaceful memory of the baby she found in such horrible circumstances.”
Nor has the decision not to name the baby been taken lightly.
It’s felt that to give the baby in death a name he never bore in life – if indeed he ever lived beyond delivery – would be a disservice to investigators determined to establish his identity one day.
“This is still a live investigation,” concludes DCI Barrow. “Someone out there knows what happened. We have spoken to new mums, we’ve looked at workers coming in, spoken to schools – as kids often notice things adults don’t, we have done countless appeals.
“It could be that someone has concealed they were pregnant and there’s a possibility the person is not from the area but we think someone in the locality knows something, or noticed something. It is not too late to talk to us. We’ve still got a team working on this case. If it takes a long time we will carry on. We are committed to finding out what happened.”
The tiny coffin will be carried into the church in the arms of funeral director Alan Billington ahead of tomorrow’s service starting at 5pm, timed to give more people the chance to attend and pay respects.
Three headteachers from local primary schools, Kirkham and Wesham County, Willows Catholic, and St Michael’s Church of England, will read Psalm 139.
“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”
Rev Bunday, Vicar of Kirkham, concludes: “The funeral service provides us with an opportunity to pause, reflect and consider the precious gift of human life and all the potential it has to flourish.
“This potential was not given to the baby boy discovered near Kirkham and so we mourn his passing, but remind ourselves he is held by God and enfolded in his love.”
n People with information can contact the police on 101, the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or on-line at Crimestoppers-uk.org. No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.