Social media and quick-thinking teens save Quebec baby

WATCH:  An Amber Alert was issued for a newborn baby was snatched from a maternity ward in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec. But thanks to the quick thinking and the power of social media, the baby was found safe within hours. Mike Armstrong reports.

MONTREAL – “Yesterday, we experienced the worst time of our lives. All of Quebec sent us their support and, three hours later, we experienced the happiest moment of our lives.”

These are words from the Facebook post of mother Mélissa McMahon, who experienced every parents’ worst nightmare.

On Monday evening, her day-old baby girl, Victoria, was abducted from a hospital in Trois-Rivières.

Just after 7 pm, a 21-year-old woman dressed in a nurse’s uniform allegedly entered her room and took the baby, leaving with the newborn wrapped in a blue blanket.

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McMahon said it was thanks to hospital staff that she realized “in less than a minute” that her baby had been kidnapped.

READ MORE: Baby abductions from Canadian hospitals

“I ran to the hospital exit, where so many patients and visitors helped me, quickly sharing information on the woman and her vehicle,” she wrote on Facebook.

“Thank you to these people, thank you to the security guards who acted quickly and found a picture with the help of the police.”

“That photo saved our daughter! In less than an hour, the picture was everywhere.”

In less than two hours, news of the baby kidnapping hit social media.

Quebec provincial police tweeted that the baby was missing 9:01 pm, and then an Amber Alert was issued via email to news broadcasters at 10 pm.

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The Amber Alert contained details of the missing baby, a photo of the possible suspect taken from a security camera and a description of her vehicle, a red Toyota Yaris.

Quebec provincial police released this photo of a woman in connection with a baby that went missing from a hospital in Trois-Rivieres on May 26, 2014. Handout/Surete du Quebec

The family of the kidnapped newborn also turned to social media, appealing to their friends to look for the baby, and then for the suspect.

The baby’s father, Simon Boisclair, posted a short statement on Facebook at around 9 pm: “Help us please,” it read. “Our daughter who is just a day old has been taken. Share as quickly as possible.”

His status update was shared over 8,000 times.

The newborn’s aunt was also frantically posting about the abduction on her personal Facebook page.

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Her first post, which included a photo of the baby taken just hours earlier, was shared almost 40,000 times.

It read: “My friends, I need you. It’s been about an hour since Victoria was taken from the CHRTR. My adorable niece and daughter of Mélissa McMahon and Simon Boisclair. SHARE!”

As soon as the Amber alert was issued, she posted several more status updates, which were also shared thousands of times.

“It’s her, it’s her … Share! This crazy woman has kidnapped my niece. Share!” she wrote.

An appeal made via Facebook for friends to share Amber Alert for kidnapped baby on May 26, 2014. Facebook

Social media in Quebec was on fire with hundreds of thousands of retweets and shares, and by 10 pm, the story had been translated, picked up and shared across Canada.

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According to Influence Communications, a Montreal-based company that specializes in media monitoring and analysis, the story of the missing baby was the top trending story in Quebec by Tuesday morning.

“The media really helped us put out the picture and the description fast,” said Quebec police spokesperson Martine Asselin.

“We could see on the TV, on the media, on Facebook, everything we needed and very fast.”

A Trois-Rivieres police officer brings the missing baby back to the hospital after she was abducted on May 26, 2014. Global News
A Trois-Rivieres police officer brings the missing baby back to the hospital after she was abducted on May 26, 2014. Global News

But in the end, it was four local teenagers who saved the day.

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WATCH: Mélisanne Bergeron and Charlène Plante discuss how they recognized the suspect, tracked her down and called police

After seeing a photo on social media of the suspect on Facebook, Mélisanne Bergeron, Sharelle Bergeron, Marc-André Côté and Charlène Plante decided to go looking for her.

“I knew the woman from school. I was sure it was her,” said Sharelle Bergeron.

The teens went to her apartment building, where they saw a red Toyota Yaris parked outside. They called police immediately.

The apartment in Trois-Rivieres where four teens discovered the woman who allegedly took a newborn from the local hospital on May 26, 2014. Barry Donelly/Global News

Just three hours after the baby went missing, authorities arrived at the apartment to find the baby safe and sound. Quebec provincial police confirmed the news via Twitter just after 10 pm.

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WATCH: Police return abducted baby to parents at hospital in Trois-Rivières

On Tuesday morning, the relieved father of the missing-and-now-found newborn, shared this photo on Facebook, which was accompanied by a moving message: “Here is the beautiful Victoria, safe and sound in her home.”

Photo posted to Facebook by a relieved father after his newborn was taken from a hospital in Trois-Rivieres and found three hours later by police on May 26, 2014. Facebook

The mother also posted an emotional message, thanking all of Quebec for their help.

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“Thousands of people shared the photo of the woman on social networks.”

The four teens were extremely proud of how they helped and were also very aware of the role social media played in the investigation.

“We are very proud. We saved the life of their baby by acting quickly,” noted Bergeron.

“[The parents] are very happy. They don’t see Facebook as they did before, now that it has saved their baby.”

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