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  • Writer's pictureThe True Crime Edition

The 1,500 Missing Babies

Children have been going missing since records began, but not until recently has there been proof that some were taken to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Since the late 1960s, it’s estimated that around 2,000 parents have lost newborn children under suspicious circumstances. Many of these couples haven’t seen their child again, don’t know why they died, and don’t have a grave to visit.

“When the doctors said: Choose!, I realised something was wrong.”

In 1983, Zorica Jovanovic gave birth to a healthy baby boy in a state-run hospital in Cuprija, Serbia. Three days after his birth, she and her husband were told their son had died. They never saw him again and, to this day, don’t know where he’s buried.

It’s believed that the children were abducted and sold to new families by a criminal syndicate.


Mirjana Novokmet was 19 when her son was born at a Belgrade clinic and was later told that he was stillborn. She’s been searching for answers for 40 years.

“I believe someone had taken him, sold him, within the country or outside the country. I really can’t tell, but I am certain that he is alive.”

When questioned by the parents, health institutions have reported that no medical records regarding the children exist, with many allegedly being destroyed in fires or floods. Birth and death registrations have been requested, but they too have either been destroyed or are unable to be disclosed.

According to the European Implementation Network, the deaths and disappearance of these children mainly occurred over weekends. Where there were twins, the healthier of the two allegedly died, and many of the same doctors and registrars appeared in numerous cases over the years.

Along with these claims, the site also states that it’s often the firstborn child of the couple who supposedly dies, and no other proof of the child dying exists, apart from a birth certificate. There are no graves for these children, and many of the children born male are described as female on their death certificates. Another method of muddying possible leads.

Many parents of the missing children filed criminal charges against the Department of Administrative Inspection, but they were dismissed due to lack of evidence and statute of limitations.

On the 9th of September 2013, Zorica Jovanovic versus Serbia was finalised in the European Court of Humans Rights (ECHR), where the country of Serbia was ordered to provide parents with more answers. Jovanovic was also awarded €10,000 in compensation.

“We don’t want the money. We want the truth. We want our children” — Ana Pejić, who gave birth to a baby girl in 1988 who allegedly died two days later.

Recently, a TV show in Turkey documented the people who knew about the abductions. One nurse interviewed described what she had seen in her years working at a Serbian hospital.

“It usually happened that the gynaecologist who led the delivery reported that the baby had passed away. Sometimes we used to believe it; sometimes it used to be weird.”

They also spoke to a man who was told to pick from a number of children to adopt at a hospital. He was told the money would go to a local orphanage.

“When the doctors said: Choose!, I realised something was wrong.”

These abductions continued until the early 2000s and have only recently stopped or gone further underground. This is due to the media beginning to report on the high number of infant deaths and accusations against the hospitals from the parents, bringing the issue to a broader audience.

Parents of the missing children claim to have sent over 130 appeals to the courts over the past six years. They say all went unanswered, and no action has been taken against the medical staff at the hospitals their children were taken from.


Earlier this year, a bill was passed to help determine what happened to the children. The ruling requires a specialist team of investigators to explore the disappearances and give the families of the lost children a case status, or in some cases, closure.

The Serbian government made additional changes to the bill after criticism from experts, to now include the guarantee of a reopened case if new evidence surfaces. If they can’t give the parents answers, they're compensated.

“I think no mother can agree for 10,000 Euros because hope for the truth about my child cannot be bought.” — Mirjana Novokmet

Further reading


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