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Couple who claimed their newborn was swapped with ‘changeling’ baby in human trafficking racket at El Salvador hospital are REUNITED with their lost son after other mothers take DNA test



Celebration: Missionary Richard Cushworth and wife Mercedes Casanella pictured enjoying the moment before they were to be reunited with their biological child

Investigators tracked down the Cushworths’ biological child by ordering other new mothers to have their babies DNA tested.

David Cushworth, who accompanied the couple as the two children were swapped and reunited with their biological parents, said: ‘We’re all absolutely thrilled. This is an answer to so many prayers.

‘All the circumstantial evidence pointed to a criminal act, but the official story we are being told appears to show it was a mistake, a mix-up.

‘I can’t say for sure what really happened. We’ll have to see how it works out through the legal system before can be certain.

‘I feel for the other family. We know nothing about them, except that they only just found out today that their baby isn’t really theirs. It must have been devastating.

‘At least we suspected there was something wrong. It seems like they had no idea. Or if they suspected something, they didn’t want to say.’

Mr Cushworth and Ms Casanellas, seen with non-biological baby Jacob, were able to find their biological child after other parents who had children on the same day underwent DNA tests

Changeling: Ms Casanellas, pictured with the couple’s biological son after the birth, says that she noticed that the child given to her by hospital staff in San Salvador was darker and looked nothing like her or her husband

Speaking to MailOnline on Monday Mr Cushworth Snr, a former police officer from Bradford, West Yorkshire, said the family have been forced to sign a gagging order.

The child exchange took place before a judge in a sixth floor office at the Prosecutor General’s in Santa Elena a suburb of San Salvador.

David Cushworth would not comment on whether the family still thought the doctor was involved in the child swap.

‘We’re just happy it’s resolved,’ he said.

On Tuesday morning, the Cushworths took to Facebook to thank their supporters as they revelled in being reunited with their child.

‘There are no words to express what our heart feels to have our baby at home! Thanks to all who joined our pain and fed our hope.

‘Thank God our family this gathered, for the moment we are not allowed to upload photos but soon we’ll give them more details of the outcome of this miracle.

Both the Cushworths and the parents of the son they were rearing were placed under a gag order by the judge in the case as the children were exchanged officially late Monday.

Prosecutor General Luis Martinez told reporters the two boys’ privacy was paramount. ‘The families need to keep it to themselves to protect the children’s rights,’ he said.

Released: Dr Alejandro Guidos has been released by authorities but is believed to still be under investigation following the baby-swap

‘We appreciate the help we received from the forensics to help solve this tragic event.

‘It ended up being a scenario where love, friendship and tenderness won.’

‘Let’s remember the story where King Solomon used his sword – but here we did not use a sword, here we used the force of truth and justice.’

The Cushworths had accused Dr Alejandro Guidos, a gynaecologist at the prestigious Centro Ginecologico hospital, of masterminding a plot with other hospital staff to switch their light-skinned baby and sell him to human traffickers.

But yesterday afternoon, hours after the family attended court to hear Dr Guidos formally accused, the country’s Attorney General’s Office announced that their investigations had already identified their biological baby.

Dr Guidos was freed by authorities on Monday evening, but it is understood that he is still under investigation.

Speaking to reporters, Dr Guidos said: ‘I’m perfectly calm. I have nothing to prove. I am innocent.

‘The tests proved that and we move on.’

He also attacked both the Cushworths and the Centro Ginecologico hospital, adding: ‘A public apology will not be enough.’

‘The doctors have humiliated me. They judged me and condemned me before time.’

Confrontation: Mercy Casanellas tries to rip the covering Dr Alejandro Guido used to conceal his face as he appeared in court in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, after being arrested.

Seized: Dr Alejandro Guido is taken away in handcuffs by police in San Salvador. They acted on the allegation that he had swapped Richard Cushworth and Mercy Casanellas’s baby with another after birth

The parents of four other boys who were also born on the same day, May 21, had last week brought their babies to be DNA tested after an order was issued by the country’s Prosecutor General’s Office, which had taken over the investigation.

The baby whose tests were last to be processed proved to be the couple’s real child.

Cushworth, who is a British citizen but has spent almost his entire life in the United States where his parents are also missionaries, had pleaded for support from UK but not US authorities.

His father had flown from Wilmington, Delaware, to be with him and his wife, who is from El Salvador.

Speaking last night, Prosecutor General Luis Martinez said that the babies of two couples had been mixed up and that each would be returned to their rightful parents at a special court hearing.

He added: ‘We understand the painful drama of these two families. We are talking about two children who were swapped.’

The family’s lawyer, Fernando Meneses, said that the case ‘apparently’ seemed to be an accidental mix-up of the infants and urged the hospital to review procedures to ensure it could not happen again.

The Cushworths had initially said that they hoped to raise both their biological and non-biological child

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline before finding out about their biological son, Mercy said that she and her husband hoped to keep their ‘changeling’ baby, who they have been calling Jacob.

‘I love my baby, he is my baby, I am even breastfeeding him right now,’ she says of baby Jacob.

‘If they can’t find his mother, he already has parents, us. We are taking care of him and, even though we know he isn’t our biological son, we still love him.

‘We are praying and trusting in God that he will help us.’

Ms Casanellas said she was convinced that her obstetrician, Dr Alejandro Guidos who is currently under arrest, had planned the swap all along.

Mercy, a missionary working in a large church in San Salvador, had been based in Dallas, Texas with her British husband Richard Cushworth.

The Cushworths’ son was due to be born on June 20, and in order to be present at the birth, Mr Cushworth had departed for a month-long trip mid-May.

However, just a few days later – five weeks ahead of due date – Mercy was told by Dr. Guidos that she would need an emergency Cesarean.

‘Richard was out of the country and suddenly the doctor said ‘no the baby has to be delivered today’, so he got me to the hospital immediately and got the baby out by c-section.

‘The anesthesiologist, the pediatrician – the entire team was chosen by him, I did not know them.’

Ms Casanellas also told MailOnline that Dr Guidos had been unusually close to her during her pregnancy.

‘One night in January we feared that I was about to have a miscarriage, and he stayed with me the whole night, stayed by my bedside and cared for me.

‘I considered that very nice of him, very professional, and it was not until I told the investigators about this after the swap that they told me that this is not how it is done.

‘He was also the only person who knew that my husband was British and that he would be out of the country for one month.’

Ms Casanellas was taken to the Centro Ginecologico, a private hospital in San Salvador, and underwent an emergency Caesarean on May 21st this year, at 35 weeks pregnant. Jacob was born weighing six pounds.

Evidence:The birth certificate for Jacob Cushworth. It says: ‘Certifies that the child Cushworth Casanellas is the son of Mr. Richard Anthony Cushworth and Mrs. Mercedes Alicias Casanellas Soto, born in the hospital at 21:28 on Thursday the 21st of May, 2015. Witnesses: Dr. Antonio Alejandro Guidos Reyes, Claudia Edit Serrano De Ramos (Licensed Nurse). (Footprints of the child).

‘I saw my son at 9.30pm when he was born, and then they put me to sleep. In the morning, around 8am, they brought in everyone’s baby, but they never brought mine.

‘I told them ‘Where is my baby? Where is my son?’ but they just told me: ‘He is coming, he is coming.’

‘They brought him at lunch time, and I asked them ‘why is this baby different?’ He has darker skin, his facial features were different, his nose, his eyebrows.

‘They told me that it was because he was a newborn and that he was swollen and that he would change.

‘They said his skin would get lighter and that the swelling would go down. They said everything was ok, so I believed them.

‘But then my family started to make comments, they kept saying “this baby has darker skin”, and “he doesn’t look like your husband and he doesn’t look like you” for the next two months.’

After Mercy had recovered from her c-section she and her husband began readying themselves for their return to Dallas, Texas, where she is set to study for a Masters degree.

‘I didn’t want to think about the idea of a switch because I am very connected to my baby and I breastfed him every day – I still do.

‘I thought, ‘how could I even think that this is not my child?’, but the thoughts were always on my mind, and finally I made the decision to to a DNA test because I didn’t want to have these thoughts hanging over me as I went to study for my Masters.’

The DNA test, which was sent from El Salvador to two separate labs in the U.S., came back to show that there is zero per cent chance of Mercy and Richard being the biological parents of little Jacob.

Ms Casanellas and Mr Cushworth – whose parents were from Bradford, West Yorkshire, and now live in Wilmington, Delaware – previously appeared on a local TV station, pleading for their child’s return.

A teary Ms Casanellas said: ‘We haven’t been able to sleep thinking about where he is, and who has him.

‘We just want them to give us our son back.’ Mr Cushworth, who met Ms Casanellas when he worked as a missionary in El Salvador, added: ‘It’s a horrible situation. I have a child and I don’t know where he is.’

Before finding out that another couple had been raising their biological son,Mercy and the Cushworth family provided evidence that their child may even have been swapped.

In the pictures taken by Mercy’s friend who was present at the birth, their biological child can be seen with a yellow clip around his umbilical cord – a clip which is not removed until the cord falls off naturally.

However, the baby that was handed back to Mercy had a white clip around his umbilical cord.

‘We had the footprints taken of my child when he was born for his birth certificate. Later when I went back to change a mistake on the document I noticed that the prints on his certificate were different to the ones we had – they were smaller and a different pattern.’

At first San Salvador’s Ginecologio hospital, considered the best private hospital in the country, denied that the baby could have been swapped, saying it was ‘impossible’ due to their ‘high standards’ of control.

In the indictment against Dr Alejandro Reyes Guidos on Monday, prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office asked for urgent authorization to perform searches of facilities at the Centro Ginocologico hospital, and Dr Guido’s clinic, saying they have the necessary evidence to suggest that in these premises ‘objects linked to the probable crime’ would be found.

Among the accusations made by the mother was that she asked Dr Guidos on several occasions if the baby would be white, to which he reponded ‘No, because latin genes are stronger’.

The report said that, after leaving hospital with the baby four days after the birth, Ms Casanellas changed him for the first time and noticed that his testicles were very dark, unlike how she had remembered. She also saw that the baby had ‘an abundance of black hair, when she had remembered her baby being bald.’

She also said that, while in the delivery room her son had weighed six pounds, ten days after the birth when Ms Casanellas took him to be weighed again, the baby weighed seven pounds, which she thought was strange for a baby who had been born premature.

The baby she took home also had a mole, unlike the baby she had held in the delivery room, according to the indictment.

Plot thickens: Ms Casanellas said photos she took of her baby son (pictured) soon after the birth prove that the baby was white-skinned

Ms Casanellas made contact with the El Salvador authorities on August 27, after receiving the results of the DNA test, but said she was ‘feeling very ill’ and wasn’t able to travel to the country immediately.

The Attorney General’s Office ordered the confiscation of all the hospital’s CCTV equipment, administration and medical registers, and information about all the mothers and babies attended by Dr Guidos.

Earlier on Monday, The El Salvador Gynecology and Obstetrics Association (ASOGOES), of which Dr Guidos is a member, called for the presumption of innocence enshrined in the country’s constitution for Dr Guidos, and demanded that ‘due process is performed, respecting this guarantee as a person and as a medical professional.’

They also called on the Attorney General’s Office to conduct investigations ‘in order for Dr Guidos’ innocence to be proved.’

‘When an obstetrician attends a birth, whether naturally or by Caesarean, it is normal that the baby is immediately handed over to the neonatologist or paediatric nurse,’ a spokesperson said.

‘So if there is any swapping of the baby it is impossible for the obstetrician to do this.’

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