MADRID: The first woman recognised by Spanish courts as one of the "stolen babies" of the Franco dictatorship said on Thursday (Jul 11) she had found her biological family thanks to a DNA database.
Scores of babies were taken from their mothers - who were told their children had died - and given to others to adopt during General Francisco Franco's 1939-1975 dictatorial rule, often with the help of the Catholic Church.
Initially, babies were taken from left-wing opponents of the regime, with the practice later expanded to supposedly illegitimate children and those from poor families.
The newborns were meant to be raised by affluent, conservative and devout Roman Catholic families.
Estimates range from hundreds to tens of thousands of victims.
Ines Madrigal, 50, who found out in 2010, that she was a "stolen baby", told a news conference that, thanks to a DNA database in the United States, she had been able to find a cousin.
The cousin then informed her that her biological siblings were also searching for her.
"For the first time, I have completed the puzzle that is my life," she said.
"I know who I am and where I am from," she added.
Madrigal said she discovered her biological mother, a woman named Pilar, died in 2013 at the age of 73.
"Piler never knew if I was a boy or a girl, but I know that she never forgot me," she said.
"I have four brothers who I have met, who are wonderful people and who have opened their arms and heart to me."
Madrigal did not want to reveal the identity of her biological family to protect their privacy.
A Spanish court last year convicted an 85-year-old former gynaecologist for having taken Madrigal in 1969 from her biological mother shortly after she was born at the now-defunct San Ramon clinic in Madrid.
But he escaped punishment, however, because the court decided Madrigal had waited too long to file a complaint.
Madrigal's is so far the only case of "stolen babies" to make it to the trial stage.
Most other lawsuits have been rejected in the past by courts for coming after the statute of limitations expired.