Edinburgh crime: 21 years after the remains of a newborn baby was found - we revisit Craigmillar and the community spirit that followed

It’s one of Edinburgh’s most heartwrenching and harrowing cold cases, and the compassion, grief and solidarity it brought out of a community hasn’t dimmed, even 21 years later.

Warning: Many may find the contents of this article distressing

March – 21 years ago

On the morning of March 11, a local dog walker discovered the body of a newborn baby boy left near a public footpath in Craigmillar.

Edinburgh crime: 21 years after the remains of a newborn baby was found - we revisit Craigmillar and the community spirit that followed

The tiny remains had been deliberately set on fire; a charred cot blanket, and a baby grow left by his side.

Police later confirmed that the boy had been bottle-fed, bathed and clothed, proof that he had been wanted and loved for the 24 hours that he was alive.

There appeared to be no record of a baby being born in any hospital or medical centre, with officers concluding the birth of the boy had been concealed.

A post mortem failed to establish a cause of death showing only that the child was born alive.

Edinburgh crime: 21 years after the remains of a newborn baby was found - we revisit Craigmillar and the community spirit that followed

The DNA of the babyis still on record, and police are hoping that one day, this will be the key to solving this mystery.

The death of such a small and innocent life has brought out the very best of the surrounding community, which hasn’t diminished in the passing years.

Craig Millar

With no identification for the little body, no idea of family or those who had loved him, the community gathered round to pick up the pieces.

A picture of baby Craig's grave within Richmond Church in Craigmillar.

A fundraiser was immediately launched to give the baby a funeral, a burial with a headstone, and a memorial to be placed on the spot he was found.

He was lovingly named Craig Millar, and his short life brought out a sense of grief and strength from the community he was named for.

The spot where Craig was found, 21 years ago, was soon covered in flowers, toys and messages of love and sadness.

Police, concerned that the cold and wet March weather would damage them, contacted Reverend Liz Henderson of Richmond church to ask if she could keep them safe.

Richmond Craigmillar Church.

The cards, notes and poems were eventually placed into a book, so generations could read and remember.

“Goodnight wee man, sleep well.”

"A little baby boy, we never got to know you, but you’ll always be in out hearts.”

"You never had a chance to see the world, but all we know is you are a little baby boy, who is up in the sky with God and watching over the people you know. Sadly missed by people in Craigmillar”

Written by young and old, these tender notes can still be found at Richmond Church, in the memorial chapel.

The beauty of the response from the community can be seen in solidarity that characterised it. No judgement or anger, no witch hunts, just sadness, empathy and compassion. A simple wish that things could have ended differently.

A page from the memorial book that can be found in Richmond Church in Craigmillar.

Reverend Liz conducted baby Craig’s funeral along with the Catholic priest from the chapel over the road.

She was moved, but not surprised by the response

While talking to the Edinburgh Evening News, she explained: “People from outside don’t see it. This is a close knit community.

“There was no negative feelings about the mother – the biggest thing was grief for the baby.

"There was an understanding there, the people here know about hardship.”

Reverend Liz remembers the funeral of baby Craig very clearly, despite the decades that have passed.

“The church was pretty full,” she mused, “although I couldn’t tell you exact numbers.”

She described how, at the end of the service, the congregation sang “Peace Of The Earth Be With You”.

It was a blessing known by regular attendees, but as the service was also led by the local priest for the catholic community, as well as the many non church goers who were there, it started as a quiet, soft melody only sung by those who knew it.

Others seemed to catch on to the tune and the words swiftly though, and the music grew louder and stronger as more joined in, watching as the small coffin was carried out the church.

Baby Craig was then laid to rest at Mortonhall Cemetery.

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The memorial

A stone memorial was placed at the spot that baby Craig was found, and reads:

"Craig Millar, found 11th March 2001, we will never forget you.

"A little baby boy, we never got to know you, but you will always be in our hearts.

“We were never given the chance to show the joy you could have and would have brought.

"God Bless you.”

On top, there is a carving of a teddy bear.

The spot where the memorial was placed, will now be the home to a new school which should finish construction this year.

In light of this, the stone had to be moved, and was duly placed in the care of the local branch of William Purves Funeral Directors.

Although the branch closed down last year, the memorial has been kept safe at the Purves workshop in Hawick.

Andrew Purves explained: “As a company we were happy to help and take care of the stone until it can be replaced again.

"We had an office in Craigmillar for over ten years and although that has recently closed, we still want to be there for, and help the families...that we have built up relationships with over the years.

“As soon as the stone can be returned, we will be happy to put it back so the memory of Craig lives on in the community.”

Edinburgh council has confirmed that the memorial was removed back when the construction of the new school begun.

They added that a memorial garden would be in the school to mark the spot where Craig was found, and it will be a spot of tranquillity and reflection.

The children at the school might also be asked to create art work, or a sign, in recognition of the importance of the place, but this will be decided when the school officially opens later this year.

There are ongoing community consultations on where the memorial should now sit, with concerns if it were put within the school back on the spot where Craig was found, it would no longer be accessible to those who wish to visit and mourn there.

Through these consultations, the community desire the keep Craig’s memory alive in the area is clear, a hope to bring his memorial home, safe and loved, and a wish that his tiny life will never be forgotten.

Police statement

Mystery still surrounds little Craig's death, and in the 21 years since he was found, the community of Craigmillar has never forgotten his story or stopped longing for answers.

And despite the time that has passed, the police are still hopeful for a resolution.

Detective Superintendent Suzanne Chow commented: "Craig's death was investigated by Lothian and Borders Police, prior to the creation of Police Scotland.

"His death and the circumstances surrounding it were subject to extensive investigation.

"This investigation remains open and, should we receive any new evidence, further enquiries will be carried out.

"If you have information which could be relevant, no matter how small it may seem, please call 101 and help us get closure for all those affected by this tragedy."

Richmond’s Hope: Child bereavement charity, Craigmillar: 0131 661 6818.

Police Scotland: 101

Crimestoppers Scotland (anonymous): 0800 555111

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