Former Bedford woman reunited with family on BBC TV show after 45 years

A former Bedford woman who was abandoned as a baby has made an emotional journey across the world to find her birth mother and father.

Friday, 2nd March 2018, 11:33 am
Updated Friday, 2nd March 2018, 11:34 am

Toni Harrison, 45, was adopted into the UK from an orphanage in Vietnam.

She was abandoned there as a tiny baby in the 1970s during the Vietnam War.

Through an internet DNA test Toni, who is now a mum herself, managed to track down blood relatives in North Carolina, USA.

In front of a camera crew from BBC’s Inside Out, she flew 4,000 miles to track these relatives down.

The documentary crew followed her journey as she met two half brothers she never knew she had.

They exchanged emotional hugs and then Toni was taken to be introduced to her father, who is in a care home.

She was filmed crying as she greeted him a kiss.

“I’m completely overwhelmed, it feels like a dream, a movie,” she said.

“I didn’t think ever I’d be able to kiss my father... So many adoptees have been on the same journey and unfortunately they don’t get to find their parents.”

Toni’s dad, 78-year-old Lee Butler served in Vietnam, where he met Toni’s mum.

She fell pregnant but Lee had to leave after the baby was born.

At the reunion 45 years on he said: “I am glad. I really happy to know she is alive.”

Lee showed Toni a photograph of her mum taken during his days in Vietnam.

“Is that her? I knew it was her!” she said excitedly.

“I am going to find her. It’s my next mission,” she vowed.

As a baby in the Saigon orphanage, Toni was looked after by a worker called Anne McCrudden, who is now a close friend.

It was Anne who helped her be adopted into the UK, and the pair always kept in touch afterwards.

Of her childhood, Toni said: “I always knew I was different. I was the only ethnic child in my year at school, but I was pretty lucky because none of my friends really saw the difference in my colour, but I was always aware there was something different about myself.”

She now lives in Milton Keynes with her son and, until she started her research about her birth family, knew very little about where she had come from and who she was.