Man who was 'kidnapped' 55 years ago discovers he's not who he thought he was

Man who was 'kidnapped' 55 years ago discovers he's not who he thought he was

A man who was kidnapped as a baby and returned two years later discovered he was not his parents' son in an extraordinary turn of events 48 years after his abduction.

Paul Fronczak grew up as Dora and Chester Fronczak's child - but everything changed when he was 10 years old and stumbled upon old newspaper clippings revealing he had been taken when he was just one day old.

On 26 April 1964, Dora gave birth to a baby boy in the Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. The following morning a woman dressed as a nurse came into her room and told her she was taking the baby for a medical examination - she never returned.

Paul Fronczak Credit: Paul Fronczak/Facebook

The biggest manhunt in Chicago's history ensued, with more than 175,000 postal workers and 200 officers and agents raiding more than 600 homes to find the child.

There was no sign of him until two years later, when a toddler matching the description was found abandoned at a shopping centre in Newark, New Jersey.

The FBI had little to go on, with only one picture taken on the day the child was born and no record of his blood type, fingerprints or footprints. After testing over 10,000 boys they believed could potentially be Dora and Chester's son, Paul was the only one they couldn't fully exclude.

The couple took him home to Chicago and he knew nothing about his unusual past until he found the newspaper clippings in 1974.

However, growing up, Paul always felt like he didn't fit in with his family and wondered if he was definitely their child. In 2012, he decided to finally put it to the test and bought some over-the-counter DNA kits.

Paul Fronczak Credit: Paul Fronczak/Facebook

Against his parents' wishes, he sent the samples off and days later he got a phone call with the results - he was told there was "no remote possibility" that he was Paul Fronczak, Dora and Chester's biological son.

"I just felt like my life as I knew it was ended. I felt the colour drain from my face. I couldn't think. I got all sweaty," Paul told the BBC. "Everything I thought I knew about myself - my birthday, my medical history, being Polish, being Catholic, even being a Taurus - went out the window, and for a second I didn't know who I was."

Of course, the results raised two important questions: who were Paul's biological parents and where was the Fronczak's biological son? Employing a team of private detectives and genealogists, Paul started the search for the truth.

In June 2015 - two years after the investigation began - he discovered his real identity: he was born Jack Rosenthal and was six months older than he had always thought, his new birthday on 27 October 1963.

The findings revealed some uncomfortable truths: Paul had a twin sister named Jill who also went missing.

Paul Fronczak Credit: Paul Fronczak/Facebook

Their mother, Marie, had allegedly been a heavy drinker, and their father, Gilbert, had come back from the war in Korea "an angry man". There was evidence that both children had been badly neglected.

Several family members recalled the twins always crying and one cousin remembers seeing the babies sitting "in a cage". Whenever they had asked about the children, they had always been told they were being looked after by another family member, when it seemed like no one was.

Paul believes that "something tragic" may have befallen Jill, and this may have prompted the decision to get rid him, because his parents "couldn't explain just one twin".

"My real parents were really not very nice people. I'm thankful that they abandoned me because it allowed me to be with the Fronczaks. They saved my life," Paul said.

He is now dedicating his life to find Dora and Chester’s real son and his own biological twin sister. Read more about his life in his book, The Foundling: the True Story of a Kidnapping, a Family Secret, and My Search for the Real Me.