Police deploy divers and dog in search for mother and baby after evidence of birth found on Sydney riverbank | Sydney

Police have deployed divers and a blood detection dog in the search for a mother and her newborn baby after finding evidence she may have given birth by a Sydney riverbank.

A resident walking his dog found what police believe to be a placenta and umbilical cord next to the Cooks River at Earlwood in the city’s south-west on Monday afternoon. Police said tests on the organs had revealed them to be human.

Serious concerns were held for the welfare of the child and mother and detectives established a crime scene.

Officers urged the mother to attend her nearest hospital to receive urgent care.

Police tape at the scene near the Cooks River on Tuesday morning. Photograph: Mike Ticher/The Guardian

Supt Christine McDonald said lights had been brought in to allow the launch of a large-scale search on Monday night. The search resumed on Tuesday morning with police divers “searching the mangroves and the water’s edge”.

McDonald said it would “take some time to work through the scene” as the placenta and umbilical cord were found amid mangroves and “it is muddy down there”.

A blood detection dog also arrived on the scene on Tuesday morning after police identified an area needing “further forensic examination”.

An area near Lang Road remained taped off on Tuesday and investigators were also searching through a grassy area outside the Canterbury rugby union club.

“Obviously our search will hopefully identify what has taken place; whether the delivery of that child occurred at this location or another location is yet to be determined,” she said. “I ask anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers.

“It’s very important and it’s extreme urgency we find the mother and the child as soon as we can. We ask she goes to a hospital. We will be contacting hospitals.”

The Cooks River flows from Yagoona in Sydney’s outer south-west and runs into Botany Bay at Kyeemagh, 23km away.

Anyone within the vicinity of Lang Road, Wardell Road, Ewen Park and Tennent Parade on Monday who may have seen a woman in distress was urged to come forward.

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“Any information is critical,” McDonald said, with police also appealing for CCTV footage. “I am deeply concerned for the safety and mental health of the mother and also for the safety of her baby.

“There is no judgment. They need to know we are concerned for them. We are wanting to know they are safe.”

Police said at this stage there was no evidence the baby had been harmed.

The placenta and umbilical cord was sent for testing on Tuesday morning to try to establish the gestation period, the gender of the child and how long the placenta and umbilical cord were at the river.

The NSW health minister, Ryan Park, said his “heart absolutely goes out” to the mother and child and repeated the advice from police – that she should attend hospital.

“You’re not in trouble, you don’t have to talk to police. The only thing I ask that you do is make your way to one of our hospitals so that we can care for you and your baby as quickly as possible,” he said.

“I don’t think anyone could even begin to imagine what this mother is going through. I certainly can’t.”

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