A High Court judge has cleared a couple of involvement in a fraud which saw the woman convinced she was pregnant and had given birth.
After years of failed fertility treatments, the man and woman heard about another couple who had reportedly had twins after “herbal” treatment in Nigeria. They contacted a “doctor” in the country who prescribed them a course of herbs which brought on swelling and physical changes suggesting pregnancy. A local GP also signed a maternity certificate.
The couple then travelled to Nigeria and paid the herbal doctor £4,500. The woman was given an unspecified liquid to drink and taken into a “delivery room”. A few minutes later the man, waiting outside, heard a baby crying and entered to see his wife coming round with the child.
When the couple returned to the UK, social workers quickly became suspicious. The couple were arrested, the Telegraph reports, and the girl was taken into care. DNA testing showed that the baby was not the couple’s own, to their “considerable dismay and shock”.
A legal guardian was appointed for the child. Local authority the London Borough of Hillingdon and the guardian claimed the parents’ account of events was inconsistent and embroidered and accused them of being complicit in “an elaborate fraud and charade upon the British immigration authorities and…an attempted fraud on the Court.”
But High Court judge Mrs Justice Hogg has now cleared the couple of involvement. She noted that they had had huge difficulties in conceiving a child.:
“At first blush, the immediate reaction of the ordinary man on the proverbial Clapham omnibus would no doubt be, ‘don’t be daft, its a fraud, they knew it'”.
But, the judge added:
“Despite their education and intelligence, they are struggling with the result of the DNA test. Both of them say they still believe that A is their natural child. In the end, having considered all the evidence…I am driven to conclude that in some way they allowed themselves to be duped by fraudsters.”
“They so much wanted a baby….they allowed themselves to fall under the spell of the herbalists, believing what was said to the mother and acting faithfully upon the instructions given to them. Contrary to the submissions of the local authority and guardian I do not find that the parents were wilfully and knowingly involved with or parties to a wrongful removal of [the child] from her mother, or that they cynically ‘bought’ a baby”.
Mrs Justice Hogg concluded: “What is clear to me, having found that she is not their biological child but the child of another mother and father, and having been removed from her mother very soon after her birth, is that [the child] certainly is the victim of wrongdoing and illegality, and very possibly her [biological] mother as well. The fact remains that [the child] is effectively an orphan. There is no-one in this country who has parental responsibility for her and no information as to her birth, parentage, or background”.
A further hearing will now take place on the child’s welfare.