A childless British couple longing to have one have fell victim to a Nigerian fraudster who gave the wife herbal remedies and tricked her into thinking she had given birth.
A High Court in the UK where the couple were charged with child trafficking was told of how the husband and wife still cannot accept the baby girl they brought home from Nigeria two years ago is not their own – despite DNA tests proving they are not the natural parents.
Social workers arrested the couple after they returned to the UK, accusing them of being knowing parties in the fraud.
The court heard how the little girl is now ‘effectively an orphan’ with no prospect of ever learning who her real parents are – and faces growing up in the British care system.
Now a judge has cleared the ‘intelligent, educated, hard working’ couple of any involvement in the scam, possibly paving the way for her to be returned to them. Family judge Mary Hogg told the court how for ten years the couple, who cannot be named, tried surgery, laser treatment and IVF to start a family – but to no avail.
Then in 2010 the husband ran into a university friend who told him of a couple who had had twins after ‘some herbal treatment’ in Nigeria.
The desperate couple decided to travel to Africa, where they were prescribed a course of herbal remedies by a man calling himself Dr Cletus Okolo.
After taking the herbs and returning to Britain, the woman’s face, arms and abdomen swelled as if she was pregnant. Even a ‘kindly and well-meaning’ local GP accepted she was seven months’ pregnant, and signed off a maternity certificate.
The couple then returned to Nigeria for further treatment.
At a clinic near the capital Lagos, they handed over £4,500 (over N1.2million) and the woman was given a brown liquid to drink before entering what she thought was a delivery room.
The man waited in the corridor outside and, after few minutes, he heard a baby cry. He entered the room to find the baby girl – referred to in court only as ‘A’ – lying on the bed beside his groggy wife.
He was duped into believing he had seen the umbilical cord cut and was given a placenta in a plastic bag. After pocketing the couple’s money, Dr Okolo wrote: ‘Treatment successful, patient delivered of a baby girl. All fees paid. God’s doing’, which was the sole document that accompanied the birth.
After returning home to the UK they were arrested and A was taken into police protection.
To the couple’s ‘considerable dismay and shock’, DNA tests proved that the girl was not their child.
Cleared: Mrs Justice Hogg ruled the ‘intelligent, educated, hard-working’ couple were unaware of the scam
Having waited so long for a baby, the couple simply could not accept the truth, the court heard. Far from seeing themselves as victims, they insisted that ‘the combination of spiritual and herbal treatments was so powerful as to be able to change DNA’.
But Mrs Justice Hogg said: ‘There is no evidence before me to say that the result of the DNA testing was wrong or likely to be wrong. I do not accept the explanation of the parents.
‘On that basis I have to accept the validity of the results and find that the baby is not the biological child of the putative parents.’
Social workers in the London Borough of Hillingdon, as well as the child’s court-appointed guardian, argued that the couple were ‘knowing parties to an elaborate fraud and charade upon the British immigration authorities and now parties to an attempted fraud on the court’.
They claimed the couple’s account of the birth was ‘littered with inconsistency’ and implausibly embellished.
Mrs Justice Hogg conceded: ‘At first blush, the immediate reaction of the ordinary man on the proverbial Clapham omnibus would no doubt be, “Don’t be daft, it is a fraud, they knew it”.’
However, noting the ‘enormous difficulty’ the couple had had in conceiving a child, Mrs. Justice Hogg took them at their word when they said they would ‘never seek to buy a baby’.
She 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 willfully and knowingly involved with or parties to a wrongful removal of A from her mother, or that they cynically “bought” a baby.’
The judge 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 A certainly is the victim of wrongdoing and illegality, and very possibly her mother as well.
‘The fact remains that A 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.’
Mrs. Justice Hogg ordered a further hearing to decide where A’s best interests lie. Her finding that the couple were innocent dupes could improve their chances of persuading the court that A should be returned to them.
Culled from Daily Mail