A couple from Oxford have been convicted of attempting pass off a Nigerian baby as their own so they could bring it back to the UK, following a Joint Border Force and Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) investigation a statement by Press Secretary of the British High Commission, Abuja, Rob Fitzpatrick said.

Gladys Effa-Heap and Simon Heap both of Wayneflete Road in Headington flew out to Nigeria in July 2010. Simon Heap is a 47-year-old expert on Nigeria who works with companies trying to forge international trade links and his partner is a nurse.

They later went to the British High Commission in Lagos where they applied for a British passport for the baby girl, claiming Mrs. Effa-Heap had given birth within days of them arriving in Nigeria.

However, staff became suspicious and DNA tests later confirmed that neither adult was related to the child. A birth certificate they had presented was also found to be fraudulent.  They flew home without the baby.

Following an investigation, they were arrested and charged with facilitating a breach of immigration law.

During a hearing at Isleworth Crown Court on Tuesday 16 April the couple pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and 250 hours of community service.

Marc Owen, head of Border Force at Heathrow, said “This was a shocking case where a couple attempted to pass someone else’s baby off as their own in an attempt to bring it to the UK.

“Thanks to the close co-operation between Border Force, the Metropolitan Police and staff at the British High Commission they were stopped and we were able to bring them to justice.”

Detective Inspector Kate Bridger, who leads the Investigation team, said “A child should not be treated as a commodity to be bought and sold.

“This couple attempted to circumvent the adoption system and deceive the authorities.

“That system is in place to protect children and we will do all we can to bring to justice those who try and get round it in this kind of way.”

Border Force is a law enforcement command within the Home Office responsible for protecting the UK border.

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