Britain’s ‘most hated woman’ who tried to buy twins from the US for £8,200 in cash-for-babies scandal wants to meet the girls one last time now they have grown up
Britain’s ‘most hated woman’ who tried to buy twins from the US for £8,200 in cash-for-babies scandal wants to meet the girls one last time now they have grown up
Judith and Alan Kilshaw adopted Kiara and Keyara Wecker from US mother
Tranda Wecker, then 28, had put the girls up for sale on the internet
Another couple, Richard and Vickie Allen, had already bought them for £4,000
By Harry Howard For Mailonline
Published: 11:21, 17 November 2022 | Updated: 13:36, 17 November 2022
A mother who was reviled as Britain’s ‘most hated woman’ after paying to adopt baby twins from the US said she wants to meet the girls one last time. Judith Kilshaw and her husband Alan sparked an international storm after it emerged they paid £8,200 in December 2000 to adopt babies Kiara and Keyara Wecker. The Kilshaws then flew to the US and brought the girls back to their home in Buckley, North Wales. The girls’ mother, Missouri hotel receptionist Tranda Wecker, then 28, had put them up for sale on the internet. The trouble and publicity began when it emerged that another couple, Richard and Vickie Allen, had already bought the babies for £4,000. The Allens, who had been caring for Kiara and Keyara for two months when they were taken to the UK, furiously insisted they had had been kidnapped. The FBI became involved, with the subsequent international legal battle ending with the children being raised by a third set of foster parents in Missouri. Now the story is being re-told in Amazon Prime documentary Three Mothers, two Babies and a Scandal, which launches on Friday. According to the Mirror, Ms Kilshaw, now 67, says in the programme that she would ‘like to meet’ the girls so she can ‘find peace’. It emerged in 2018 that the girls, then 18, had just started university and were both studying social sciences. Mrs Kilshaw left her husband in 2007 for a man 13 years her junior who she had met in a nightclub. Mr Kilshaw passed away aged 63 after suffering from lung disease. Mrs Kilshaw said in the Amazon documentary: ‘Every day I think about what might have happened, what life might be like now if the girls had stayed with us. It’s usually a nice outcome in my mind, but that’s all ifs and buts and maybes really, isn’t it? You’ve got to face reality. I’m glad they moved on, I’m glad they went to university, I’m glad they have a life that’s the best thing you can hope for. All I want now is to find peace, and that’s the thing I still haven’t managed to find. I would like to meet them, but together with the others. It would be a very interesting if everybody involved could come together, say our piece and make our peace.’
The Allens had bought Kiara and Keyara, then six months old, from an adoption agency named A Caring Heart after being among the first to see the internet advert. The girls’ mother had fallen pregnant as her second marriage was coming to an end and had decided to part with her unwanted children by selling them. The Kilshaws then offered twice as much as the Allens had paid, but did not know the girls had already been sold. The couple had spent £4,000 on unsuccessful IVF treatment and had looked into surrogacy before deciding to adopt abroad. With the Kilshaws offering a much better price, A Caring Heart’s boss, Tina Johnson, told the Allens that their mother wanted to say a final goodbye to them and they would be away for just a couple of days. Johnson then took the twins to a nearby hotel and passed them to the Kilshaws. When the Allens saw the British couple apparently leaving with the babies, a fight broke out. The Kilshaws, who went on to rename the twins Kimberly and Belinda, drove away with the babies and their birth mother, as the Allens gave chase in their car. The couple ended up driving 4,000 miles to Arkansas, where they could formally adopt them. During the drive, the Allens had called them and said: ‘We know where you are. We are going to find you.’
The Kilshaws ended up paying more money to Wecker, for her flight back to Missouri, as well as £1,400 to a lawyer to organise adoption papers. Eight days later the Kilshaws were back in the UK and were at first cared for at the couple’s farmhouse. But a protection order was served on the Kilshaws in January 2001 and the twins were taken into the care of Flintshire social services. Flintshire County Council later lodged an appeal to the Family Division of the High Court to make the twins wards of court. Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair even weighed in as the scandal grew, calling the sale of the children over the internet ‘disgusting’. In April 2001, the Kilshaws lost their battle to keep the children after a judge ruled it would not be in the ‘welfare interests’ of the twins. In California, the Allens were forced to withdraw their custody claim after Mr Allen was arrested in the spring of 2001, when two babysitters, ages 13 and 14, said he had sexually molested them. The outcome of that case is unclear. Kiara and Keyara ended up being taken in by foster parents in Missouri. The case came after Mrs Kilshaw had offered her grown-up daughter £3,000 to act as a surrogate mother. Louisa Richardson, then 22, angrily rejected the offer. Mr and Mrs Kilshaw already had two young sons at the time but wanted a daughter. It was after that refusal that Mrs Kilshaw found the advert for the US twins. In their quest to keep the twins, the Kilshaws had even been on TV personality Oprah Winfrey’s US show, where they faced Mr and Mrs Allen. Mrs Kilshaw has since split from her second husband Stephen Sillett, whom she married when she was 53 and he was 40.
*Please note; my views on surrogacy are exactly that my views.*
Firstly I do actually understand why people choose surrogacy over adopton and/or fostering but for me it’s something I couldn’t do. I’m probably very influenced of being a survivor of forced adoption and not having more children. and, while it wasn’t impossible to have more children, it was very unlikely my husband and I would.
What people don’t think about is that another woman carries a baby for a couple or single person so automatically the baby(ies) suffer trauma of being taken from the only mother they’ve known. They carry DNA from the mother as well. Babies aren’t born as blank slates so have a right to know, like adoptees, who carried them for 9 months. Not telling them is living a lie the same as sperm donor conceived children deserve the truth although now sperm domors can’t be anonymous now in the UK.
Why are donors no longer automatically anonymous?
Before the law was changed in 2005, we consulted widely with donor-conceived people and donors about how donor anonymity should work. We found there was a strong desire on both sides to leave the door open to potential contact if both parties wanted that.
We recognise that the prospect of being contacted by someone conceived from your donation can give rise to a lot of complex emotions.
We also give donor-conceived people the option of having a support worker on hand to act as an intermediary if they’d like to make contact with you.
The British couples who paid £40,000 for a child from Ukraine’s hellish baby factory: Exposed, the heartbreaking reality of slick promises sold to desperate surrogacy tourists
Bianca, 45, and Vinny Smith, 40, said surrogacy dream turned into a ‘nightmare’
The couple from Cheltenham paid £40k to a surrogacy company in the Ukraine
When they arrived for birth of their sons, Max and Alex, four, they were shocked
They saw women kept on a sweltering maternity ward with no air-con ‘like cattle’
By Tom Kelly and Susie Coen For Daily Mail
Published: 23:29, 23 June 2021 | Updated: 08:55, 24 June 2021
Bianca and Vinny Smith went through their packing checklist one last time. There was the paperwork, of course, all carefully ordered, double-checked and labelled. Foreign currency, phrasebooks and medical kits. Then, neatly stacked side by side, tiny Babygros and vests, packs of newborn nappies, bottles, teats and tins of powdered baby milk. For tomorrow, they would fly out to the Ukraine as a childless married couple and return a few weeks later as parents, to twin boys, born via a surrogate. After eight failed rounds of IVF and years of heartbreak plus thousands of pounds spent they’d almost given up on their dream of becoming parents. Now they were buzzing with excitement and nerves that finally their dream was about to be realised. Bianca heard about the biggest surrogacy company in the Ukraine on a Facebook group. ‘They were offering a take-home baby guarantee,’ she says. ‘You pay around £40,000 and you keep going until you get a baby. They’ll swap out egg donors or surrogates until they get it right. And we thought, well, perfect.’
But author Bianca, 45, claims their surrogacy dream turned into a ‘nightmare’ after they flew into the Ukraine for the birth of their sons, Max and Alex, now nearly four. There she saw, first hand, the true scale of the country’s shocking surrogate baby trade: women kept on a sweltering maternity ward with no air conditioning ‘like cattle’. Surrogates forced to wash with bottles of water in filthy toilets, as there were no showers and they were too terrified to complain through fear of reprisals against their families. The Smiths have since discovered that their surrogate, an unmarried mother-of-two from rural Ukraine, was rushed into emergency surgery for several blood transfusions after giving birth to their twins. They still feel guilty about what the surrogate went through on their behalf. ‘It’s very difficult for us to find out exactly how the surrogates were treated because of the language barrier,’ says Bianca. ‘But everyone I know who has been through the same firm as us has not been happy.’
The unavoidable fact is the couple, who are originally from Cheltenham, unwittingly fuelled a scandalous billion-pound international surrogacy trade in the Ukraine. ‘We adore our boys, but we are always thinking about our surrogate,’ Bianca says. ‘If only we had known about how she was treated, we would have done everything we could to make her experience better.’
While surrogacy is legal in the UK, the only payments allowed are expenses, i.e. those incurred as a result of the pregnancy, such as medical bills and compensation for time off work. Consequently, the number of UK women volunteering as surrogates is small which drives many couples abroad. The Ukraine is one of the few places in the world where commercial surrogacy is allowed, since Cambodia, India, Nepal and Thailand all banned it in recent years owing to the abusive treatment of women. Some countries, such as Spain, refuse to register children born from surrogates in the Ukraine because of similar concerns. With no such restrictions here, dozens of highly organised Ukrainian companies are free to target the UK market. Through slick, promotional events, they use marketing videos featuring happy British couples with their babies. Their surrogates,they assure customers, are treated ‘like diamonds’. But the brutal reality is that women are frequently kept under ‘surveillance’ during the final weeks of their pregnancies, banned from having contact with partners or other loved ones and forced to live under curfew, facing hefty fines if they break rules. Some were abandoned while in terrible pain, left with huge medical bills and are unable to have children of their own following complications in pregnancy. One who had been through open-heart surgery was allowed to bear a child despite the risk and was forcibly separated from her own son. Another woman revealed the clinic had missed her now incurable cervical cancer in pre-pregnancy checks. While the women are paid around £10,000 to carry babies for foreign couples more than twice the average annual salary the mental and physical cost is painfully high. Meanwhile, there seems to be no age restriction to couples who want a surrogate child. One agency told of a UK couple who wanted an heir for their property empire so had a child in their late 60s using the father’s sperm and a donor egg. When our undercover reporters posed as an elderly couple, they were told by several agencies it would be ‘no problem’. Bianca, who lives in Cozumel, Mexico, where Vinny is stationed as a military consultant, says the couple had tried to accept being childless. Then Bianca found out about the Ukrainian ‘guaranteed baby’ VIP programme for £43,000. They flew out in July 2016 for a consultation, and Bianca says: ‘Everything seemed perfect we were excited.’
Three months later, they returned to Kiev for Vinny’s sperm deposit and to choose their egg donor from a database that included pictures and videos of the Ukrainian women, and details such as eye colour, height and weight, education and occupation. Their surrogate, a 29-year-old baker, was found within a week. ‘I knew she was doing it for the money but that didn’t alarm me. I have a friend in the U.S. who has been a surrogate four times and does it for the money. I didn’t see it as exploitation,’ Bianca says.
They then met the surrogate, signed the paperwork and paid the deposit. The next month, the donor had her egg retrieval and by December the surrogate was pregnant with twins. For the next few months, their only contact with her was via Skype with a translator employed by the clinic. ‘We found out only her boyfriend and two kids knew about the surrogacy a lot of them do it in secret because it’s frowned upon by the locals,’ Bianca says.
As the babies’ due date approached, in July 2017, ‘everything started unravelling’. ‘It began with the service we were given when we arrived for the birth,’ says Bianca. ‘We were told we would have a “luxury” apartment but it was filthy absolutely disgusting. It was definitely not an environment for a newborn baby.’
The couple complained to the agency and asked for a cleaner but they did such a ‘terrible’ job they were forced to buy cleaning products and scrub down the apartment themselves. Bianca and Vinny, 40, had also paid for a private hospital for their surrogate, but were told she was going to the public hospital. ‘It was filthy and reeked of cigarette smoke,’ Bianca says. ‘The private hospital is used to surrogates, but in the public hospital, we were screamed and shouted at. They didn’t want us there.’
They’d also been told their surrogate would live in an apartment in Kiev for the last few weeks of the pregnancy ‘so they could keep an eye on her’ and ensure her pregnancy was going well.
SURROGACY IN THE UKRAINE: THE RULES
~ Only married heterosexual couples are allowed to use surrogates in the Ukraine and they must have a medical reason why they cannot carry their own children.
~ There has to be some genetic link between the prospective parents and the child, either through the sperm or the egg. The surrogate cannot use her own eggs.
~ For the surrogates in the Ukraine, the rules are much more strict. Women must sign contracts waiving their right to even hold the baby after the birth and are hit with hefty penalties for infringements, as seen by our undercover reporters.
~ The contract states if the surrogate is left infertile due to the pregnancy or childbirth, she is only entitled to £5,700 in compensation from the prospective parents.
~ If the child is born ‘with abnormalities through the fault of the surrogate’ she must pay the parents £11,500 in compensation.
~ She will also have to pay a £17,000 fine for the ‘refusal to issue documents’ confirming the parental rights of the intended parents.
~ She is not permitted to ‘pick up the child(ren) at the hospital and cannot object to the potential parents picking up their child(ren) immediately after birth’.
~ The largest possible fines which can be issued to a surrogate include for a ‘breach of confidentiality’ speaking to the Press, human rights or public organisations which would see a surrogate fined £22,000.
~ The surrogate must reimburse the parents ‘for all medical expenses’ if she refuses to have an abortion ‘if the child(ren) is found to have abnormalities and the potential parents opt to terminate the pregnancy’.
~ The contract also states she must: ‘Strictly follow the diet, lifestyle and regime of work, rest, physical and emotional stress’ that is recommended to her.
~ She cannot even ‘swim or sunbathe’ without the consent of the parents, agency and a physician.