'My marriage was destroyed when my wife had an affair with sperm donor she met online'
| May 1st 2014 | 7 min read
A landmark High Court ruling saw the donor 'Rhys' declared both the biological and legal father of the child he sired after embarking on an affair with desperate mum
He did everything he could to make his younger wife happy. He made breakfast in bed, walked her dog and booked romantic weekend breaks. But what Rebecca really wanted was beyond Peter’s grasp.
She was desperate for a baby and, 30 years her senior and infertile after a long-ago vasectomy, he was powerless to father one.
Rebecca’s yearning for motherhood made Peter feel so inadequate that, when she suggested she found a sperm donor online to artificially impregnate her, he reluctantly agreed.
It was a disastrous decision for the couple (whose real names cannot be revealed for legal reasons). Not only did Rebecca go on to have sex with her donor Rhys, she also embarked on a passionate affair with him.
When Rebecca finally conceived Peter filed for divorce, assuming, like his wife, that she would start a new life with Rhys.
But after she gave birth, Rhys severed all contact with both her and his child. Hurt and angry, she took legal action to enforce his status as their child’s father.
And when the case reached London’s High Court Family Division last July it emerged that Rhys (also not his real name) was a prolific sperm donor, siring up to 30 other children by artificial insemination and sleeping with women on the promise of impregnating them.
He even volunteered himself for a “male dominated orgy” known as a breeding party designed to get a woman pregnant.
Rhys tried to protest that Rebecca’s child was born via artificial insemination and parentage therefore depended on the provisions of the Human Fertilisation Embryology Act of 2008. But his case was thrown out.
In a landmark ruling, the judge declared that the child was conceived when the couple had a sexual relationship and that Rhys was “not only his biological father but also his legal parent”.
Of course all of this is scant comfort to Peter, 69, who has been left heartbroken and angered by a man he believes is nothing short of a sexual predator.
“Rhys is a power and sex-crazed sociopath who was arrogant enough to believe he could leave a double life without being caught,” he says.
Now he hopes that by telling his story other women desperate to be mothers will think twice before seeking sperm donors online.
“They are nothing short of sex sites,” he says.
Divorcee Peter met Rebecca, now 40, in a bar in the north of England in 2004.
“She was lovable but naïve,” he says. “Her father had walked out on her family when she was a child and I think she saw me as a father figure.”
Peter’s 18-year marriage had ended 10 years earlier. He had a son, now 38, and at 59 he was adamant he didn’t want to become a father again.
“Rebecca insisted she didn’t want children either and I felt sure we would be together for life,” he says.
They married in August 2008. But a year later, Rebecca felt her biological clock ticking at 36, and decided she did want children after all.
“I told her I was too old,” says Peter. “But she was so adamant that I agreed to investigate our options.”
It was too late to reverse the vasectomy Peter had 20 years earlier. It would have cost up to £6,000 – money they couldn’t afford – for Rebecca to have her eggs implanted with sperm at a licensed clinic. But she was determined not to give up and started researching donors online instead.
Informal donations are legal, but not regulated by law. They are carried out by advertising on websites such as Tadpole Town, FSDW and Feeling Broody. Most insist on artificial insemination with a syringe. But some men offer their unpaid services for natural insemination – having sex.
In March 2010 Rebecca told Peter she’d found a potential donor. Rhys, in his late 30s, said he was a professional man whose motive was to help childless women.
“I didn’t like the idea but from his profile he seemed like a viable proposition and Rebecca seemed so happy,” says Peter. “If she conceived a child she wanted me to help bring him up. I couldn’t stand the idea of saying no and disappointing her.”
A week later he travelled to London with Rebecca to meet Rhys. “It was more in the hope of changing her mind than in a gesture of support,” he says.
The rendezvous was at Waterloo station. “He turned up 10 minutes late with an arrogant swagger,” said Peter.
They started walking to a coffee shop to begin discussions, but before they went inside Peter realised he could no longer support his wife.
“I’d argued myself sick trying to talk her out of it and I’d had enough. I told Rebecca I was leaving.”
Undaunted, she carried on and went back to Rhys’s flat where she artificially inseminated herself.
“We met back at Waterloo two hours later. Her mood was black. She was angry with me for bailing on her.”
But after discovering she wasn’t pregnant, she returned to London to visit Rhys a month later.
Peter admits: “I couldn’t contain my jealousy and when she came home I said, ‘You might as well let him have sex with you and be done with it.
“She said ‘I have done.’ I was livid.”
He believes Rhys initially pressured her into sex by claiming it was easier to get pregnant that way.
“He saw her as another conquest,” says Peter. “I felt inadequate because he could give Rebecca the baby I couldn’t. I felt powerless to prevent her seeing him, which she did every month when she ovulated, and then every fortnight.
"He took her to the cinema and restaurants and she fell in love with him. She was impressed by his job title and wealthy family background.”
Their marriage inevitably began to fall apart and it reached crisis point in June 2010 when Rebecca told Peter she was eight weeks pregnant.
“Obviously she was delighted. I should have known it was coming but I was furious and gave Rebecca an ultimatum. Either she terminated the pregnancy or split up with me.
“She agreed to have an abortion and I took her to the clinic. We both cried. I’m still tortured by the fact I told her to do it and Rebecca has never forgiven me.”
But still she visited Rhys. “She didn’t justify her visits and I didn’t ask. We were under the same roof but slept in separate rooms.”
In December that year Rebecca told Peter she was pregnant again.
“Obviously, it felt strange but I had to accept it. The following February I filed for divorce.”
He says they remained friends as Rebecca continued her affair with Rhys.
“Perhaps it sounds strange but she needed support,” says Peter. “She told me Rhys would look after their child.”
But the more time Rebecca spent with Rhys, the more she began to doubt his intentions. She grew suspicious of his whispered phone conversations and began to suspect he was seeing other women.
Also concerned, Peter started to investigate Rhys’s online trail and discovered many other women warning against using him as a sperm donor.
“I told Rebecca to be careful,” says Peter. “She was naïve but determined to trust him.”
Her baby boy was born in June 2011. Rhys wasn’t there for the birth and that September Rebecca called Peter in tears to tell him Rhys no longer wanted any contact with her. A few weeks later she took an overdose.
“Despite everything I felt sorry for her,” says Peter. “She trusted Rhys implicitly and was betrayed. Yes, she had her child but she’d never wanted to be a single mother.”
He supported Rebecca’s decision to take legal action against Rhys and was shocked when he saw Rebecca in court. “She’d lost weight, was highly strung, nervous and fragile,” he says.
The judge, Mr Justice Peter Jackson, declared Rhys – who admitted he had been a sperm donor for more than a decade and was registered on three websites - guilty of “calculating betrayal” and “unabashed dishonesty in concealing his overall activities from recipients with whom he entered into relationships”.
The judge accepted Peter’s evidence “in almost every respect” but called both Rebecca and Rhys “untruthful, devious and manipulative”.
He said Rhys’s prime motive behind advertising himself as a donor “has been to meet his own needs, at least at a sexual level”.
Peter, he said, was “swept along by his wife’s wishes” and “powerless in the face of what developed into an intense extramarital affair.”
The birth of Rebecca’s baby was re-registered last August with Rhys’s name on the certificate. He has been ordered to pay over £100,000 in legal costs in a case that has cost almost £300,000.
The baby boy at the centre of the turmoil is now two and presumably unaware of the anguish that surrounds his birth.
“Rhys has destroyed my life and that of my ex-wife,” says Peter. “I feel very strongly that he needs to be exposed.”
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