I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

One in ten men could be victims of paternity fraud.

This is now an issue bigger than one family and it strikes at the heart and sole of a marriage. Trust. Without it the foundation of a relationship does not exist as it should and the sooner emotionally weak ex's such as Lydia Webb realize it the better. I can speak with a great deal of personal heartbreaking experience over the loss of trust through fraud, its impacts on a relationship, and emotionally weak ex's. I would hazard a guess Lydia alienated the 2 girls against their dad and this would fit the pattern of behaviour of a proven lier and emotionally weak, deceitful cheater. The fact she would draw the children into the dispute as witnesses supports that notion. How further tragic can she make peoples lives. Pity any man who gets caught in her web again. I note with interest that the majority of the comments condemning Mr. Webb are from females. Does this imply they may have something to hide as well and think that motherhood above all else is sacrosanct - but not fatherhood. Gosh I would love to do a study on things like this to determine motives. Of the 30 comments on the Daily Mail online site at the time of publishing this here in Canada most were in favour of his actions. MJM

One in ten men could be victims of paternity fraud. I'm fighting for them ...not the money

By Elizabeth Sanderson Last updated at 9:27 AM on 01st February 2009

There was never going to be a good time. But when the truth finally emerged, it couldn’t have been at a more inopportune moment. Mark Webb was driving to work at eight in the morning when his wife Lydia rang.

‘I was in the fast lane of the M4 heading towards Reading,’ he recalls. ‘I picked up the call on the hands-free and said, “Hi, what’s the problem?” because Lydia wouldn’t normally call so early.

She said, “I’ve got something I need to tell you. You’re not the father of Elspeth. Dave Mottram is.” ’

It was a shattering revelation and one that set in motion an extraordinary chain of events.

mark webb

Determined: Mark Webb is taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights

For what might have been a painful but private matter became very public when Mark took his now ex-wife and her lover to court in a bid to claim compensation for the 17 years he had spent bringing up Elspeth, believing her to be his daughter.

Mark’s claim failed and ten days ago the Court of Appeal refused him permission to appeal against the ruling. Since then the ‘paternity fraud’ case has sparked a passionate debate about the rights of fathers.

In last week’s Mail on Sunday, Lydia defended her actions while Mr Mottram has also had his say, claiming he did not know that Elspeth was his daughter. Yet throughout, and for all the conjecture and comment, Mark remained silent.

Now, in an exclusive interview, the 47-year-old production manager for an engineering company explains why he took the controversial and much-criticised decision to try to recoup the money he had spent bringing up Elspeth.

Deceit: Lydia Webb today with her daughters Elspeth,(right) , now 22 and India (left)

Deceit: Lydia Webb today with her daughters Elspeth,(right) , now 22 and India (left)

He tells how he had always believed in his marriage and how Lydia’s secret and the subsequent court case have torn apart his relationship with Elspeth and another daughter, India.

He also reveals that for him, at least, the battle is not over, as he intends to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Clean-cut and precise, with closely shorn hair and inky-black eyes, Mark is not given to outward displays of emotion. Yet even now, seven years after that phone call, he still finds the enormity of the situation difficult to take in.

‘I wonder every day how anyone could keep this to themselves for 17 years,’ he says. ‘It must eat away at you. Up until Lydia’s call, I had no idea that Elspeth might not be mine. I was stunned. People say my pride’s been hurt, but it’s beyond pride. I suppose my dignity has been damaged more than anything else.

‘I’d always been proud of all our three girls and their achievements. And even though I believe in nurture, not nature, it’s still hard to think that people might look on it differently – that maybe Elspeth’s the girl she is because she’s her “real” father’s daughter.

Childhood fun: Elspeth, left, and her sister enjoy at day out at the fair

Childhood fun: Elspeth, left, and her sister enjoy at day out at the fair

‘I loved Elspeth and I still do. When you’re a dad, and you do a dad’s job properly, there’s nothing that can shake you into feeling differently about a child.’

And he insists: ‘I know people have criticised me and they don’t like the fact that money is involved. But it’s not just about money. It’s about something much bigger than that. Exactly what rights do you have as a dad? It’s a very serious, complex, frightening issue.

‘Lord Justice Thorpe said the case raised very interesting sociological points. I don’t think interesting is the right word, quite frankly. Studying Roman sewage systems is interesting, if that’s what you’re into.

‘This is not just interesting. It’s something that’s going to have a huge effect on people’s lives over the next couple of decades. I love my children and I see what they’ve gone through and this could happen to another family tomorrow unless we change things.’

In order to understand the devastation this case has caused, it is necessary to go back to the beginning. Mark and Lydia first met 20 years ago in Devizes, Wiltshire, the market town where they grew up.

He was the son of a painter and decorator, she the daughter of a tyre fitter and secretary. Lydia was 15 and still at school, Mark two years older and studying to be a baker.

He says: ‘It just worked. She was quite artistic, musically talented – a very good singer. She was basically an innocent girl from a small town who hadn’t really been anywhere, and my history wasn’t so dissimilar.

‘She was my first serious girlfriend. Until then I’d been more interested in cricket than girls.’ They married four years later in 1982.

Lydia has since said that Mark quickly became controlling and manipulative, hitting walls when he was angry and constantly threatening to leave her.

She also claimed that the gradual chipping away of her confidence left her emotionally vulnerable, which is why she was drinking heavily the night Elspeth was conceived.

Lydia, then a secretary with a computing company, was at a conference and ended up in a hotel room with an older colleague, Allen Mottram, known as David.

Mark says: ‘I’d met him when I’d gone to the office to meet Lydia. But we were in our early 20s and he was in his 30s. You don’t think the guy’s going to have any interest in your girlfriend and so I never thought any more about him.

'As for my being controlling, that’s absolute rubbish. We both had our say – nobody controlled anything. Everything was going really well.’

Elspeth was born on March 18, 1986. Mark says: ‘I was there for the birth. It was an amazing thing to witness. Elspeth was a lovely little girl. She’s always been an absolute charmer.

‘I believe that, in bringing up a child, you form that person so, yes, I did see traits of both of us in her. Elspeth was very good at running and I was quite some athlete as well.

'I thought she got that side from me and she got her musical side from her mum. We also had the same sort of Monty Python sense of humour.’

Two years after Elspeth was born their second daughter, India, arrived. Lydia claims the marriage began to fall apart soon after. She believed her husband was being unfaithful and got back in touch with David Mottram.

Lydia and Mark’s third daughter was born in 1992. (The Mail on Sunday has agreed not to name her to protect her identity while she is at school.)

After this, Lydia insists she stopped seeing Mr Mottram and tried to save her marriage – even though she says it was, by then, in deep trouble. It is an allegation Mark strongly denies.

He says: ‘Lydia had intermittent spells of becoming very distant and quiet, but otherwise everything was fine. I’d stay at home and look after the kids and she’d go to her singing groups, the local theatre, the opera.

‘The outgoing side of Lydia never changed as far as I can tell. This suppressed, meek person never occurred. Just look at all the programmes for the local theatre and opera productions she appeared in at the time.

‘It was a happy marriage. As parents we totally succeeded. The girls are bright, clever, well-mannered and all did well at school. I believed our marriage was stable and we had a good life. And I know Lydia thought that, too, because I have letters to prove it.’

But Mark admits to two brief flings, both of which he told Lydia about. Then, in 2000, he began to suspect that she was having an affair.

He says: ‘I’d just got home after several weeks in hospital. I’d had liver failure. Nobody knows why. Within 24 hours I’d gone from running 13 miles a day to being in hospital on a drip.

‘The phone rang, I picked it up and gave our number and the line went dead. I did 1471 and got through to the voicemail of Dave Mottram.

I didn’t know there’d been any contact between them for years, so I was surprised.

‘I asked Lydia about it when she got home and she said she’d been enquiring about a computer for Elspeth. He was in IT so I just accepted it. A few months later I took another call – at midnight.

He asked to speak to Lydia and I passed over the phone and she had a very short yes and no conversation with him.

‘That’s when I started asking serious questions. We tried to carry on as normal but it began to nag away at me. I kept asking questions and I think that was what finally prompted her to tell me the truth.’

It was in February 2002 that Lydia made her devastating confession. Mark says: ‘Whatever had happened that morning, and I still don’t know, something had spurred her on. On the phone she sounded drunk.

'When she told me about Elspeth, I said I was coming back home to see her – that we had to sort this out. By the time I got to the junction to turn off for home I got a call to say she was in hospital. She’d taken an overdose.’

Mark decided to stay with Lydia. ‘It was a hard choice,’ he admits, ‘but we’d been a family for 17 years and there were three children it was going to have a huge effect on. And, to all intents and purposes, we had a good marriage. We thought it was best not to tell Elspeth until later. She was 16 and going into exams.’

But the following year, Elspeth found out the truth when she read her mother’s diary. Mark says: ‘She was devastated. She said, “Is it true?” I said, “As far as I know, from what your mum has told me.”

I told her not to worry and said, “I’m still your dad. It’s not going to change anything from my point of view.” ’

But he concedes that it put a tremendous pressure on the family. ‘We sat the girls down and told them,’ he says. ‘Luckily, they were very matter-of-fact about it. Their view was that Elspeth was still their sister and it didn’t change anything.’

At the same time, more details emerged about Lydia’s affair with Mr Mottram. Mark says: ‘It became clear that it had been going on all the time since 1985.

‘At first I thought they’d been together on a couple of occasions. Then it emerged it was a few more, then it was this house and that house. Then she told me that Dave Mottram had known he was Elspeth’s father a few months after she was born.

I couldn’t get a true picture of our marriage any more.

‘In a letter she wrote to me at the time she said, “I’ve given you lies and deceit and misery for 17 years.” The misery isn’t true, but the lies and deceit bit is. That was the worst part, not the part about Elspeth.’

In 2003 Mark moved out of the family home. Relations became increasingly fraught when Lydia approached the Child Support Agency for maintenance for their two youngest daughters, even though India had decided to live with her father and the couple were to share custody of the youngest child.

Lydia also pursued Mr Mottram for maintenance for Elspeth.

Mark says: ‘Outside of the CSA, she and Dave Mottram agreed that he would pay her £15,000 for that year. I would have preferred him not to have been involved but I didn’t offer to pay for Elspeth because it wouldn’t have kept him away.

‘What I thought was, I’ve brought up three children and it now transpires I wasn’t the father of one of them. I’ve got to pay for these two, so should Dave Mottram now have to repay the money I’ve spent bringing up his child?

'I asked the CSA and they said no, that payments only start from the day you make a claim. But how could I make a claim for something I didn’t know about? It seemed so unfair.’

So, in December 2004, Mark tried to sue his ex-wife for deceit. In March 2006, he added Mr Mottram’s name to the claim, demanding more than £100,000 in damages. Mark explains:

‘It’s based on what would have been requested had we known Dave Mottram was the father from the outset. The lawyers worked out that it came to £100,000 plus interest.’ But, for all Mark’s protestations, it seems a hard-hearted and financially-motivated approach.

Mr Mottram is a wealthy businessman who lives in an £800,000 house. Mark works hard but has never achieved the same level of success.

Asked whether he would give his daughters the money, given that this is a fight about principle rather than profit, he says: ‘Of course there would be money for them. I’m their father, including Elspeth’s.’

But he cannot understand why his actions might upset Elspeth. Mark, who lives with his partner of a year, a writer, in Devizes, says: ‘I would have explained to her that this is not personal, to try to get back the money I’ve spent on her.

‘When the case started, Elspeth was not involved. The request for repayment went only to Lydia and Mr Mottram. I refused to talk to the children about it and didn’t call them as witnesses in court because neither I nor my lawyers thought it was right. It was Lydia’s team who called Elspeth.’

Yet his determination to pursue the case has now cost him the love not just of Elspeth, but her sister India. Contrary to reports, Mark did not reject Elspeth once he found out he was not her father. In fact, their relationship remained close and loving.

A text on Mark’s phone from September 2006 reads: ‘Hi, Dad. How are you? Hope you are well. What are you up to? Much love x.’ Another, dated November 2006, reads: ‘Hello, Dad. How are you. Must see you soon, love Elspeth x.’

It was only when it became clear that Mark was going to pursue his case, no matter what, that relations broke down. He says: ‘I’ve tried for the past two years to talk to Elspeth about what this is about, but she won’t talk to me or give me her new phone number.

‘India says she doesn’t want anything to do with this. We haven’t spoken properly for a few months now. She said to me, “Can you stop this?” I said, “No, it doesn’t just affect me.”’

It seems a very high price to pay, but Mark now has the zeal of a convert and intends to take his case to Europe. ‘It is a serious debate,’ he says. ‘At what point is a father entitled to know, for sure, that a child is his? Some statistics say that as many as one in ten men may be unaware they are not the real fathers of their children.

‘DNA can be used by the Government to catch a criminal and put him in prison 20 years later, but it can’t be used retrospectively to make a father pay for his child.

‘This isn’t about Lydia or Elspeth or Dave Mottram, it’s about a much bigger picture. I hope the girls will see sense. Elspeth’s always been a very complete person and she still is. She’s incredibly bright, applies common sense to what she does and hopefully she’ll decide to give me her phone number one day. I’d like that very much.

‘I’m striving to show my daughters that the right thing to do is not always easy. It’s a risk, but I give them credit for being intelligent and worldly enough to see the bigger picture.’

Go for it!! You are right and the issue is right. She defaruded you. If she had defrauded an employer she would be jail. There is no difference!!

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i hope he wins

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I don't know why women do this( and I am a woman). My Parents divorced when I was 2 years old. Years later it transpired that I had an older half sister who had been adopted when she was a few months old. My Mother had pretended that this child was my Fathers. He later found out and gave her an ultimatum. To 'save' the marraige the child was thus adopted. The damage was done though, My parents divorced after I was born. It was a bitter divorce and I was not allowed to see him. Finally at age 19 I met him but,later he died. So my younger life was pretty much ruined by the yearning for a Father who was so hurt and bitter because he had been lied to by my Mother that off he went. Meanwhile I met the half sister who has brought tremendous hurt into my own life by her own troubled wilful actions. Ladies don't lie , it ruins lives.

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