Saturday 29 January 2011
Mad, sad or just desperate for fame? Judith Kilshaw failed in her bid to adopt American twins and now wants IVF at 57
Judith Kilshaw is hoping for the inside track on Sir Elton John’s baby son Zachary when we meet. ‘Who do you think the father is?’ she asks, referring to news that both Elton and his partner David Furnish ‘contributed’ to the child’s conception.
‘I’m not sure whether it was David Furnish’s sperm or Elton’s,’ she continues. ‘Do you know? Perhaps it was a mixture of them both, but I wouldn’t have left it to chance.
‘If you were having someone’s sperm, which one would you go for? The one with no money or the one with money? The one with talent or without talent? I know which one I’d choose.’
I bet she does.
Judith, remember, was vilified as the most hated mother in Britain after she and her former husband Alan paid an unscrupulous baby broker in the U.S. £8,200 to adopt six-month-old, mixed-race American twins Belinda and Kimberley, who were put up for sale on the internet.
At the time, Tony Blair called the adoption deal ‘disgusting’ and weeks after their arrival in Britain, Flintshire social services seized the twins. They were returned to the U.S. after a High Court judge annulled the adoption, branding the Kilshaws ‘media obsessed’ with no genuine concern for the twins’ welfare.
The controversial legal battle cost the couple everything — the babies, their jobs, their £230,000 farmhouse in Buckley, North Wales, and their 14-year-marriage.
You might have thought Judith had had a stomach full of notoriety. But it seems not. Now, on the tenth anniversary of the scandal surrounding the twins — bought for the price of a Fiat Panda — Judith, 57, has decided she wants to go to Italy for IVF treatment.
‘It’s getting later and later,’ she says. ‘I think it would be nice to cement our relationship.’ By our, she means her relationship with her new husband Stephen Sillett, who is 13 years her junior and whom she married in April 2009. Or at least I think she means Stephen.
To my surprise, her ex-husband is here too, in the Silletts’ cramped terrace home near Wrexham in North Wales. They are, they say, the best of friends after Alan gave Judith away at her wedding to Stephen.
‘I didn’t actually leave the marriage,’ says Judith. ‘We’re all here together. It’s an absolutely unique situation.’
It certainly is, but back to the IVF. Why on earth would a woman of 57, with four children from two earlier marriages, want a baby?
‘I guess it’s my way of proving I was right all the time,’ she says. ‘The social services deemed we were not good enough to look after two girls, but we were.’
Oh, so I presume she was heartbroken when the little girls were taken from her. Does she miss them?
‘No,’ says Judith. ‘Time’s moved on. They’re in America [the twins live with foster parents in a quiet suburb of St Louis, Missouri] and we’re in Britain. There’s no point missing them.’
So why IVF? Her answer is both bizarre and deeply chilling.
‘You’ve probably got a good career, plenty of cash and your life’s sorted,’ she says. ‘Not everybody’s lives are like that. I wanted to go on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here with Christine Hamilton.
‘We were in a question-and-answer session with the Hamiltons once. I stood up and said to her: “People often call me the poor man’s Christine Hamilton. Do they ever call you the rich man’s Judith Kilshaw?” The whole place fell about.
‘Being in the jungle with her would have been interesting to me — or Wife Swap.’
What? Is Judith actually saying she wants a baby to forge a media career? Surely she’s pulling my leg — but, no, she’s not. She continues: ‘It’ll only happen if this case comes off.’
Ah yes, the case. The Kilshaws, you see, are seeking damages from their local authority Flintshire County Council for what they say is the unlawful removal of their adopted children.
Owing to the privacy laws in cases involving children, it’s not possible to go into the exact whys and wherefores here, but suffice to say Alan has enlisted the support of his local Tory Welsh Assembly member and has a file of letters from the authority, which he claims gives weight to his charge of a cover-up.
‘I’d like a review of the case and I’d like the irregularities that I believe went on to be looked into,’ says Alan. ‘If they’re proven to have gone on, first I’d like a high-profile apology and, secondly, it needs to be looked into how this has affected my life. It has, very seriously.
‘It’s ruined my career [Alan, a housing law solicitor was struck off by The Law Society following the furore] and it’s affected my health. I now suffer with diabetes. One of the main causes of diabetes is stress.
‘I also have high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, high blood sugar — a whole range of things that are all interlinked.’ So how much compensation is he seeking? Judith chips in. ‘Very much,’ she says. ‘I want £1million for me and the same for Alan.’
Stephen, who’s sitting next to Judith on an oversized leather sofa in this cluttered sitting room, perks up: ‘I’ve seen examples of the aggressive behaviour Judith has had to put up with. We’ve had people shout things like “childnappers” and “you’re that ’effing Kilshaw woman”.
‘The abuse Alan and Judith have had to endure because of what’s happened is terrible. Alan’s been very affected. I feel sorry for the bloke. He’s my best friend.’
Alan continues: ‘The thing is, once the media goes away after something like this, the individual is left to pick up the pieces and that’s very hard.
‘You find yourself in a state of limbo. Obviously there are people from The X Factor or Big Brother who end up making media careers, and if you can get to that point that’s fine. But we didn’t have that chance.’
He reflects for a moment. ‘I remember some bloke saying we were the third most highly recognised people in the world.’ The world? Surely not. Judith jumps in: ‘We were in an Indian restaurant in Bishop’s Castle and they got all the chefs out, the washers-up, everybody, saying: “Come and meet them. Come and meet them.” We got invited out to Bengal.
There were thousands of letters, too. I burnt some. I got to recognise the regulars’ handwriting. But when Angelina Jolie or Madonna adopt a child, they’re put in OK Magazine and on the telly. What’s wrong with me doing it?
‘Are you saying that if a child is in India and living on a tip, eating off a tip, working and being exploited, that’s morally better than somebody giving them a home that wants them?’
No. But come on, what sort of person adopts a child, or attempts IVF for that matter, as a career move?
Stephen, who also has two children from a previous relationship and runs his own cleaning business, interjects: ‘Tony Blair uses his children. Anyway, Judith is a very moral person. She can’t stand injustice.’
Judith nods solemnly: ‘I’m Saint Judith, patron saint of lost causes.’ Strewth. I can honestly say in 20-odd years of journalism I have never encountered such a deluded woman.
But the chilling truth is, in this bonkers age of kiss-and-tell celebrity not to mention an unregulated international baby and IVF market, she might just get what she wants. God forbid.
Judith’s saintliness, you see, doesn’t really extend to responsible parenting. In fact, it’s fair to say, she doesn’t seem to have a maternal bone in her body.
She already has four children, James, 17, and Rupert, 14, from her marriage to Alan, and two grown-up daughters, Louisa, 31, and her 28-year-old sister Caley.
But she walked out on the boys five years ago to set up home with Stephen, whom she met in a Chester nightclub, and hasn’t spoken to her daughters in years.
‘Oh, Caley was an absolute tragedy,’ she says. ‘She was spoilt to death — disrespectful, spoilt. Everything she saw she demanded. She had 16 horses. She’d get one horse, love it and a week later it would be too big, too fast, too small.’
I wonder where she is now. ‘She’s, what do you call her, an alien in America. She’s in Seattle as far as we know, but we don’t know for sure. I haven’t spoken to her for four years. The other one’s in Preston, or Prescott is it?’
And the boys?
‘I asked them if they wanted to come with me or stay with their dad. I suppose it was just easier for them to stay.’
Don’t you miss them? ‘No.’ But they’re your children. You gave birth to them. ‘Oh, James was a horrendous baby,’ she says. ‘Put Alan off babies for life, didn’t it? He never stopped crying. Rupert was better.
‘When I was pregnant with him I thought he was a girl. I’ve actually found out the sex is decided later in the pregnancy. So he was a girl and he became a boy later. I don’t know how long it takes.’
Which is, of course, complete nonsense. Anyway, back to the adoption. Given her — well, let’s say lukewarm — response to motherhood, why adopt twin girls?
‘We didn’t ask for twins, and we didn’t specifically ask for a baby,’ she says. ‘We said we wanted a child who could be up to probably five, but we didn’t want to take someone who was 12 and settled in America.
‘I wanted a sister for the boys because Alan always wished he’d had a sister. So we thought it would be nice for both of them.
‘When we heard it was twins, we thought: “Well, we might as well have two.” If you’re making one bottle, you can just as easily make another.
‘Don’t forget, I had an army of people to help me — my mum, Caley, the cleaner, child minders, nannies. Yes, an army of people. I suppose a bit like Elton John.
‘When we got to San Diego to pick them up, I just felt relief. We’d flown on a tin-can plane from Chicago to San Diego and I’d gone deaf in my ears. We were knackered.
‘Can you believe the birth mother wanted us to have them that night? We’d flown for 12 hours with no sleep, but she insisted.
‘She said: “They’ll be good. They won’t cry.” But they did.
‘Alan was trying to get away from the noise by climbing into the wardrobe at one time, weren’t you? He was that tired.’
Alan nods: ‘We were accused of all kinds of things and found out once the case was finished that these children suffered from a condition called reactive attachment disorder, meaning they failed to bond with their parents.
‘They’d been passed around so much. We were accused of damaging them, but we couldn’t have done because they’d already been harmed.’ This is said with the lack of emotion that one might speak of a faulty clutch.
So how did they feel when the babies were taken from their care?
Alan says: ‘I was angry. We paid for the facility to adopt them. We’d had a private home study [where private agencies rather than social workers carried out investigations into their suitability to adopt] and hadn’t done anything illegal.’
Following legislation brought in by the then Labour government, such private adoptions are now illegal in this country.
‘I do think, though, that Judith handled some of the press badly. [She had a scuffle with a newspaper reporter.] What made me depressed is it just seemed impossible to change what people were thinking and writing. People have said to me: “Why do you keep doing stuff with the media?” The answer is I wanted them to get the real me.
‘If the press had been decent and written what they should have written, everything would have been so much easier.’
I’m sure. So, in the interests of decent journalism, let’s clear up one little question. Which relationship is Judith hoping to cement with the IVF treatment? ‘IVF,’ roars Stephen. ‘That’s news to me. I don’t think I’d be interested in being a father.’
Crikey. What about you, Alan?
‘I think once you get beyond the age of 50, you should leave it alone. It gets to the point where it gets irresponsible,’ he says — which is the first sensible thing that’s been uttered in the past two hours.
Then he adds: ‘But never say never.’ Oh dear, haven’t these two learned any lessons in the past ten years?
‘Oh yes,’ says Alan. ‘When people have said: “If you had your time again is there anything you’d do differently?”, I’ve always said: “Yes, there’s one thing. I’d have got an agent involved. Someone like Max Clifford.” ’ Enough said.
By REBECCA HARDY