Gammy couple face new probe
Surrogate storm: Wendy and David Farnell. Picture: South Western Times

WA child protection officers have launched an investigation into the safety and wellbeing of a baby born to a Thai surrogate mother after it emerged her biological father is a repeat child sex offender.

David Farnell and his wife Wendy broke their silence yesterday to deny claims by the surrogate mother of their baby twins that they left seven-month-old Gammy, who has Down syndrome and a congenital heart condition, in Thailand.

Pattharamon Janbua has accused Mr and Mrs Farnell of asking her to have an abortion after Gammy's health issues were discovered and abandoning him to take only his healthy twin sister back to their Bunbury home.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has rejected suggestions the Government should allow commercial surrogacy in the wake of the baby Gammy controversy.

Earlier today an RSPCA inspector and a council ranger visited the address to check on the welfare of a dog which has been left unattended in the back yard.

They feed the dog before removing it from the property.

“We are taking the animal away, just for it's own safety until we can make contact with the owners,” an RSPCA spokeswoman said.

A council ranger and RSPCA inspector have taken a dog left at the Bunbury property.Picture: Nic Ellis

Yesterday, Ms Pattharamon said she was shocked at revelations the twins' biological father had previously been jailed for child sex offences and she wanted her daughter back.

WA Department for Child Protection spokesman Darren O'Malley said officers would speak to Mr and Mrs Farnell and see their daughter to determine if further action was needed.

"It (action) could be a range of things, safety planning for the child concerned, in a more extreme case removal of that child or it may be nothing at all," he said.

Officers from the Department for Child Protection officers visited the apparently deserted Bunbury home about 6.30pm last night and 10am this morning.

A spokesman for the department said all avenues for contacting the family, including visits and telephone calls, were being explored.

He said police could be called in to assist the department to contact a family.

Pattaramon Chanbua, 21, poses with her children Game, 7, left, and baby boy Gammy at a hospital in Chonburi province, southeastern Thailand. Photo: AP.

In March 1997, Mr Farnell was sentenced to three years jail after being convicted of multiple offences of indecently dealing with two girls aged under 10.

While serving the jail term in August 1997, Mr Farnell was charged with six offences of indecently dealing with a child aged under 13. Early the following year, he was convicted of four of the offences after a District Court trial and sentenced to 18 months jail.

According to an online report by the Bunbury Mail yesterday, a friend of Mr and Mrs Farnell had provided a statement on behalf of the couple in the wake of worldwide attention on the case.

Department of Child Protection officers visited the house again this morning. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

The unidentified friend said the couple were devastated and described the allegations by Ms Pattharamon that they had abandoned Gammy as lies.

The friend said it was "completely false" that the couple had asked for an abortion when they found out Gammy had Down syndrome and they then abandoned him.

The report said the twins' birth was planned to happen at a major international hospital in Thailand but Ms Pattharamon went to another smaller hospital.

It said this made the surrogacy agreement void and left Mr and Mrs Farnell with no legal rights to the babies.

The friend said the couple were not told Gammy had Down syndrome, only about his heart condition.

Pattaramon Chanbua, 21, talks on a mobile phone while holding her son Gammy at a hospital in Chonburi province, southeastern Thailand. Photo: AP.

With Gammy in hospital and not expected to live, the friend said Ms Pattharamon wanted to keep Gammy and give him a Thai funeral.

She said the couple then became locked in a legal battle to bring the female twin to Australia and the surrogate mother finally agreed to let them but the couple were terrified she would change her mind.

"The biological parents were heartbroken that they couldn't take their boy with them and never wanted to give him up, but to stay would risk them losing their daughter also," the friend said.

Mr and Mrs Farnell spent two months in Thailand, extending their visas, but said they had no option but to leave without Gammy because of the military unrest.

Last night it emerged that Thai medical authorities were threatening to take legal action against Ms Pattharamon, 21.

The Thai Ministry of Public Health said it was co-ordinating a crackdown against medical facilities and agencies linked to the commercial surrogacy the ministry calls "illegal".

Thai reports said the ministry was also considering charges against Ms Pattharamon.

The ministry said the fact that Ms Pattharamon was paid $15,000 as the surrogate mother was in contravention of the country's human trafficking laws.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said yesterdayabout 200 Australians entered commercial surrogacy arrangements in Thailand every year and urged people to seek legal advice on arrangements.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was a deeply regrettable situation but the shining light was there appeared to have been an outpouring of generosity towards baby Gammy and his mother.


With agencies


The West Australian

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