Child safety officers trying to find parents in Thai surrogacy case

Australian couple and sister of Gammy cannot be located

A Thai surrogate mother is caring for a baby with Down syndrome after he was abandoned by an Australian couple. Video: Reuters


The Australian couple who allegedly abandoned a baby boy with Down syndrome in Thailand have gone missing in Western Australia, along with the boy’s twin sister.

Child safety officers have twice visited their home in the town of Bunbury after it was revealed the children’s father is a convicted paedophile. The twins have been the subject of an international controversy since their Thai surrogate mother said they abandoned Gammy, who has a congenital heart condition in addition to Down syndrome.

The couple took Gammy’s healthy sister back to Australia with them. Mr Farnell and his wife deny knowing about Gammy, saying they were only told about his sister.

Western Australia’s child protection department is investigating the safety and wellbeing of the seven-month-old girl after the full extent of her father’s child sex convictions were uncovered.

David Farnell (56) was sentenced to three years’ jail in 1998 for sexually molesting two girls, who were aged about seven and 10 at the time of the offences, in 1982 and 1983. The offences, which took place in a garden shed and a house, were exposed when the victims were adults and reported the abuse.

At the time of Mr Farnell’s sentencing, judge Michael O’Sullivan said the victims had been “robbed of their childhood” and suffered emotional problems. “They are prone to depression, they have difficulties in forming relationships and they suffer from sexual problems,” he said.

Within months of being jailed Farnell was charged in a separate case, of four counts of indecent dealings with a child under the age of 13. Those offences occurred over a 10-month period in the mid-1990s. Mr Farnell was found guilty of three of the four counts and received an 18-month jail term. The court heard that it was ironic, given what he had done, that Mr Farnell had a stable home life. Judge Ivan Gunning told the court of Mr Farnell’s “refusal to accept any guilt and of course there is no remorse”.

Emma White, the acting director general of child protection in Western Australia, says the department is continuing to try to locate Mr Farnell, his wife and their baby daughter. “Assessments of this nature can and do happen quickly. We will be there every day until the care and safety of this little child can be assured,” she said.

After hearing about Mr Farnell’s past, Pattaramon Chanbua (21), the Thai woman who acted as a surrogate for the twins and who is taking care of Gammy, said the girl should be sent back to her. An Australian charity has raised more than AU$237,000 (€165,000) through online donations from the public to help Ms Pattaramon pay for Gammy’s medical expenses. The Farnell’s dog was taken by RSPCA rangers who went to their house following a complaint that it had been barking for the past two days. There was no answer when the rangers knocked on the door, so they fed the dog and took it away.