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Monday, November 3, 1997 Published at 18:07 GMT


Biological father to fight for custody of surrogate baby

Surrogate mother, Karen Roche and her husband Mike with the baby they call Stuart

The biological father of a surrogate mother's newborn baby boy has begun a legal fight after she refused to give him up.

Clemens Peeters has filed an application for access and plans to follow it with one for custody.

Surrogate mother Karen Roche, 32, faces a battle to keep the baby she and husband Mike call Stuart, whom she has refused to give up since the birth nine days ago.

The maternity nurse, from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, agreed to bear the child for Mr Peeters and his wife Sonja for £12,000 but broke her side of the agreement. At one point she said the baby had been aborted.

The Peeters, who have named the boy Julian, have filed the application for access at Middlesbrough County Court.

[ image: Clemens Peeters: legal battle for custody]
Clemens Peeters: legal battle for custody
In an interview with BBC TV's Panorama programme, he has accused Mrs Roche of using the child as "some kind of merchandise that could be sold to the highest bidder".

He says: "We feel that's our baby, we are the parents that are meant to have the baby. We are the ones that think we can give the proper love and care it needs."

The legal struggle is the culmination of nine months of wrangling over the fate of the child.

The relationship between Mrs Roche and the Peeters soon turned sour after she was put in touch with them by Kim Cotton, Britain's first surrogate mum in January this year. Mrs Roche later decided she would not hand the child over and threatened to have an abortion. Another deal was also struck with a second couple, Ed and Jean Hunter.

[ image: Karen Roche calls him Stuart, Clemens Peeters calls him Julian]
Karen Roche calls him Stuart, Clemens Peeters calls him Julian
This second arrangement fuelled a row between Mrs Roche and Kim Cotton, who tells Panorama: "I probably feel a little bit of resentment that after all the work I've done over 12 years to bring surrogacy out of the gutter, she's sent us way back again."

Mr Peeters told the programme of his "total disbelief" when he and his wife read in the newspapers that Mrs Roche had not terminated his child but was in fact in the process of negotiating to hand over the baby to another couple.

"We thought that the worst thing that could ever happen to us had already happened and to have to read something like this afterwards. It's like, does the nightmare ever stop."

Mrs Roche told the programme: "Things had gone so bad with the first couple and then the second couple that the only way forward was for us to keep the baby and to fetch him up as our own which is what we're going to do."

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