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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 July, 2004, 13:52 GMT 14:52 UK
Postman's reunion website peril
Paul Burnell
BBC NewsOnline Manchester

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Stephen Williamson hoped to find old friends online
Postman Stephen Williamson joined website Friends Reunited hoping to meet old school pals.

But instead he became embroiled in a claim he was the father of a child belonging to a woman he had never met.

Mr Williamson, 37, from Bolton, Greater Manchester, received e-mails from a stranger who insisted she had shared romance with him in Gran Canaria.

The trauma was compounded when the Child Support Agency (CSA) said he had fathered the woman's nine-year-old son.

Although, the CSA has now dropped its investigation the trauma lingers.

He said: "I just wanted to meet old friends. I never expected this."

I don't think I will be keeping my entry
Stephen Williamson

Mr Williamson, a father of two, joined Friends Reunited in 2002, hoping to contact his old school mates from Castle Hill School, Bolton.

"It was coming up to 20 years since I left and the old building was going to be knocked down."

Using the entry Stephen Williamson - nicknamed Willy or Spook - he wrote: "I'm working as a postman, have been a postie for 15 years now," giving football and music as his interests with Big Country and The Eagles as his favourite bands.

He even included a photo of himself with his teenage daughters.

He received a few replies - including one from his best school friend with whom he had lost contact.

Reunion joy

"The stupid thing was I found out he was only living round the corner from me. I see him all the time now."

But his reunion joy was marred in March when he received an e-mail from a woman saying: "Remember me from Gran Canaria".

He did not reply as he had not renewed his subscription.

Further e-mails came which he ignored. Last Friday he received a letter from the CSA with the allegation he had fathered a child.

The woman claimed to have had a holiday fling with a postman of a similar name. Mr Williamson was tracked down when the CSA contacted his employers Royal Mail.

It was a shock for a man who had been happily married to wife Jane - his childhood sweetheart - for 17 years.

'Negative use'

He had never been to Gran Canaria and his only foreign holiday had been a trip to Florida in 2000.

"I had a terrible weekend - I could not speak to the right person from the CSA until Monday. The CSA has now told me it will not be taking it further."

A Friends Reunited spokesman said the site was intended to be a fun way for friends to keep in touch and not meant for this "negative use."

He said the website was investigating the incident adding: "We're just trying to find out exactly what happened."




SEE ALSO:
Fears over teacher-rating site
29 Sep 03  |  Education
Forces sweethearts reunited
11 Feb 04  |  West Midlands
'Most influential' websites named
31 Dec 03  |  Technology


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