Dr Simon Heap
Dr Simon Heap
A couple from Oxford have been convicted of attempting to pass off a Nigerian baby as their own so they could bring it back to the UK, following a joint Border Force and Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) investigation.
Gladys Effa-Heap, 52, and Simon Heap, 47, both of Wayneflete Road in Headington flew out to Nigeria in July 2010.
They later went to the British High Commission in Lagos where they applied for a British passport for the baby girl, claiming Mrs Effa-Heap had given birth within days of them arriving in Nigeria.
However, staff became suspicious and DNA tests later confirmed that neither adult was related to the child. A birth certificate they had presented was also found to be fraudulent. They flew home without the baby.
Following an investigation, officers from Operation Paladin – a specialist Border Force and MPS team tasked with safeguarding children at our borders – they were arrested and charged with facilitating a breach of immigration law.
During a hearing at Isleworth Crown Court this week, the couple pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and 250 hours of community service.
Marc Owen, head of Border Force at Heathrow, said: “This was a shocking case where a couple attempted to pass someone else’s baby off as their own in an attempt to bring it to the UK.
“Thanks to the close co-operation between Border Force, the Metropolitan Police and staff at the British High Commission they were stopped and we were able to bring them to justice.”
Detective Inspector Kate Bridger, who leads the Paladin team, said:
“A child should not be treated as a commodity to be bought and sold.
“This couple attempted to circumvent the adoption system and deceive the authorities.
“That system is in place to protect children and we will do all we can to bring to justice those who try and get round it in this kind of way.”
Heap has a BA in history from Cambridge University, an MA in African studies from the University of London and a PhD in history from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. He also studied history at Oxford University.
He was also connected to a number of international organisations which support development work overseas.
He has previously worked as a researcher for child rights organisation Plan International, was a Fellow at the University of Ibadan and is currently a Senior Researcher at the development agency - Japan International Cooperation Agency.
The Operation Paladin child protection team comprises a joint team of Border Force and Metropolitan Police Service officers working together to safeguard children and vulnerable people arriving in the UK. The team is based at Heathrow, but covers all ports across London.