A convicted child sex offender who was accused of abandoning his Down syndrome son and raising his twin sister instead has died.
David John Farnell and his wife Wenyu ‘Wendy’ Li made world headlines six years ago when their Thai surrogate, Pattaramon Chanbua, gave birth to twins Gammy and Pipah in December, 2013.
Mr Farnell, the biological father, and his wife only took the baby girl, Pipah, back to their home in Western Australia, leaving Ms Chanbua to raise Gammy – who was born premature with Down syndrome and a congenital heart problem.
Mr and Mrs Farnell then triggered a global furore in August 2014 when they were publicly accused of ‘abandoning’ Gammy in Thailand.
Mr Farnell who died recently, The West Australian reported, had been battling an asbestos-related illness – though his cause of death is unclear.
David John Farnell and his wife Wenyu ‘Wendy’ Li (pictured) made world headlines six years ago when their Thai surrogate, Pattaramon Chanbua gave birth to twins Gammy and Pipah in December, 2013
Thai surrogate mother, Pattaramon Chanbua holds her baby Gammy
He previously launched a lawsuit against an asbestos manufacturer after he allegedly breathed in poisonous fibres as an electrician in the late 70s and early 80s.
The surrogacy saga began after the Farnells struggled to conceive for years. Mrs Farnell had ten unsuccessful IVF cycles.
Mr Farnell got the idea of a Thai surrogacy from a documentary, as commercial surrogacy is illegal in Australia.
He supplied his sperm to a South East Asian company and the couple were delighted to later learn Ms Chanbua was pregnant with twins.
Gammy and his sister Pipah were born prematurely in December 2013. The boy was critically ill at birth, but survived.
Mr Farnell, a convicted sex offender, appeared on 60 Minutes saying he didn’t have any sexual urges for children
Gammy (pictured) was born premature with Down syndrome and a congenital heart problem
The couple took his healthy sister Pipah home, but Gammy remained with his surrogate.
Six months later, Gammy’s impoverished surrogate mother told a Thai newspaper she could not afford to pay for his medical treatment.
A ‘Hope for Gammy’ GoFundMe page was launched to raise money for Gammy – and the couple were suddenly accused of ‘abandoning’ the boy.
The Farnells denied abandoning Gammy and said they believed he was going to die shortly after birth due to his heart problem.
The couple insisted they were forced to flee with his healthy twin sister before Thai authorities tightened surrogacy laws in the midst of a military coup.
It was later ruled that Ms Chanbua had become attached to the twins while pregnant and chose to keep Gammy and raise him.
The controversy only deepened when it was revealed Mr Farnell had a paedophile past and had been jailed for three years.
He had been convicted of child sex offences when he was younger, including molesting two young girls in 1982 and 1983, when he was in his 20s.
On sentencing, the judge was scathing, saying Mr Farnell had ‘robbed them’ of their childhoods.
Child protection agencies investigated and the couple eventually faced the public on the TV program 60 Minutes.
It was later ruled that Ms Chanbua had become attached to the twins while pregnant and chose to keep Gammy and raise him
Mr Farnell told reporter Tara Brown he no longer had sexual urges for children, thanks to years of counselling.
‘I don’t have this urge to do anything anymore,’ he said. ‘She (Pipah) will be 100 per cent safe. I will do everything in the world to protect my little girl.’
One of his victims who was seven-years-old at the time of her abuse urged authorities to take Pipah away from Mr Farnell.
‘This needs to stop. Because there are so many innocent babies and children that are abused day in, day out. It’s disgusting,’ she told The West Australian in 2014.
In 2016, the Family Court of Western Australia ruled it was safe for Pipah to live with the Farnells.
Gammy with a toy in 2017
‘I have decided Pipah should not be removed from the only family she has ever known, in order to be placed with people who would be total strangers to her, even though I accept they would love her and would do everything they could to care for all her needs,’ Justice Thackray said.
Justice Thackray also ruled that Ms Chanbua decided to keep Gammy.
Gammy, now six, has benefited from the’ extraordinary generosity of Australian donors. More than $240,000 was donated to support Gammy via the charity, Hands Across the Water.
The money, which only recently ran out, went toward Gammy’s medical bills and daily living costs.
It was used to buy a permanent home for Gammy to live in, which is held in his trust until he is 21.
His mother told the ABC two years ago: ‘It’s made all the difference … he got a new house to live in, he’s able to go to kindergarten and live in better conditions.’
The little boy who now goes by the name of ‘Grammy’ started kindergarten in 2017. He is said to be healthy and ‘loves going to school’.