Grandparents told children will be returned to UK if they pay 60K

The British parents of a Next fashion boss murdered by his jealous wife in China are calling on new Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to intervene and help get their grandchildren to the UK.

Michael Simpson’s parents Ian and Linda Simpson, from Suffolk, are engaged in a desperate international custody battle for Jack, seven, and six-year-old Alice.

The children are pawns in an extraordinary saga of jealousy, blackmail and vengeful murder and live 6,000 miles away in a cramped flat in a central China backwater. 

Jack and Alice live in the remote town of Nanzhang after their mother Weiwei Fu was jailed for life a few weeks ago for their father’s murder.

But Ian and Linda say Weiwei’s family is trying to extort them by asking for £60,000 in return for the children, who have no idea their father is dead – or that it was their mother who killed him.

The couple are worried they will pay the money but still not get their grandchildren, who they have pledged to take to China every year and teach Mandarin. 

Michael Simpson’s children Jack, seven, and six-year-old Alice (pictured together) are in limbo after he was murdered by their mother in China last year

Weiwei plunged a knife into both sides of Michael's neck, killing him instantly

Rachel Lin, who was injured when her boyfriend Michael Simpson was killed

Estranged wife Fu Weiwei (pictured left) slashed her husband’s new girlfriend Rachel Lin (pictured right) before stabbing Michael in the neck, killing him instantly

Mr Simpson told the BBC: ‘We need political support. Losing Michael put a hole in our family. If you take away the children as well you’ve basically blotted out the whole of that family.’  

The Foreign Office is to write to the Chinese custody service and send staff to the hearing next month but the family want Jeremy Hunt to intervene directly. 

Last year their Michael Simpson, 34, the head of Next’s retail operations in China, was confronted by his estranged wife Fu Weiwei, the children’s mother, at his apartment in Shanghai.

In a jealous rage, Weiwei took a knife from her handbag and flew at his new partner, Rachel Lin, slashing her arms ‘to the bone’.

Then, as Michael cradled Rachel in his arms, screaming for an ambulance, Weiwei plunged the blade into both sides of his neck, killing him instantly 

Weiwei, who admitted murder, was given a 25-year prison sentence.

Mr Simpson and Linda said they would waive their right to compensation from Weiwei’s family for the murder. 

In return, Mr Simpson said they were promised the children but they are still in China living in a cramped flat with their cousins until his grandparents pay £60,000.   

‘It is an outrageous attempt to use the children as pawns to extort money from us,’ Mr Simpson said earlier this year. 

‘Our lawyers said the demand was very near to being an illegal act of selling children. We just want what is best for our grandchildren. They will have a better upbringing here in the UK. It is wrong that Weiwei’s family should attempt to make us pay.

‘We have already lost our son due to her and we do not want to lose our grandchildren as well.’

Michael's parents Ian and Linda want grandchildren Jack and Alice in the UK with them but claim they are being 'extorted' by WeiWei's family who want cash to grant custody

Michael’s parents Ian and Linda want grandchildren Jack and Alice in the UK with them but claim they are being ‘extorted’ by WeiWei’s family who want cash to grant custody

Navigating the confusing Chinese judicial system, the Simpsons have behaved honourably at all times, even under provocation, which is why they find the demand for money such an indignity. 

Weiwei’s family agreed to let Mr Simpson and his ex-wife visit the children for the first time in nearly a year.

They met for six hours in a hotel in the industrial city of Xiangyang. Mr Simpson said it was ‘fantastic but very emotional’, adding: ‘Michael and Weiwei were not even mentioned. It just seemed ludicrous that the children did not know – but we could not tell them and then just walk away.

‘Jack was very quiet and only said the odd word. I tried to read to him from Wind In The Willows and he was struggling to understand as he had not spoken English for a year.

‘He cried when we showed him pictures of his father. He just sat on my lap for 40 minutes and never left my side. At the end, he said, “Can I stay here with you?” and I had to say, “No, you have to go”.’

Michael Simpson travelled to Shanghai in 2009 to work as a senior manager for Next as it expanded its operations in the Far East. 

He met and married Weiwei, a shop assistant, soon after arriving. 

The couple separated in 2015 and Mr Simpson became romantically involved with Ms Lin, who went to university in Britain. Last year he was murdered for starting that new relationship.