When the doctor broke the news, his mouth went so dry he couldn’t speak His sons were his whole world, how could someone be telling him they weren’t his?
But the results the doctor offered only scratched the surface. Whose children had he been raising? And why had she allowed him to live a lie for all these years?
Richard Mason had the life he’d always dreamed of. His hugely successful price comparison website MoneySupermarket.com has made him a millionaire in the UK. Then he met the woman he knew he’d spend the rest of his life with.
Richard married Kate and the loved-up couple started work on a family that would soon grow to three children. But behind what seemed like a picture-perfect family life lurked something that would shatter Richard’s world.
As time went on, Richard and Kate’s relationship began to deteriorate. In 2008, they sat their sons, Will and twins Ed and Joel, down to break the news that their parents would be getting a divorce.
At the time, Richard had no regrets about his marriage to Kate, because he was still crazy about the three sons they raised together. It would have taken wild horses to drag him away from his commitments as a father. That, or some life-shattering news from the doctor.
In the beginning, the separation was fairly amicable – but then the lawyers got involved and the matter of money became the overriding issue. After a lengthy battle, Kate was awarded $5 million of Richard’s fortune, as well as a guarantee that Richard would pay for their children’s private school fees. But that wasn’t the end of it.
“Kate hounded me for years,” said Richard, who has since remarried. “She wanted me to pay more.” But his main concern was his children’s well-being. As long as they didn’t want for anything, Richard would just let the lawyers deal with the rest. But there was something Kate had been keeping from him that would completely change how he felt about the situation.
Almost 10 years later, Richard scheduled a routine check-up with his doctor. Things between him and Kate had cooled down dramatically. Even though the divorce still stung a little, the battle had finally been laid to rest.
So when he walked into the doctor’s office that day, he never dreamed he would be finding out something that would shake him to his core – and open up the conflict between himself and Kate again.
Richard was expecting to be told he should watch his cholesterol, maybe cut back on the alcohol. But the doctor’s tests had revealed a far more serious diagnosis.
Richard had cystic fibrosis. But the father-of-three didn’t have a second to take the already painful revelation onboard before the doctor dropped another bombshell on him that would reduce him to tears.
Receiving the news that he would have to live with a debilitating disease had knocked Richard for a loop. Cystic Fibrosis causes regular lung infections and gets worse over time, reducing the patient’s capacity to breathe. How was he going to tell his new wife?
Richard’s sister had succumbed to the genetic disease several years earlier, so the worried father’s mind quickly flashed to the danger his children could be in of inheriting the condition. But the next piece of news the doctor had to reveal would set his mind at ease about that – before opening up another can of worms.
Much to Richard’s relief, the doctor assured him there was no way he could have passed the disease on to his sons.
But the reason why that was the case would be more devastating to Richard than the diagnosis itself. Understanding this would be hard for him to swallow, the doctor took a deep breath before explaining why genetic transference of the disease simply couldn’t have happened.
Having cystic fibrosis meant that Richard was infertile. This would be very difficult news for anyone to hear, but for the father of three, he couldn’t quite understand how this could be. He had three children, for crying out loud!
Richard suddenly realized that this could be a misdiagnosis. How could he have a disease that meant he never would have been able to have children if he’d fathered three sons? But the doctor dashed his fleeting hope with a sympathetic shake of the head.
The doctor gently told Richard that he should arrange to have a conversation with his ex-wife. Richard just sat there in the doctor’s office completely stunned. Was the doctor really suggesting what he thought?
Then, suddenly, Richard played his entire life with Kate back in his mind. Sure, their relationship was rocky, but could she really have lied to him about something as serious as this? Richard felt sick.
As a successful internet millionaire, Richard had often worked late nights while he was building his fortune. It was something that he and Kate would regularly clash over, despite the fact that she too had a thriving career and put in a lot of overtime.
But as he walked home dejected from the doctor’s office, he couldn’t get the thought of that night when Kate called him from a hotel in London to say her flight had been delayed. And that just led to setting off several other alarm bells that he should have spotted sooner.
When the twins were born, friends and family would often comment about how they “had her eyes.” But no one ever said they looked like Richard. In fact, Richard had always thought the children looked like someone, but he could never quite place it.
Then there was the other curious phase that Kate went through when their first son, Will, was born. He hadn’t thought about it in years, but in light of recent events, he couldn’t think about anything else.
Both Richard and Kate were raised as Christians, so it came as quite a shock when she said she wanted to convert to Judaism. She even wanted to give all three of their sons Jewish middle names. At the time, he just put it down to a bit of spiritual soul searching during a difficult pregnancy. But now his mind was cast back to those regular visits with the rabbi.
At this point, Richard had convinced himself that Kate had been seeing another man behind his back and that he was really the boys’ father. But before he could confront Kate about his suspicions, he realized there was something he hadn’t considered that might mean he had it all wrong.
Twins occur in natural pregnancies at a rate of around 1 in every 250 births. If the chances of Richard somehow managing to father children despite his disease were low, the odds of them being twins was astronomical.
But couples who are having difficulty conceiving and resort to using fertility treatments find the likelihood of having twins increases greatly. Had IVF treatment helped them have children when it should have been impossible? But as he thought about the twins, it hit him like a ton of bricks. He knew who it was they looked like.
Richard loved his sons, but the fact that they looked nothing like him had always hurt. And now with a genuine reason to believe they weren’t his kids at all, it was absolute agony. But until that moment, he hadn’t been able to put his finger on who it was they did look like.
But just before he sat down to fire off an email to Kate demanding the truth, he thought about the twins again. Weren’t they proof enough that somehow he had been able to have children, despite what the doctor said? Wouldn’t life be easier if he just left it alone? Probably, if only he could get that guy she was spending time with out of his head.
Richard was always busy with his business – even when Kate was pregnant – so he didn’t pay an awful lot of attention to what was going on with her career, and even less to the colleagues she was spending time with. But there was this one guy she always seemed to be chatting to whenever he picked her up from her office.
There was so much going on in their lives what with the company bringing in millions and completely changing their lifestyles. Could she have really been leading a double life with this guy?
Richard angrily typed a message to Kate, demanding an explanation. “Hi, I went to the Liverpool Chest Hospital today… to finally receive my diagnosis that I have cystic fibrosis. In their experience, they have never had a male with CF who has fathered a child, let alone three.
“It is 98% certain that I am not the father of any children,” he added. Kate had read the message, but she wasn’t replying. Seeing that being civil wasn’t getting him answers, Richard decided that it was time to take a harder approach.
“I was hoping that you could relieve me of [the] further indignity [of more tests] by letting me know now if I am the father,” Richard wrote.
“I am happy to go along with your advice as to how best tell the boys. But, if you force me to go through these extra tests then I shall be telling them as I wish.” Kate, cornered, sent her reply within minutes this time.
“Of course the boys are yours, no matter what the science might suggest,” she wrote. Richard’s heart swelled. Everything he’d been worrying about since he visited the doctor faded away like a bad dream.
But still the doubts bubbled back up to the surface. Richard felt he had to get it off his chest. He approached his eldest son, who was a university student at the time, and told him about his diagnosis and what he thought it might mean.
“I told him I’d just been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, which he took surprisingly calmly,” Richard explained.
“And I said, ‘Yes, but one of the things that I’ve just been told is that it is extremely unlikely that someone with cystic fibrosis could father a child.’ He said, ‘I’m already ahead of you, Dad. You’re saying you’re probably not my father?’”
Richard, heartbroken at the thought that he wasn’t his son’s biological father, recalls that “it would have been the hardest sentence to utter, and he did it for me.”
Richard told his eldest son that “of course, he was still his dad, obviously,” but that he didn’t think that he had conceived him. “It was very emotional but I was also very angry,” Richard said. He had been dealt a double-blow that day. So, what was he going to do about it?
Richard believes that your children define who you are. So, not only had he been diagnosed with a dreaded disease, but he now knew that he didn’t actually have any children.
His legacy would stop with him, and that thought was almost too hard for him to bear. Then, two days later, Kate got back in touch.
It turns out that Kate had been confronted by her eldest son. She called Richard and confessed everything.
She admitted that she had been seeing another man during their 20-year marriage, and to add insult to injury, Richard had even met him in passing. The man worked at Barclays Bank.
She and the man would meet at a hotel in London while she was traveling for work as a union official. But she had still insisted that Richard was their children’s father.
He had no choice but to get an expert’s opinion. He knew the last 20 years of his life had been a complete lie and he simply had to know the truth.
Richard decided to seek out advice from paternity fraud expert, Roger Terrell. After he underwent numerous tests, it was confirmed that Richard was indeed incapable of fathering children.
The next step was to obtain DNA samples from his sons. The DNA test results proved that the twins weren’t his, but to complicate matters further, his eldest son refused to provide a sample.
Richard’s eldest son stated, “As far as I’m concerned, he’s my dad and that’s that.” But Richard still had all the proof he needed to launch a legal case against Kate.
In December 2016, he began proceedings at Birmingham County Court. But Richard’s oldest son had another message for the man he knew as his father.
And the teenager remained true to his word. Of course, this caused Richard immense heartache, “The ripple effect of Kate’s lies has been massive.”
But the reaction from the twins as the case progressed was quite different.
The twins still regard Richard as their dad, even though they know that he is not their biological father. One of the twins even sent Richard an overwhelming message as a show of support.
The message read, “Dad, as I explained from the beginning, you would never not be dad to me regardless of all this. Of course, I’ll stay in touch, that will never change… I’m always here for you too and you will always be Dad. Love you x.”
When Kate’s unbelievable lies were exposed in court, Richard won his case and Kate was ordered to pay him over $300,000.
Kate agreed to settle, but on one condition: the man who is the real father of her sons must remain anonymous. But it was a hollow victory for Richard. And he has a message for the boys’ real father, too.
Richard stated that he “would like the biological father to read this article and come forward.” He believes that the boys have a right to know who their father is.
“Not least for the boys’ sake because they will want to know who their real father is, even if hopefully they will always think of me as their dad,” he added.