Simon has two sons, aged 15 and 13, from a failed marriage, who live with him, and a six-year-old daughter from a later broken relationship, who lives with her mother. The 37-year-old divorced former business manager thinks he has a further five children, aged between two months and six years, living in Britain and another eight in countries including Australia, South Africa, Poland and Spain. He admits it could be more, but he plays no part in their upbringing — emotionally or financially — and has absolutely no desire to.
‘If, when they turn 18, they turn up at my door wanting to know who I am, then they would be more than welcome,’ he says blithely. ‘But I am not their father in the true sense of the word and never will be.’ Simon is a freelance sperm donor who offers what he jokingly calls his ‘magic potion’ over the internet to women desperate for children.
They make contact on various internet forums, where women post adverts seeking sperm donors or respond to his posts offering his services. He says the majority of his clients — more than 50 per cent — are lesbian couples, around 40 per cent are single women hoping to beat the biological clock and the rest are heterosexual couples where the man is infertile.
Simon is doing nothing illegal. By offering fresh instead of frozen sperm, his activities fall outside the regulations laid down by the Human Fertilisation And Embryology Authority, which governs licensed sperm banks.
‘I’m not doing it for the money. I want to help people who can’t afford to use a fertility clinic’ Countless appointments have been suddenly postponed because one of Simon’s ladies is ovulating and he is urgently required elsewhere. One day he’s in Bognor Regis on the South Coast; the next in Sheffield, the day after he’s needed in Colchester, Essex. On his travels, he carries his ‘kit’ — a sterile plastic pot in which to deposit his sperm and some sterile syringes for the women to inseminate themselves with, without needing a turkey baster.
But if you were desperate for a child, would Simon’s DNA appeal? A tall, lean, friendly man opens the door to a small, messy detached house littered with his sons’ musical instruments and other teenage detritus. Blond and blue-eyed, the initial impression is of a slightly flaky hippy; an unconventional laid-back character who prefers life in the slow lane.
But appearances can be deceptive. ‘I don’t smoke, I don’t take drugs, I hardly drink and we don’t have junk food in the house. I won’t even eat sausages,’ he says sipping on fresh mint tea. A health and fitness fanatic, he swims, runs and is converting his garage into a gym. His body is clearly a temple. Single since his last relationship broke down last year, he’s lacked the time and energy to commit to another. With two broken relationships behind him, he’s not sure if he’s cut out for marriage.
He used to be the manager of an award-winning aromatherapy firm, which was founded by his Greek-born mother, Franzesca. Simon, who was privately educated and studied aeroplane mechanics in Canada after school, held the position for eight years until he decided he didn’t want to work 65-hour weeks.
Now, he does not work and lives frugally, eking out the savings he amassed during his business career. Simon’s house is owned by his parents, who have retired abroad, so there is no mortgage to pay. He claims to charge around £50 for each sperm donation, plus his expenses — little more than he’d receive if he donated through a clinic. So why bother?
‘I’m not doing it for the money,’ he says. ‘I want to help people who can’t afford to use a fertility clinic. My family, including my parents, know about the sperm donation. My father, who paid a fair amount for my education, keeps saying: “I want my money back.” ’ Given that Simon is not prone to self-analysis, it is hard to unravel what his motives are for becoming a freelance sperm donor. What’s in it for him?
‘I’d read there was a shortage of sperm donors and, though I had two boys, I’d always wanted three kids, so it seemed a good idea.’ Simon applied to an NHS fertility clinic attached to a teaching hospital in London and after undergoing a barrage of medical tests to ensure he carried no sexual or hereditary diseases, he was accepted as a donor. His GP records were also checked for a history of psychiatric illness.
He was paid £20 plus expenses each time, but has no idea if any of this sperm — screened and then frozen for storage — produced any children. When, in 2002, Simon met his last partner, a Korean languages student, he put the sperm donation on hold, but resumed it shortly after the birth of their daughter. He says this was with his partner’s blessing, but not long after, she moved out with their little girl. ‘She didn’t get on with my sons and it was easier for everyone if we lived apart, but we were still together,’ explains Simon. ‘Then she met someone else.’
Simon denies it was a mid-life crisis that drew him back to sperm donation. He says he does not quiz his clients as to why they want children and would only rule someone out if they were obviously mentally unstable. ‘It’s better than getting pregnant by a stranger in a nightclub. You can’t ask about sexual health or hereditary diseases in those circumstances, can you?’
‘If people have gone to the trouble of finding a sperm donor, then they’ve usually thought hard about it and I know the child will be wanted,’ says Simon, adding that months of communications often take place before he donates sperm. ‘Most of the people I deal with seem pretty normal.’ This sounds slightly cavalier and he admits that sometimes couples break up before he gets round to donating sperm. But Simon insists he is not reckless.
Every three months, he pays £200 for a full sexual health check at his local genito-urinary clinic and another £35 for a letter for his clients stating he has tested negative for HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhoea. ‘Well, it’s better than getting pregnant by a stranger in a nightclub, isn’t it?’ he says. ‘You can’t ask about sexual health or hereditary diseases in those circumstances, can you?
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