March 16, 2007 12:00am
THREE children have won a share of the estate of a man said to be their sperm donor father after using tweezers to pluck his eyebrows for DNA testing as he lay dead in a hospital morgue.
In a landmark decision, the NSW Supreme Court yesterday granted administration of Willem Wijma's estate to one of those children, ruling against his family's wishes.
It is a judgment that raises questions about the legal rights of thousands of men who have donated sperm – and alarm among the men's families who face sharing their inheritance with a stranger.
"I haven't heard of a case like this before," Leonie Hewitt of the Donor Conception Support Group said.
Mr Willem's daughters from his marriage, Janna and Tineke, claimed the "sperm donor" children had ransacked their father's house, stolen and destroyed his will and showed "unseemly haste" in plucking his hair for DNA testing.
But Justice Ian Gzell found Mr Willem, who died in October 2001 aged 75, with an estate worth about $500,000 including a house and car, had died without a will.
The court was told Mr Willem and his family migrated to Australia in the 1950s but his wife and daughters returned to Holland after the couple divorced.
He then fathered three children – Julie Mougalis, Jeffrey Sullivan and Scott Sullivan – with Constance Sullivan, whose husband, Ed, was infertile but did not know it.
The children grew up believing Ed Sullivan was their father until their mother told them the truth in 1995 after Mr Sullivan died.
Mr Sullivan also believed he was their father.
Mr Willem's Dutch daughters claimed he told them in 1995 that he had a brief affair with Mrs Sullivan. Then, in the days before IVF, she had returned to ask him to be a sperm donor because she wanted children.
Mrs Sullivan told the court the children were born out of love.
Justice Gzell said yesterday Mr Willem, caretaker of the former Koala Inn apartment complex on Sydney's Oxford St, had never supported her children.
"They were careful to avoid any public acknowledgement of their relationship," he said.
However after the Sullivan children found out he was their biological father, they met Mr Willem and he "appears to have cared for them", the judge said.
Friend Hendrik Korporaal, said that, shortly after confessing he was the father of the Sullivan children, Mr Willem discussed his will.
He said Mr Willem told him: "I want the bulk of my things to go to my two daughters. You are my executor . . . I know that when I die the vultures will come out."
Justice Gzell rejected any suggestion the Sullivan family had stolen a will and said evidence pointed to it having been destroyed beforehand.
DNA testing proved they were Mr Willem's biological children after their solicitor plucked his eyebrow hair as he lay in Port Macquarie Base Hospital.
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