‘We might never see them again’: parents of British man murdered by Chinese wife fight for custody of his children
The children, seven-year-old Jack and six-year-old Alice, who are reportedly unaware that dad Michael Simpson is dead, and now live with their maternal grandparents in China
The parents of a British man who was murdered by his Chinese wife have asked the British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to appeal to Chinese officials to let his children live with them in Britain – otherwise, they say, they might never see their grandchildren again.
Michael Simpson, 34, originally from Wimborne, Dorset, was stabbed to death by his estranged wife, Weiwei Fu, in Shanghai in March 2017. Earlier in July, she was sentenced to life in prison.
Their children, seven-year-old Jack and six-year-old Alice, who are reportedly unaware their father is dead, are now living with their maternal grandparents in China and have become the focus of a custody battle.
Ian and Linda Simpson, the children’s grandparents, want the siblings to move to Britain where, they say, they will have a better life and education. A custody hearing in China is expected to take place in the coming weeks, and Simpson’s family want Hunt to intervene in the case during his visit this weekend to China.
Ian Simpson said he had received assurances through a third party the foreign secretary would raise the case during his visit. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has not yet responded to The Guardian’s request to confirm this.
“If we leave them in China, we will probably never see or hear from Jack and Alice again. That’s why we need political support,” said Ian Simpson.
The grandparents had tried to reach a deal for custody of the children with their Chinese relations, but said Fu’s family had demanded £65,000 (US$85,241) and reneged on previous agreements.
Simpson said the custody hearings had been repeatedly moved around different provinces in China, and the next scheduled hearing would be in a small court close to where the family lives. “We are worried about local influence in such a small court. We want two main things from Jeremy Hunt,” Ian Simpson said. “First, please tell the Chinese officials he meets that the least they can do is have a custody hearing. Second, remind them of the basic facts. The children are British passport holders, British citizens,” he said.
Simpson claimed the mother’s family had been telling the children their parents were working abroad, and had not told them about their father’s death.
“We can give them the life Michael wanted for them. Michael took them round the world, gave them a very much western view and plan to be educated up to university standard. Where they’re living now is in a very small town, in a one-bedroom flat with their cousin and grandparents,” Simpson told the BBC’s Today programme on Friday.
“They’re a very poor family that relies on the brother of Weiwei to give them money to look after the children.
“There’s other problems, like Alice has no Chinese documentation, which means officially she can’t go to school, so we need to get her into a school in England, educate her properly and give them the life that Michael and, in fact, Weiwei agreed.”
Ian Simpson continued: “Losing your son puts a hole in your family, right through your whole family and certainly through your heart.
“To lose the children and the way the family have acted over the last year where they will not let us see them, they will not let us know where they are, they won’t even take presents to the children – if they stay there, we are not going to see them.”
An FCO spokesperson said: “We are supporting the British relatives of Michael Simpson at this difficult and trying time. We helped the Simpson family visit their grandchildren earlier this year, and remain in contact with the children’s Chinese relatives and the local authorities regarding this case.”
Simpson was going through an acrimonious divorce when he was stabbed at least twice by Fu, a court heard last year, according to the BBC.
He was with his new partner when Fu, accompanied by two friends, arrived at his apartment and launched her attack within a minute of arrival, the court heard. Her friends tried to pull her away, but she succeeded in inflicting injuries – including a “severe force” stab wound through the shoulder blade – on Simpson.
He died “fairly instantly”, his brother Andrew told the court. Simpson’s new partner was critically injured, and was unable to use her right arm in the months following the attack.