An Auckland public official has been convicted of planning a sexual relationship with his long-lost biological daughter whom he had not seen since she was a child. The man, 58, and his daughter, 41, jointly charged with conspiracy to commit incest, were convicted in the Auckland District Court this week. The pair, who have permanent name suppression, met in August 2008 after the man tracked her down in Britain. She flew to New Zealand for a two-week holiday and then kept in close contact by phone, email, text and webcam. The correspondence expressed sexual attraction between the two.
Experts call this the "phenomenon of genetic sexual attraction" between parents and children who meet for the first time as adults.
The daughter left her husband and children and returned to New Zealand in October 2008 to live with her father and his family.
The daughter's husband in the UK became suspicious and hired a private investigator to tail the pair. He then laid a complaint with the New Zealand police, who laid charges in March last year of conspiracy to commit incest and committing incest. The pair denied having sex and the more serious incest charge was later withdrawn by police.
But the case has destroyed the man's 36-year marriage and relationships with his other adult children. His occupation has been suppressed and he has been stood down for an internal inquiry. The daughter was also married, with two children. She plans to stay here and hasn't seen her children for two years.
Weekend Herald inquiries revealed the man began searching for his daughter in the UK on a missing-persons website more than two years ago. The on-line post included photos of the daughter as a 3-year-old and photos of her grandparents. The couple pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and asked Judge Lindsay Moore to discharge them without conviction. He refused, but gave them suspended sentences, so they escape further penalty unless they commit another crime in the next year. Judge Moore granted permanent name suppression not to protect the pair but to prevent further humiliation for the man's family.
The convictions are similar to a case in which an Auckland woman tracked down her biological father in Britain in the late 1990s. The woman, in her late 20s and married with four children, split from her husband and the father, in his mid-40s, moved into her house. Her former husband eventually laid a complaint with police. Her father was found guilty of incest in July last year and ordered to do 300 hours' community work, but his daughter was acquitted.
In sentencing, Judge David Wilson said this was an attraction between two adults not very different in age. "This was a consensual relationship. The typical harms that rise from incestuous relationships were not present. You were not the father in the house raising the child."
Sex therapist Robyn Salisbury said the "phenomenon of genetic sexual attraction" was not uncommon in reunited parents and children. Finding a biological parent and meeting them for the first time created powerful emotions. "It's more about the sense of finding themselves in the other. The longing that can follow is such a powerful feeling. People get lost in the intensity [of being reunited] and that can translate into intimacy."