The Bramley Affair: The PR Battle - Now everyone wants a slice of the children

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The Independent Online
WHEN THE Bramleys first disappeared with Jade and Hannah Bennett, it appeared to be a straightforward dispute between them and the social services. In the long weeks that followed it became a tangled web of blame, sympathy, indignation and outrage as those with even the most tenuous of links to the little girls pitched into the battle over what should become of them.

The girls, once an emotional commodity, also become a financial one, with public relations firms battling over their representation. But the couple indicated last night that they are not interested in marketing their story or talking to the media.

The girls' natural mother, Jackie Bennett, had been quick to denounce the Bramleys for running off with her children, describing them as selfish. Last week, after they wrote an open letter pleading to be allowed to keep them, she changed her mind and said that they should keep them. Her solicitor hinted yesterday that she had changed her mind yet again.

"Her overriding concern is that somebody who is independent should take over and decide what is best for the children," the solicitor said.

Jade's natural father, Paul Duckett, who has not seen his daughter since she was a few months old, has announced he will fight for custody. Yesterday he said he wanted to be Jade's "forever daddy". "I'd like the same rights as any other natural parent," he said.

Then Hannah's natural father, Craig Nott, having been told for the first time on Saturday of his relationship to her, said it would be best if she lived with him. Mr Nott has three other children by different mothers, and is expecting a fourth by his current girlfriend. "I'm going to fight to get Hannah to live with me now she has turned up," he said. "My friends said I should get her back and so does my girlfriend."

Regardless of whether the mounting "adoption frenzy" is serious, it seems certain that in the short-term the natural fathers will add to the girls' confusion by demanding access.

The public relations adviser Max Clifford has offered to help the Bramleys in their fight to adopt on the condition they do not sell the story.

Mr Clifford said he had been in touch with the family and had advised them to write the open letter that led to their return, but they were not his clients.

"From what I've heard and read, they are just two caring people who want to do the best for their two girls and I can't help but have sympathy with that. I would be happy to help them get their story to the media and to the British public as long as they don't sell their story. I think that would be totally wrong and would ensure they lost public sympathy."