Newspaper revelations threaten sextuplets deal: Lucrative sponsorship arrangements for the Vince Six are at risk. Mary Braid reports

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The Independent Online
LIFE-LONG stardom and a financial fortune seemed to be the birthright of the Vince sextuplets when they were delivered last week.

Lucrative nappy and baby food commercials beckoned as their agent, Philip Ettinger, the Liverpool public relations expert in sponsorship for sextuplets, publicised their safe arrival at St James University Hospital, Leeds.

Five days later, all has gone sour and deals designed to provide the pounds 800,000 needed to care for the five girls and a boy until they are 16 may be slipping away.

The Vince Six from Grimsby are obviously innocent but their wholesome public image is already being savaged by a disillusioned press. Their parents, it appears, have let them down.

Jan and Jean Vince, it transpires, are not only not married, they do not even live together. Yesterday's newspapers revealed that Mr Vince had now fathered 10 children and carried interviews with his former wife and their three children, whom it is claimed he has not seen for eight years. Jean, 29, and Jan, 37, already have a six-year-old son.

The unusual domestic arrangements have outraged MPs and churchmen, who have called for more strigent criteria for those seeking 'expensive' fertility treatment. Tim Yeo, Under- Secretary for Health, has warned that 'extreme care should be taken before taxpayers' money is used to pay for any kind of fertility treatment for unmarried women.'

Last night, Dr Brian Lieberman, head of the In-vitro Fertilisation Unit in Manchester, said that only childless couples in heterosexual relationships of more than three years could qualify for fertility treatment at the city's St Mary's Hospital. He said the policy had been criticised as 'too rigid' but even so there was a two-year waiting list for treatment.

He said that fertility treatment legislation did not cover the 'relatively inexpensive' ovulation induction drugs and injections Mrs Vince appears to have had. Each hospital sets its own criteria.

Another anonymous fertility expert was angry at criticism of the Vinces. He said: 'Multiple births are always a catastrophe. The criticism of the Vinces is totally unfair . . . Mrs Vince's doctors failed to monitor her treatment properly. There is no reason, with the proper care, for such treatment to result in the birth of six children.' Mrs Vince had been at particular risk of producing too many eggs because of the ovarian disease from which she suffered.

All six babies, who weighed in at between 1lb 5oz and 2lb 12 ozs, were reported to be making good progress in intensive care yesterday. Rebecca and Jessica were taken off ventilators while Stephanie, Gregory, Valerie and Katie were continuing with full intensive care.

If they survive they will be only the third set of sextuplets in Britain, and the sixth in the world. Without the sponsorship enjoyed by the Walton and Coleman sextuplets born in the Eighties they could prove a financial nightmare for their parents.