Highest auction bid will secure a spouse    

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The Independent Online

A businesswoman has sold her hand in marriage for £251,000 in an internet auction to a man she has never met.

Kay Hammond, 24, from Birmingham, plans to marry the bidder in March, provided he passes a number of basic checks, including health and criminal history.

The man, known only by his internet sign-on name, Ben Webb, is one of two bidders prepared to pay the £250,000 reserve price that Miss Hammond set on herself. Another suitor, who signed on as Andrew 1901, has not yet been excluded from the running.

A spokeswoman for Miss Hammond said: "She plans to meet both of them but, if all other things are equal, she is not bothered who she marries and will choose the highest bidder."

The rules of the sale dictate that neither man can withdraw his bid once he has met Miss Hammond.

In her advertisement with the internet auctioneer QXL, Miss Hammond had stated her reasons for entering the auction to find a life partner.

She had said: "So often I have complained to my friends, family and colleagues that I never have the time to meet any men. I thought that by creating an online auction I would be able to reach as many men as possible and hopefully prove that the internet is not full of cyber-geeks, there are normal people out there."

The QXL site was besieged with bids when the auction began last month and the reserve price was met within hours. There was a glitch on Christmas Eve when an apparently bogus bid of £1bn forced Miss Hammond to close the site and relaunch it with tighter security. Since it re-opened on 14 January, it has received more than 38,000 hits.

A pre-nuptial agreement is in the process of being drawn up, to protect Miss Hammond's property, business and investments as well as those of her future husband if the marriage is not a success.