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Ex-Senator Edwards 'set to confess to fathering love-child'

One-time presidential hopeful said to be readying statement after DNA tests

First, he was caught cheating on his cancer-stricken wife. Then, he was forced to make a grovelling apology on national TV. Now John Edwards is set to complete a spectacular fall from grace by confessing that he has fathered an 18-month-old love child.

The former presidential candidate, who was a leading contender for the Democratic nomination last year, is reported to be preparing to confirm rumours that he is indeed the father of his ex-mistress Rielle Hunter's infant daughter. Edwards is said by US television networks to have decided to come clean after court-ordered DNA tests revealed his paternity.

WRAL, a TV station in his native North Carolina, said last week that sources close to the fallen politician expect his confession to come before the end of an investigation into whether his campaign illegally paid Ms Hunter "hush money" to keep quiet about the affair.

Ms Hunter spent nine hours at a courthouse in Raleigh, North Carolina, last week giving evidence to a federal grand jury examining Mr Edwards's campaign finances. Her video production firm received more than $110,000 (£66,500) from his campaign funds, in two separate instalments. It is not clear what, if anything, it did to earn the money.

The imminent paternity confession promises to end a lengthy charade that began when The National Enquirer magazine published photographs of Mr Edwards meeting his lover and her young daughter, Frances, in a Los Angeles hotel room on 21 July last year.

Days later, the ex-senator confessed to the affair on ABC News. However, he vehemently denied that it had produced an infant. "It's not possible that this child could be mine because of the timing of events," he said. "I'm happy to take a paternity test."

Then his aide, Andrew Young, publicly claimed paternity and moved Ms Hunter and Frances into his family home. The living arrangement was met with some scepticism, since it soon emerged that Mr Young and his wife remained happily married.

Since then, he and Mr Edwards have fallen out. Mr Young has signed a lucrative deal to publish a tell-all memoir about his role in the scandal, revealing – among other things – the existence of an intimate video tape featuring Mr Edwards and Ms Hunter.

Meanwhile, the former senator's wife, Elizabeth, recently released a bestselling memoir called Resilience. It documented both her struggle with breast cancer – which was first diagnosed in 2004, and returned in 2007 – and the painful events surrounding her husband's infidelity. During interviews in May to publicise the book, Elizabeth Edwards said that she had "no idea" if her husband had fathered the child, and revealed that when she first discovered his affair she "cried and screamed and went to the bathroom and threw up".

Although she looked healthy and energetic in the TV appearances, Mrs Edwards has not been seen in public since. She has stage-four cancer, meaning that the disease has spread from her breasts to other organs throughout the body, and is therefore considered by doctors to be terminal.

As with most developments in the Edwards scandal, news of the imminent confession has so far remained conspicuously absent from America's broadsheet newspapers. The reluctance of the press to investigate the matter has fuelled allegations of a liberal bias in the mainstream media.