Reporter: Peter Overton
Producer: Nick Greenaway
It's one of those gripping family sagas, with one twist, one cliff hanger, after another.
It began with one terrible mistake 18 years ago.
As incredible as it seems, two baby boys were switched at birth, the hospital gave them to the wrong mothers.
Months later, the blunder was exposed and that's when we saw the first astonishing twist. The mothers decided to leave things as they were. To raise the boy they had, the son who wasn't really theirs.
So, young Robyn and Gavin set out on their extraordinary journey, a journey we've followed all the way. Leading up to the biggest bombshell of all.
We've been following their story since they were born Robyn Dawkins and Gavin Clinton-Parker, the boys switched at birth and raised by the wrong mother. They've now turned 18, and their extraordinary story has taken a shattering twist, one that has broken hearts and destroyed relationships.
SANDY DAWKINS: I just want to know if she's really happy with what she's achieved. You know, I mean she's ruined people's lives. There is just no other way to look at it.
PETER OVERTON: Whose lives?
SANDY DAWKINS: She's ruined mine, for starters.
MEGS CLINTON-PARKER: I can understand that. If it was me, I'd be devastated, but I'm not sending him back because she's sore.
PETER OVERTON: To fully understand today's raw emotion, you have to go back to February, 1989. It begins in a maternity ward of a Johannesburg hospital, when two single mothers give birth to Robyn and Gavin within half an hour of each other. But then a nurse makes the most appalling mistake, putting the wrong name tags on the newborn babies.
ROBYN DAWKINS: There were two kids born in hospital. I went home with the mother that was not mine, Gavin went home with the mother that was not his. Gavin, the other child, um, went home with my mum and I went home with his mum.
PETER OVERTON: Gavin went home with Megs Clinton-Parker. Robyn with Sandy Dawkins the boys lovingly raised as their own. But when Gavin was nearly two, a paternity suit led to a DNA test and a dreadful discovery he wasn't Megs's son.
RICHARD CARLETON: You didn't reject him or anything?
MEGS CLINTON-PARKER: Not at all. You can't reject a child you've been close to for two years.
PETER OVERTON: We first met the mothers 11 years ago when they spoke to Richard Carleton.
RICHARD CARLETON: Didn't you say 'Where's my baby?' You knew you'd given birth to something!
MEGS CLINTON-PARKER: You see, initially you protect the one you've got. The first few days are shock, and then the curiosity comes 'Well, hold on a second, it's not as easy as that, where's my baby?'
PETER OVERTON: A check of hospital records showed Megs's baby had gone home with Sandy Dawkins.
SANDY DAWKINS: And it was like someone electrocuted me. I went hysterical immediately because, I mean, you get told that the child you have been looking after for the last 20 months is not yours he belongs to somebody else.
PETER OVERTON: The single mothers then had to make the impossible choice between the little boys they loved or the babies they'd given birth to. The mothers decided not to swap the boys back. Did you make the correct decision?
MEGS CLINTON-PARKER: I don't think there is a correct decision. I don't think everyone even in the family agrees with the way I did things but I think they understood. But they also get it wasn't their choice and they said, 'It's your choice, thank you. I'm glad we don't have to make it'.
SANDY DAWKINS: I mean, you come home from work and look into his blue eyes and he's only this big, and you think, well, how the hell can that not be my child?
PETER OVERTON: And, so, the boys grew up 500km apart and in very different worlds. Robyn in a single-parent household, struggling to make ends meet on the fringes of Johannesburg. Gavin, of course, living Robyn's life, raised in relative affluence in the south of the country, with Meg and his new stepfather, John. When Liz Hayes spoke to the boys seven years ago, they were 11, and seemed to have happily accepted their lot in life.
LIZ HAYES: So, how did you feel when you met each other?
GAVIN CLINTON-PARKER: I don't know.
ROBYN DAWKINS: I was looking forward to it because, like, having a brother would be, like, so cool. We'd do things together.
LIZ HAYES: Anything you would change, Gavin?
GAVIN CLINTON-PARKER: Anything I would change? No, nothing.
ROBYN DAWKINS: You're used to one mum now. Rather like it is now. Keep it like that.
PETER OVERTON: How's it been going?
ROBYN DAWKINS: There's been some up and down days. There's been some hard times, some good times.
PETER OVERTON: But a different story started to emerge when I went to South Africa in 2004.
ROBYN DAWKINS: And it's not easy. I wouldn't t wish this on my worse enemy.
PETER OVERTON: At this stage, Robyn was 15 years old, and had grown into a sad, lonely boy. He wasn't depressed about his lifestyle, rather, who was missing from it his biological mother, Megs.
ROBYN DAWKINS: I do love her and I miss her awfully a lot. I think of her, I mean, me and my mum speak to each other almost every day on the telephone.
MEGS CLINTON-PARKER: The odd thing is that there's nothing specific. It's just some days you miss him more than other days. And there's just I miss him so much every day, but I don't want to hurt Gavin with thinking that I love him less or something, you know?
PETER OVERTON: As for Gavin, he regarded his biological mother, Sandy, as simply a friend. A happy, confident boy, life was good. What's the strongest emotion you feel about the fact that you are not with your real mother?
GAVIN CLINTON-PARKER: Well, it is a bit sad that I actually haven't got to know her but, well, life's life there's curve balls. You've just to get past them and move on.
PETER OVERTON: It's that black and white for you?
GAVIN CLINTON-PARKER: Yeah.
PETER OVERTON: Do you feel sorry for Robyn?
GAVIN CLINTON-PARKER: Mmm, not really.
PETER OVERTON: Are you happy?
ROBYN DAWKINS: Ah, yeah, I'm happy.
PETER OVERTON: Really?
ROBYN DAWKINS: In a way, yes, in a way, no. Today is going to be one of the hardest days again I mean, saying goodbye to my mum.
PETER OVERTON: So, when we farewelled the boys three years ago, I really sensed this story was far from over, especially for Megs and Robyn. Today, Megs freely admits that, from the moment she first met Robyn as a toddler, she was always going to win him back.
MEGS CLINTON-PARKER: When I first set eyes on Robyn when he got off the bus, I actually produced milk and a whole bunch of guys really needed to hear that but that's how strong that maternal instinct was, is that after not feeding Gavin for a year, I produced milk as if I'd almost just given birth. That's how strong that pull was, and you can't just let that go. It was I was never going to let go.
PETER OVERTON: You've said in the past that Robyn was in loving hands Sandy had good intentions. Why wasn't that good enough for you?
MEGS CLINTON-PARKER: The road to hell is paved with good intentions, you know? He was getting love, but I don't believe he was getting a good education and a stable environment at all.
PETER OVERTON: And, so, before he turned 16, Robyn made the life-changing decision. He walked out on Sandy to begin a new life on the other side of the country with Megs, her husband, John, and Gavin.
ROBYN DAWKINS: I love Sandy. She was my mum for 15 years and leaving your mum after 15 years is, like, not the easiest thing or decision you're going to make.
PETER OVERTON: This was about you, your future. Nobody else.
ROBYN DAWKINS: Yeah, I mean, she can't make my future. You know, it's my life and you've got to say, 'Now, where am I going from here?' And you got to make a sacrifice.
PETER OVERTON: She's been left with nothing.
ROBYN DAWKINS: Yes. Got no son.
SANDY DAWKINS: I knew there was a void in his life that he needed filling in and there was no ways I could fill it, and I discussed it with him. I said to him, 'Think about it and give it a couple of days and we'll talk about it'.
PETER OVERTON: He accepted your offer?
SANDY DAWKINS: I promise you, I was shocked, I really was shocked.
PETER OVERTON: For the two boys, Robyn's decision to move initially made life for Gavin a whole lot more treacherous the boys now forced together as brothers, eyeing each other with suspicion, competing for their mother's love. And was the resentment from you or from him?
GAVIN CLINTON-PARKER: I think a bit on both parts, because he was moving here where I've lived my life here, I have friends and everything and I go out and it's the biological son of the person that you love the most so you don't know if you're going to be forgotten about or not.
ROBYN DAWKINS: When I got here we boxed, eh you know, we didn't hit it off at all. We basically hated each other. We really didn't care. There was no feelings between us, no bond. We hated each other. And I sort of felt, well, I'm here and now it's my turn because you've had 15 years of my mum and it's actually mine, you know.
GAVIN CLINTON-PARKER: Hate' is such a strong word. Completely and utterly despised.
ROBYN DAWKINS: We said to each other, 'Gavin, I hate you'. You know what, I hate you as well, and that's fine.
PETER OVERTON: Do you feel like you've now got your lot in life, it's complete?
MEGS CLINTON-PARKER: Yes, I do, actually. I do. Um …
JOHN PARKER: We're a whole family now. Complete family. It's what we wanted for years, we fought hard for it.
MEGS CLINTON-PARKER: We did, yes.
JOHN PARKER: It's all come together and it's a family.
PETER OVERTON: But that fight was not without casualties. The relationship between Sandy and Megs, who once described each other as 'sisters' has broken down completely. So you reckon she's absolutely dudded you?
SANDY DAWKINS: For sure, for sure. I mean, she made no bones about it from the start that she wanted both boys. How she managed to manipulate that, I have no clue.
PETER OVERTON: You say Megs has manipulated the boys? Bribed the boys?
SANDY DAWKINS: Definitely. I don't think so, I know it, I know it.
MEGS CLINTON-PARKER: I'm not even going to try and deny that. I don't know that I manipulated it. I've always said from the beginning that that was my intention and because I needed that to survive. Whether I felt it would come true or not is not the point.
PETER OVERTON: But you ended up with everything.
MEGS CLINTON-PARKER: I know. And I'm chuffed about it. Of course I'm chuffed about it.
SANDY DAWKINS: Oh, I hope she's happy, I really do, because my my my honest answer on that one is she always said to me - she's told people there's a bus out there with my name on it. Whatever I've done, it can't be that bad. But best she just be careful because that bus is making a U-turn and he's going back, he's got her name on it now.
PETER OVERTON: Their own war behind them, Robyn and Gavin are now content to live side by side. Robyn has a girlfriend and has plans to eventually take over his stepfather John's engineering workshop. Gavin is one of South Africa's best junior badminton players. He'll soon start college studying hotel management and says, while he'd never move in with Sandy, his relationship with her is getting stronger.
GAVIN CLINTON-PARKER: It's a lot to do with the fact that Robyn's moved here. For the past two years or so, or two years ago, it started developing and then over the two years it's actually developed into that mother-son bond.
PETER OVERTON: But, back in Johannesburg, Sandy continues to struggle without Robyn.
SANDY DAWKINS: It just leaves a tremendous hole in your life where there was somebody that was full of mischief with two big blue eyes, always looking for something to do, and then all of a sudden he's not there. It's it's very difficult.
PETER OVERTON: And this story has yet another casualty Sandy's daughter Jessica. She was so traumatised by her stepbrother's departure she quit school, and to this day refuses to talk about it.
MEGS CLINTON-PARKER: Out of all of them, I think Jessie probably lost the most and Sandy second. But I'm not going to be sorry because I won. I'm damned glad I won. But I do understand where how she feels, I do. But the boys lost too, you know. Um, the fact that have had to choose. I mean, isn't that the most dreadful thing?
PETER OVERTON: This is an extraordinary saga that has been playing out over 18 years, and it's not over yet. It's about two innocent families thrown together by the cruellest of human errors. And it's also about a boy, a boy called Robyn, who simply decided he had to leave home to go home. Have you made the right decision, Robyn?
ROBYN DAWKINS: Yes, I have. I love this place. It's my new home. I've new made new mates. I'm going to a very good school. I've got a nice social life. I am staying with my biological mum now, which is something I always wanted to do, but you sort of feel guilty in a way because I got what I wanted, sort of thing, and Sandy didn't, you know? And it's like a win-lose situation and, unfortunately, she lost, you know?