An 'extraordinary saga' that began in a seaside hotel more than 50 years ago – and ended with a bitter dispute between elderly ladies over a £2 million architectural gem on the Cornish Riviera – has been finally brought to an end by a judge.
Two daughters, whose businessman father died as long ago as 1960, insisted that they had been deprived of part of their rightful inheritance. They had for years been at loggerheads with a woman who owns a villa in Falmouth, claiming that they were entitled to a beneficial interest in the property.
Lawyers for the villa owner claimed that her mother had had an affair with the daughters' father in the 1950s. The pair had established a company to manage the hotel that the mother ran in the seaside town. Following the businessman's death, the executors of his estate had sold the hotel to the company for £11,500.
They had then transferred the deceased's majority shareholding in the company to the woman's mother and she had, prior to her death in 1995, handed the shares to her daughter, who had sold the hotel and acquired the villa in 2007.
The daughters of the businessman argued that the transfer of their father's shares to the villa owner's mother had been invalid and that they were entitled to 'trace and follow the value' of those shares into her hands and, ultimately, to the villa.
Rejecting those arguments, however, the High Court found that there was nothing suspicious about what had happened. The executors had transferred the shares to the woman's mother 'as part and parcel of an overall bargain' and after taking professional advice. They had not breached their fiduciary duties and the transfer was 'for a proper purpose' bound up with the administration of the estate.
The woman's lawyers had pleaded with the Court 'to put an end to this extraordinary saga'. Doing just that, the judge concluded, "In the light of my conclusions on the merits, I will make a declaration that [the daughters] have no beneficial interest whatsoever in [the villa]."