Woman fights for a share of her ‘unbearable’ stepmother’s £1.3million fortune after the eccentric widow left it to her cleaner and long-lost nephew in her will
- Stepdaughter Anna St Clair, nephew Nick King and cleaner June Farrell at war
- They are fighting at the High Court for share of eccentric widow Jean Lech’s will
- Mrs Lech had cut Ms St Clair out of the will from 2007 when she passed in 2012
- She instead gave £10,000 to Ms Farrell, some to her children and rest to Mr King
- Ms St Clair, 72, is claiming Mrs Lech was not of sound mind when she changed it
The family and cleaning lady of an ‘unbearable’ millionairess are locked in a bitter court fight over her £1.3million fortune.
Stepdaughter Anna St Clair, nephew Nick King and housemaid June Farrell are all battling for a share of eccentric widow Jean Lech’s will.
Mrs Lech had cut Ms St Clair out of the will when she died in 2012 and instead gave £10,000 to Ms Farrell, some to her children and the rest to Mr King.
But Ms St Clair, 72, is claiming her stepmother was not of sound mind when she changed the document and wants it declared invalid.
The counsellor cited an incident where the elderly woman threw a roast turkey through a plate glass window on Christmas Day after a minor row.
Ms St Clair also claims Mrs Lech, who is her father’s third wife, would steal her neighbours’ cats and refuse to give them back.
Stepdaughter Anna St Clair, nephew Nick King and housemaid June Farrell (pictured) are all battling for a share of eccentric widow Jean Lech’s will
The shunned stepdaughter had been the main beneficiary of her stepmother’s will in 2007 but was left with nothing in a later one made in May 2009.
The revised document left £10,000 to Ms Farrell as well as similar gifts to the cleaner’s two children, and the rest to her nephew Mr King.
This was despite the millionairess only recently establishing a connection with her relative before she died.
Ms St Clair is claiming Ms Farrell ‘poisoned’ her stepmother’s mind against her so she and Mr King could share her fortune.
But Mr King and the cleaner deny all the claims and say Mrs Lech knew what she was doing when she changed the will.
London’s High Court heard she left behind her half of a £2.5million house in Streatham, in the south of the capital, when she died aged 79.
She had co-owned the house with her husband Zbigniew Lech, Ms St Clair’s father, who died aged 101 in 2008.
He had left his half of the house to Ms St Clair and her daughter Carmen, with the stipulation his widow could continue to live there until she died.
Mrs Lech had cut Ms St Clair out of the will when she died in 2012 and instead gave £10,000 to Ms Farrell, some to her children and the rest to Mr King (pictured)
Ms St Clair told the court her stepmother was notoriously bad-tempered and she believes she had an antisocial personality disorder.
She said this combined with her being ill when she made her last will should see it invalidated.
She claimed she was not displaying ‘the thinking style of a mature adult but rather that of a petulant child’ and wouldn’t ‘pass the test for testamentary capacity.
Ms St Clair told Judge Mark Cawson QC: ‘One Christmas Day, she was, unusually, doing the washing up.
‘My father made a comment about her wasting the hot water. She turned and threw the roast turkey through the nearest window, causing glass to splinter everywhere.
‘There was no festive dinner that day. Jean was in the habit of luring neighbourhood cats away from their owners by giving them fresh fish.
‘On one occasion, one neighbour came for a visit seeking his cat. In order to inject some good humour when it seemed as though the cat would not be returned, he said ”well you better watch out because I am a big bad lawyer”.
‘Jean instantly retorted: ‘And I’m a f***ing b**ch now get out’. The poor man never got his cat back.’
On another occasion, Ms St Clair said: ‘She screamed that I was poisoning her plants when I was in fact just watering them. She made egregious and insane allegations.
‘She was quite pleasant when she wasn’t drunk but when drunk became unbearable. My father put up with what very few husbands would be willing to put up with.
‘She was a very damaged person but could also be great fun. She wasn’t just awful,’ Ms St Clair told the judge.
‘I believe that if a psychiatrist was presented with evidence of the behaviour she displayed they would have no trouble diagnosing her with an antisocial personality disorder.
‘Towards the end she was becoming more and more angry. The defence has categorised her as a sane and reasonable adult.
‘She was not gaga, but could not be considered free of any disorder of the mind. She was suffering paranoid delusions. The disorder corrupted her sense of right.’
Jean had also been ‘bedridden, terminally ill and bereaved when she made the will,’ her stepdaughter claimed.
Ms St Clair is also bringing a claim of ‘fraudulent calumny,’ arguing cleaner Ms Farrell must have manipulated her stepmother into cutting her out of the will.
‘She maligned me with the intent to replace me in the testator’s affections,’ she said, accusing Ms Farrell of a ‘sustained campaign to malign and discredit me.’
Mrs Lech and Ms Farrell had been overheard ‘talking obsessively about my stepmother’s estate and her will for hours and hours,’ she claimed, accusing the cleaner of ‘protracted scheming’.
She told the judge: ‘June was there for 23 years, watching and waiting for her opportunity.’
She claimed Ms Farrell and Mr King were ‘in a relationship’ and had plotted together to inherit Jean’s money.
She went on: ‘There was a close personal relationship between Ms Farrell and Mr King.
London’s High Court heard she left behind her half of a £2.5million house in Streatham (pictured), in the south of the capital, when she died aged 79
‘It was Ms Farrell who brought Mr King to Jean’s house on the two or three occasions that he visited her.
‘The defendants had lunches together and on occasions sat closely whispering together.
‘Mr King made promises of marriage to Ms Farrell, who accordingly expected to share in his good fortune under Jean’s will.’
Ms St Clair’s final argument was Mrs Lech had promised a ‘constructive trust’ to her father before he died and said she would not revoke her original will.
The 2007 document had left two thirds of her estate to her stepdaughter and a third to Ms St Clair’s daughter Carmen.
Ms St Clair claimed: ‘She betrayed her promise not to revoke days after he died.
‘Jean had no reason to change her mind voluntarily and cut the claimant and Carmen out of her will entirely.
‘Jean had no close relatives or other persons with whom she enjoyed any close relationship and in favour of whom she ever displayed any wish to leave her estate or any part of it.’
She added: ‘In particular, Jean had no close connection with her nephew, Nicholas King.’
But Kathryn Purkis, for Ms Farrell and Mr King, denied all the allegations and asked the judge to uphold the 2009 will.
She told the judge it was ‘a fiction’ that there was ‘a secret sexual relationship’ between Ms Farrell and Mr King.
An ‘alternative hypothesis’ was Jean wanted to make a new will having established contact with her nephew, and having fallen out so badly with Ms St Clair.
In relation to the claim Ms St Clair’s father and Jean had made mutual wills which created a constructive trust, she told the judge: ‘The claimant needs to establish…(that) the agreement was of a kind that amounted to a contract in law’.
It was also denied that Jean was mentally unfit to change her will.
Ms St Clair, who now lives in Melbourne, Australia, is attending the hearing and representing herself via a videolink.
The hearing continues.
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