A judge has awarded a retired atomic energy engineer a £1 million pay out after he ruled the man’s sister had committed ‘fraudulent calumny’ in order to disinherit her brother from his father’s estate.
David Whittle brought the case against his sibling accusing her of influencing their dying father by telling a series of lies, including that he and his wife, Julie, were ‘psychopaths and criminals’.
A judge at the High Court in Bristol described the behaviour of Whittle’s sister, Sonia Whittle, as an appalling attempt to cut a rightful beneficiary out of a will.
The dispute centred around the estate of Gerald Whittle, who died aged 92 in 2016, three weeks after drafting his last will and testament. Mr Whittle suffered from leukaemia, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and chronic kidney disease and had spent a lot of time in hospital. Just before his death, he returned to his home in Oxfordshire where, it was alleged, his daughter and her partner, Ray Spicer, had moved in and changed the locks.
During the court hearing it transpired that both siblings had visited their father in his care home before his death. The son alleged that on one occasion he overheard his sister telling their father that he had stolen money from his mother-in-law and that he was a violent man who assaulted women.
David Whittle said that when he confronted his sister she verbally abused him. After his father’s death, he discovered that he had been left out of the will and that the estate had gone to his sister. He challenged the will on the rarely used grounds of fraudulent calumny, a legal concept that means one person has lied about another to gain a financial advantage.
In his ruling, District Judge Tony Woodburn found that the sister had knowingly “peddled falsehoods” about her brother and his wife. The judge said that Sonia Whittle and her partner had unduly influenced her father to cut his son out of his will.
The judge ruled that Sonia Whittle had told her father a string of lies, including that David Whittle had stolen several of his father’s antiques and that he had stolen his father’s collection of classic cars. The sister was also found to have told her father that her brother’s wife was a prostitute and the police had issued a harassment order against the couple.
The judge said that none of those statements were true. In fact, the court found that the sister had instructed a firm of auctioneers to sell the antiques, while the car collection remained in the father’s garage.
David Whittle and his wife obtained disclosure and barring service certificates to prove that neither had ever had a criminal conviction.
Speaking to The Times, Mr Whittle said that the past five years had been “very traumatic” as it seemed that “the case would go on and on”. He said he and his sister “were never on fantastic terms” and that they now no longer speak at all.