Ted Maher Edmond safra,lily safra, monaco home

Monaco home where Lily Safra's billionaire husband died in a mystery blaze is sold for £200m - but who murdered him?

Even in a principality known for its conspicuous wealth, news that a two- storey Monaco apartment had exchanged hands for a European record price of £200 million last month left residents astonished. Sold by property developers Nick and Christian Candy, the sale of the marina-side penthouse called Belle Epoque to a single buyer, believed to be an Arab sheikh, has earned the label of the world's most expensive flat, and become the talk of the champagne and caviar-fuelled soirees that are a regular feature of life in this sun-drenched tax haven.

One woman in particular, however, was especially taken aback, not to mention deeply upset by the worldwide publicity that the sale the penthouse has attracted. Her name is Lily Safra, and for a time she and her multi-billionaire financier husband Edmond were the beating heart of Monaco's wealthy super-elite, able to gaze down on their empire from this very same penthouse with its 17,500 sq feet of marbled floors, galleries and terraces. The daughter of a British railway engineer, Lily's ascent from humble origins to fabulous wealth had been little short of dazzling. By the late Nineties, her husband was presiding over a £3 billion fortune - all of which passed to Lily alone when, on the morning of December 3, 1999, Edmond died in a fire, apparently succumbing to fumes in the property's highly reinforced panic room.

That Mr Safra had died in the very room to which he had retreated to protect himself made it a particularly poignant tragedy, and one that was to take on an even more dramatic element in ensuing days. Four days later, in a tearful confession, one of Edmond's full-time nursing staff, 41-year-old Ted Maher, admitted to lighting the fire in a doomed bid to stage a heroic rescue which would boost his status and pay. Later convicted of death by arson, he was given a ten-year prison sentence. It was, it seemed, another sorry chapter in an area memorably described by author W. Somerset Maugham as a 'sunny place for shady people'. And undoubtedly the recent sale of the property - which the widowed 71- year-old Mrs Safra herself sold to the Candys only two years ago - has stirred up difficult memories for its former mistress, who, as sole benefactor of her husband's will became one of the wealthiest women in the world, five places above the Queen on Britain's rich list.

While Edmond was her fourth husband, he was also the second to die in complex circumstances. Thirty years earlier, in 1969, her second husband Freddy Monteverde was found bleeding to death in bed from a shot fired from a revolver by his side. These two untimely deaths have caused Mrs Safra great personal pain, but more than that too. While Monteverde's death was ruled suicide, some reports suggested he had died from not one but two fatal shots, only one of which could be self-inflicted. Now, decades later, Lily is keenly aware that despite her belief that Maher's confession draws a line under the terrible events of December 3, 1999, many feel there are a host of unanswered questions from that troubling night too - questions that, the Mail can reveal, have achieved a renewed urgency. Released from prison in 2007 after serving just five years of his sentence, Mr Maher has now publicly renounced his confession, insisting he was the fall guy for a crime he did not commit.

Empty rhetoric, perhaps, from a man found guilty in a court of law? Yet his voice is not a lone one. Mr Maher's bid to clear his name is being supported by an impressive roster of international lawyers, many of them working without a fee, among them Michael Griffith, who made his name representing Billy Hayes, an American whose escape from a Turkish jail inspired the motion picture Midnight Express, and who was one of five lawyers on Maher's defence team. Meanwhile, Jean-Christophe Hullin, the French examining judge who conducted the original investigation into Maher, has latterly claimed that his trial was 'fixed in advance'. Certainly Mr Griffith is convinced of his client's innocence, believing that whoever did kill Safra was assisted in a cover-up by the Monaco establishment, blaming 'dark forces' for the killing.

'Monaco is meant to be one of the most secure places in the world, and people aren't meant to be killed in penthouse flats,' he told the Mail. 'Maher was in the right position to take the rap, and this suited everybody. Ted's confession was anything but.' They are words which are likely to hugely dismay Mrs Safra, known as 'the gilded Lily' for her dazzling ascent from humble origins to a world of spectacular wealth.

Born Lily Watkins in Brazil, her father had moved to the continent with his Uruguayan wife and her childhood was perfectly ordinary. Yet she married well from the start, first at 17 to hosiery magnate Mario Cohen, with whom she had three children, then, at 27, to Freddie Monteverde, a wealthy businessman whose death left her with an estimated £160 million fortune. A third marriage, to a businessman named Samuel Bendahan in the early Seventies, lasted little more than a year, and it was her union in 1976 with Safra, a Lebanese-born financier who founded the Republic National Bank of New York that was to elevate her to a key position at the centre of the international beau monde. Together the couple became generous philanthropists and equally lavish hosts, entertaining guests from Frank Sinatra to Aristotle Onassis.

By the time of his death Safra still wielded considerable power, newlyminted as a multi-billionaire courtesy of the sale of the Republic Bank. He was also, rumour had it, assisting the FBI in a clampdown on Russian mafia money launderers in Monaco. Yet wealth cannot insulate against all, and he was also in frail health. Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, he required round-the-clock nursing. The apartment in Monaco which became the Safras' main residence was equipped with a team of dedicated staff, among them Mr Maher, a 41-yearold U.S. Special Forces Veteran with an exemplary military and medical record who had served in the Gulf War and came personally recommended by American friends of the Safras.

Maher had been in the job only four months when, at 5am on December 3, 1999, he appeared in front of the Belle Epoque's concierge, hugely distressed and bleeding from knife wounds in the stomach and thigh. Gasping for breath, he said he had struggled with two hooded attackers and that a fire was sweeping the Safras' apartment. Meanwhile, believing himself under siege from assassins, Safra, together with another nurse, Viviane Torrente, locked himself in the apartment's bathroom - also a reinforced panic room - refusing to come out, even after pleading telephone calls from his wife, who had managed to escape to safety via a narrow window ledge which led onto a terrace and internal stairwell.

It took more than two hours, however, for firemen and police to arrive and smash their way into the apartment, where Safra and Torrente's bodies were finally recovered at 7.15am. A terrible tragedy, certainly, but from the start some elements of Safra's death struck investigators as highly curious. Why, for instance, were Safra's usual team of Mossad-trained, round-theclock bodyguards nowhere to be seen? Why, moreover, in an apartment equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance systems, were there no security videotapes or CCTV to record events as they unfolded?

Why had it taken police and the fire brigade so long to get into the building, when Mrs Safra herself had been able to get out? These questions continued to puzzle even when, four days later, the 'truth' apparently emerged. In a tearful confession to police, Maher said he had staged the fire himself, self-inflicting his wounds, as part of a bizarre scheme to 'rescue' his boss and win his favour.

In 2002, almost three years to the day since Safra's death, he was jailed for ten years for causing double death by arson. If Mrs Safra had hoped that the clanging of the prison doors would mark an end to the matter however, she was to be sorely disappointed. Conspiracy theories continued to rage, fuelled by the wider circumstances amid which Safra met his demise. Was Maher the fall guy for Russian contract killers, angered by Safra's co-operation with the FBI?

Had Monaco's ruler, Prince Rainier, a great friend of Safra's, intervened behind the scenes to help protect his principality's reputation? The fact that Safra had changed his will shortly before his death in favour of his wife, and at the expense of his two brothers, did not escape notice either. Then there is Maher, now living at a secret location in New York State after being quietly released in 2007 after serving barely five years of his sentence. He now hopes to have his conviction overturned, and claims that his original story - prior to his confession - was true all along.

He was, he insists, attacked by two masked assassins wielding guns and combat knives, who had broken into the top floor of the Belle Époque with the express intention of murdering Mr Safra. 'I went down - I was assaulted from behind so I went down,' Maher says. 'And at that point, I went unconscious.' Coming to a few minutes later, disoriented and in considerable pain, he says he could not see his assailants, but became aware that Mr Safra and his colleague Mrs Torrente were by now making their way to the apartment's panic-room. Hard to understand in this case is how Mr Safra and his nurse had survived up to this point.

Desperate to raise the alarm, yet finding communication systems inside the flat cut, including emergency warning systems, Maher then resorted, he says, to lighting a small fire in a dustbin to set off the smoke alarm, hoping the siren would alert the emergency services outside. 'I gave Viviane my mobile phone and said, "Here, you can call help. I'm going to go down and get medical help for myself", otherwise I was going to die,' Maher recalls. 'I was convinced I stopped these people from killing Mr Safra.' That, he says, is the only part he played in events that night.

'I already had everything that I could possibly want in life. And I want to kill my employer? Or show myself as a hero? What's the purpose?' So why did he sign a full confession confirming he had killed Mr Safra and Mrs Torrence? Simple, says Maher. 'I was told "Don't worry, Ted. Go with this. " Because if you don't, in the end, they're going to condemn you. And you're going to go to jail for a very long period of time. And you'll never see your family again, '

Written in French, a language he did not understand, he had no way of knowing what he was putting his name to. 'I didn't know even know what I was signing - I didn't know what this document was until after it was translated.' Moreover, he was fearful for his wife Heidi, who, he was told, had been seized and questioned.

'I was told "you will sign this or your wife will not leave the country".' By the time the case came to trial, he says his lawyers advised him to co-operate with the judiciary in return for a lighter sentence. Only Griffith urged him to retract his confession, but as a non-French lawyer, he was not allowed to speak for his client in court.

Nor is that all. As we have seen, no less a person than one of the original investigators has spoken out, also suggesting that a secret deal took place pretrial which guaranteed Maher a nominal sentence for acting as a 'patsy'. Jean-Christophe Hullin, who originally investigated Maher's alleged crime on behalf of Monaco, now maintains that representatives of all sides of the case were involved in a carve-up, a claim he upholds despite what he calls 'threats, intimidation and insults'. His views are echoed by another lawyer involved in the case, Pompeyo Realuyo, a New York lawyer who attended the Maher trial on behalf of the family of nurse Viviane Torrente and who has described the process as 'a badly scripted play'.

Certainly, evidence supporting Maher's renewed public testimony is compelling. Friends and associates have pointed out that Mr Safra was careful to the point of paranoia about his personal security, filling his penthouse with state-of-the-art security devices, including fire sensors, yet on the night of his death none of them apparently worked, all 12 of his security team had been given the night off. 'It doesn't make sense,' says one legal source, who knew him well. 'Safra was not only suffering from his illness, but from deep paranoia. In short, he was convinced someone was trying to kill him, and would have taken all precautions to try and stop this happening.'

Equally sinister is the suggestion of a cover-up regarding the causes of death for both Safra and Mme Torrence. 'Mme Torrence had suffered a karate chop to the throat - hardly a wound consistent with someone dying from smoke inhalation in a simple house fire,' the legal source added. What this does not tell us, of course, is who was responsible for this most intriguing of deaths. For her own part, Mrs Safra categorically refutes Mr Maher's recent assertions of innocence.

Impeccably groomed, whippet thin and described as 'charm itself ' by those who know her, she counts among her friends Prince Charles and Lord Rothschild, and continues to undertake philanthropic work, dividing her time between Villa Leopolda, a £350 million mansion on the French Riviera, and a £30 million home in Eaton Square. In both, she is protected by a posse of bodyguards and sophisticated security systems - neither of which, as she knows painfully well, can insulate her from the ongoing fallout from her husband's extraordinary death.

    andrew douglas  ameena meer Amityville Horror director sues ex-wife after she duped him into believing daughter was his for 17 years

    Andrew Douglas, who directed the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror, is demanding back hundreds of thousands of pounds in child support. He says Ameena Meer asked him to marry her after claiming she was having his baby. But the real father, according to the lawsuit, was another Briton she had been cheating on him with. Mr Douglas, who began his career in Lord Snowdon’s photographic studio, says in the lawsuit that he met Miss Meer in London in 1989.

    She had commissioned him to take photographs of Salman Rushdie for a magazine interview she had organised with the writer. Over the next three years the couple ‘had infrequent sexual relations’ when they met up in London, according to papers filed at Manhattan Supreme Court. Once pregnant, Miss Meer said she didn’t want a baby born out of wedlock because ‘it would cause great shame and disgrace to her parents, who were practising Muslims’. The writer moved to London and married Mr Douglas in August 1992. But the couple split months after Sasha Douglas was born and Miss Meer took their daughter back to her New York home. In the court documents, Mr Douglas says he had little contact with Sasha until her tenth birthday and felt depressed about failing as a father. Miss Meer, who has had two more daughters with her second husband, allegedly told the director that ‘a price tag was attached’ if he wanted to play any part in the girl’s life.

    He said he paid nearly £450,000 in child support and tuition fees, gave Miss Meer £17,000 when she fell behind with her rent and handed out a further £6,500 for a new bathroom. Mr Douglas’s relationship with Sasha is said to have improved after he moved to California but he said he became suspicious last summer when she asked him about his blood type. Tests showed it was incompatible with the 17-year-old’s. Miss Meer allegedly brushed off his concerns, telling him in a telephone call last September:

    ‘If you’re not Sasha’s father, it must be immaculate conception.’ A DNA test taken later that month revealed that it was virtually impossible for Mr Douglas to have been the father. ‘The probability of paternity is zero per cent,’ the genetic report concluded, said the suit. The court file says the biological parent is ‘a British man who, unbeknownst to plaintiff at the time, was involved in a sexual relationship’ with Miss Meer.

    The real father refused to marry her and so ‘knowingly and with malice’ she told Mr Douglas the baby was his. The legal papers say Mr Douglas still loves the girl he believed to be his daughter, but wants his former wife to pay back the child support and pay compensation for emotional damages. A friend of the filmmaker told the New York Post that Mr Douglas was ‘a stand-up guy’ who ‘took Ameena at her word 17 years ago’.

    He said Miss Meer has now banned Mr Douglas from seeing Sasha. Miss Meer told the newspaper that she had never knowingly lied to her ex-husband. ‘Of course I didn’t lie. I obviously didn’t think that he wasn’t her father,’ she said. ‘If he wants to be her father, he should provide for her. Isn’t that what’s fair?’ She said the lawsuit was ‘a terrible thing for him to do to his daughter’.

    After working for Lord Snowdon, Mr Douglas became a magazine photographer for Esquire and The Face and then a director of music videos and commercials before going into movie-making. His 2003 documentary, Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, won a Royal Television Society award.


    'As greedy as Gordon Gekko': Michael Douglas attacked in court by ex-wife Diandra's lawyer

    Hollywood veteran Michael Douglas was accused of being as 'greedy as the Gordon Gekko character he plays in his new film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Lawyers for his ex-wife said the 65-year-old star, who is battling throat cancer, was trying to escape his responsibilities. He was accused of being a tax evader and it was revealed he and his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones have a fortune estimated at over £90m.

    The financial details were revealed in a New York courtroom where Douglas's ex-wife Diandra is suing for a half share of the earnings he will make from his latest film Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps. Diandra, who divorced her husband in 1998, claims she is entitled to 50 per cent as her ex is reprising his role as crooked financier Gordon Gekko. Under the terms of their split 10 years ago Diandra receives a 50 per cent share of the proceeds from films, television and stage work he did during their marriage.

    She claims the settlement relates to any of those projects and Douglas has to pay up for the sequel to Wall St. Douglas is reported to have received over £10m for the role in the Oliver Stone film which opens next month and stars British actress Carey Mulligan. The Douglases didn't appear in the Manhattan courtroom for the hearing before Supreme Court Acting Justice Matthew F. Cooper.

    Diandra's lawyer Nancy Chemtob said Douglas was 'shirking' his responsibility. 'Mr. Douglas is seeking to shirk his financial responsibility that was entered into when he signed this contract,' he said. 'Mr Douglas was Gordon Gekko in Wall Street and he's Gordon Gekko in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. 'This is a man who simply doesn't want to pay anyone.'

    Chemtob claimed Douglas was worth £90m, adding: 'He resides and files his tax returns in Bermuda when his children went to school in New York. 'Greed is about somebody who doesn't want to pay his taxes and doesn't want to pay his spouse.' Douglas won a Best Actor Oscar for his role as Gekko whose motto 'Greed is good' became one of the catchphrases of the Eighties.

    Douglas's lawyer Marilyn Chintz said his ex-wife was more like the Gekko character. 'It's a sham,' fueled by Diandra Douglas's 'greed', said lawyer Marilyn Chinitz. 'It's time for Mrs. Douglas to move on. When does it stop. Diandra Douglas calls herself Mrs Douglas, but she's not Mrs Michael Douglas.' Chintz argued that Diandra had received what she was due from the 1987 film Wall St.

    Douglas, who has one son Cameron with Diandra, is due to undergo an intensive course of chemotherapy and radiation to treat a tumour in his throat. He has been warned he could lose his voice during the eight week course of treatment. Diandra had offered to postpone the court hearing until after her ex had completed his treatment, but he turned her down.

    Lawyers for Douglas asked the judge to toss out the case or transfer it to California where Diandra has a £28m home up for sale. The judge reserved judgment on the case.

    chris hall house Another father and son victim of EVIL family courts

    A tormented father killed his five-year-old son and then himself after losing his wife and business and fearing he would lose the boy in a custody battle. Chris Hall, 40, is thought to have drugged his diabetic son, also called Chris, before killing himself after his life had been 'broken down bit by bit'. Friends said his partner Rachel had walked out on the pair three months ago. When she left she effectively ended Mr Hall's business as a handyman and gardener as she used to drive him to work because he didn't have a licence, a friend said.

    The couple were in the middle of a custody battle over their son and Mr Hall feared he would lose the boy as he was having difficulty in providing for him financially. The two bodies were discovered yesterday when Rachel called round to the smart detached home in Poole, Dorset, to collect her son. After 30 minutes of trying to get an answer she called the police and they forced their way in to the £300,000 property. Three ambulances arrived at 5.40pm but Mr Hall and Chris were declared dead at the scene. Distraught Rachel was comforted by police officers and was led away.

    A close family friend, who gave the names of the family, said Mr Hall had seen his life gradually fall apart in the last few months and the fear of losing his son could have been the final straw. He said: 'Little Chris was torn between his mum and dad and was getting more and more upset with the situation. He was happy staying with his dad. Maybe Chris's way of dealing with it was '"let's get me and you out is this situation".' Friend and neighbour Phil Haley, 38, said: 'His life was broken him down bit by bit. The last few months parts of his life were taken away from him slowly but surely. 'She left three or four months ago. Rachel effectively took the business away from him because he didn't have a licence and she was used to drive his to his jobs. 'He was very worried about the financial side of things. He wasn't getting enough work and was looking after his little boy and was worried how he would cope. Chris had told me that she wanted custody of Chris.

    'He loved that little boy so much and he feared he was going to be going as well. His son was the most important thing ever to him.' Mr Haley said he regularly used to walk in a local park with Mr Hall and his three dogs, two German Shepherds and a Malibu husky, and spoke to him about his problems. Mr Haley said: 'I was just trying to talk him through things and get him to see sense. He had been really angry recently and was up and down a lot but I really thought he was getting through this. 'He never said anything or let on that he might do something like this. He had a lovely son and it is shocking to think that was his way out.

    'It is one thing to do what he has done but with the little boy as well it is very, very sad. The only thing I can think is that in his mind he was doing to right thing. 'He was a fighter and was a man of many morals. He was well liked around here but this is what can happen with people under great stress. 'It is gut-wrenching stuff. It's unbelievable. I never saw it coming.' Mr Hall, a keen body-builder, had lived in the three-bed house for two years with Rachel and Chris. A woman neighbour who recently moved to the area said she thought Mr Hall was depressed.

    She said: 'I bumped into him a couple of months ago in the street I spoke to him and he said, "Sorry, it's not a good time to meet me, my partner left me three weeks ago and has left me high and dry.'" Neighbour Fred Cummings, 61, said: 'Chris was a nice enough fellow. He had a nice son but like a lot of people he was having problems with his relationship. 'He did odd jobs like gardening but he didn't drive, she used to drive him to the sites. When she left it was quite difficult to do work.

    'There was something going on with the custody of his son and he said he was worried the little boy would be taken away from him about four weeks ago. The 1980s-built property was sealed off by the police today while forensic officers carried out a search inside. Mr Hall's white Vauxhall Mavano works van was parked directly outside the house. A sign that was on the side of the van described body-builder Mr Hall as 'Mr Muscle' who could 'shift anything.'

    Tonight Channel 4 the establishment mouthpiece do a massive hatchet job on Raoul Moat who snapped after being caught up in family courts and persecution and harassment from British masonic thug cops. How many fathers have suffered the same fate of smearing by crooked judges and lawyers in those courts and who were pushed to the edge by the utter scum of the earth.

    Raoul Moat was Britain's most wanted man, and for a week the hunt for him dominated the news.

    With access to hours of audio recordings that Moat made over two years, detailing his battles with the police and authorities, Cutting Edge provides an in-depth examination into his disturbed mental state. Using first-hand testimony, excerpts from the tapes and expert psychological analysis, Cutting Edge asks what drove this fugitive gunman to kill. Featuring interviews with friends, relatives and neighbours who have known him for years, the film provides an insight into his character traits and motivations. Providing a forensic examination of the events leading up to Moat's murderous rampage, Cutting Edge unpicks the speculation and myths surrounding the killer whose suicide sparked a wave of sympathy and tributes online. The film explores Moat's childhood with an absent father; how he came to terms with his new step-father and later became estranged from his mother - despite the fact that they lived close to each other.

    The film builds a picture of Moat as a steroid user and body-building obsessive but also as a father. Drawing on new information and insights, Cutting Edge looks at the events that shaped Moat the murderer and how his actions have affected those who survive him.

  • The Raoul Moat Tapes: Inside the Mind of a Killer VIDEO

    Grammy-winning British conductor arrested at U.S. airport for failing to pay his daughters' child support. He was flying into New York to appear in front of his many fans at a Mozart festival. But when British conductor Paul Hillier arrived at the airport, the police were waiting for him instead.

    And rather than relaxing in preparation for his performance at the renowned Lincoln Centre in New York, the 61-year-old Grammy winner was taken to jail. Mr Hillier, who was awarded the OBE in 2006 for his services to choral music, was held on an outstanding warrant for failing to pay child support for his two daughters, who live in the U.S. with his ex-wife. And he had to arrange to pay £58,000 to his children by first wife Lena-Liis Kiesel to gain his freedom, it is said. Prosecutors claim Mr Hillier, who is from Dorchester, Dorset, had been ducking payments to his daughters, 24 and 19, for four years. He faced four criminal charges of failing to make the court-ordered payments. And last night Mr Hillier told how he was detained by officials of the Department of Homeland Security at Newark Airport and taken to Essex County Jail in New Jersey. 'I have to say that I was treated by them with great courtesy and understanding,' he said.

    He had withheld the payments after his former wife prevented their daughters from visiting him. 'My rights as a father have been comprehensively trampled into the ground', he added in a statement. Mr Hillier and Miss Kiesel married in London in 1977 and divorced in 2002 in Indiana, where Mr Hillier worked as a university lecturer. He lives in Denmark with second wife Else Torp, with whom he also has two daughters, according to Who's Who. His arrest came about after Oregon prosecutors kept tabs on his website and spotted that he was due to visit the U.S. to perform in the Mostly Mozart Festival with Ars Nova Copenhagen, one of Scandinavia's top vocal groups.

    The arrest warrant said Mr Hillier's past behaviour showed 'a disregard for court orders and the financial well-being of his family'. District Attorney Michael Shrunk told reporters in Oregon: 'It was part of the leverage to get him to pay.' Police said Mr Hillier was not held overnight. He made his concert date after arranging to wire the outstanding cash. Under Oregon law, child support extends to children while they are attending school and university.

    According to the court file, Mr Hillier had been ordered to pay £1,125 in child support each month, which increased to £1,280 in 2005. Mr Hillier's statement said: 'The divorce agreement mandated, first, that I would pay child support, and second, that our two children would reside with their mother but that I would have very specific visitation rights in the form of substantial periods of time during Christmas and summer holidays when they would reside with me. 'I paid child support regularly for several years, but apart from a single two-week visit by my younger daughter, the visitation was totally and very effectively prevented by the girls' mother.

    'Eventually I told her I would stop sending child support unless and until she started to keep her side of the agreement. She never did. 'During the past year I had been trying various ways to settle the matter amicably between us, but without success. The arrest was a very brief affair: the issue with the Oregon Court was settled overnight and I have made full restitution of the outstanding payments, which I had been holding in reserve for that purpose. 'Of course, there is no way, now, in which the lost years with my children-can be restored. I feel this loss very deeply and I feel that my rights as a father have been comprehensively trampled into the ground.

    'Despite all this, but now with even less grounds for optimism than ever before, my heart will remain open to my children (who are now young adults) in the hope that one day they will begin to understand fully.' Mr Hillier, who studied at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama, has won worldwide acclaim for his choral work. His recordings, more than 100 CDs, including seven solo recitals, have earned worldwide acclaim and won numerous prizes.

    In 2008, he won a Grammy for Best Choral Recording and he won a second Grammy this year in the small ensemble category. Between 2001 and 2007, Mr Hillier was principal conductor with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir.



    Macca's meltdown: The inside story of the marriage that cost Sir Paul £24m and almost destroyed him

    She could hardly fail to catch his eye.

    In a ­translucent red top that revealed her large breasts, she was what Paul ­McCartney might once have termed ‘a right little raver’. He watched spellbound as Heather Mills, with a flirtatious toss of her thick blonde hair, strode confidently across the stage of a London awards ­ceremony in May 1999 to introduce a woman who’d shown fortitude in ­coping with the loss of her limbs.

    It wasn’t immediately obvious that Ms Mills was also wearing a prosthetic leg. ‘Who’s that?’ asked Sir Paul, who was waiting to deliver an award himself. He was told that the woman who had made such a strong impression on him was a 31-year-old model who’d lost her leg in a road accident and now raised money for her charity. Days later, Heather found a message on her answer machine: ‘It’s Paul ­McCartney here. I’d like to talk to you about the charity work.’

    They met at his London office, where Paul presented the Heather Mills Trust — which she hadn’t yet registered with the Charity Commission — with a cheque for £150,000. As she left that summer day, Heather noticed Sir Paul was admiring her ­backside. He hadn’t looked with lust at a woman since his wife’s death from breast cancer just over a year before. Back then, he’d been in a very sorry condition, wandering about his estate and talking constantly about Linda. ‘Paul was just haggard. I mean, he sat there like an old man, lost,’ says ­Linda’s friend, the TV writer Carla Lane.

    Now, however, he told himself that Linda wouldn’t mind about his feelings for Heather. He ­convinced ­himself that his dead wife was sending him ­messages via the wildlife on their ­Sussex farm. ‘There were strange ­metaphysical occurrences that seemed to mean ­something. Animal noises. Bird noises. ‘You’d ask yourself a question under the stars and, like, there’d be like an owl in the valley going whoo-whoo-whoo,’ he revealed later. In short, he was set on dating Heather Mills — a decision that would one day cost him dear. Like Paul, she came from a northern working-class family, but her ­background was troubled.

    'The more you met (Heather), the more you knew she was a nutter'

    At 14, she claimed in her ­autobiography, she’d run away from home. She’d started ­sleeping rough and mixing with drug addicts, rent boys and prostitutes. Then she got a Saturday job with a jeweller, from whom she stole — resulting in a ­probationary sentence for theft. Next, Heather strayed into the fringes of the sex industry, ­finding employment at around the age of 16 as a waitress in a Soho hostess club. A failed ­marriage and a career in ­glamour modelling had ­followed. The exact details are slightly mysterious.

    Her ex-husband Alfie Karmal says: ‘It was difficult to believe anything she said, as I caught her out lying to me so often.’ Still, whatever her short-comings, she was able to yank Sir Paul McCartney out of his grief. Quickly disposing of her fiance Chris Terrill (to whom she’d got engaged after a ten-day romance), she joined the Beatle for his annual vacation on Long Island in America.

    By the time they returned to the UK, they were ­inseparable. Paul was so happy, she noted, that he was literally dancing down the street, like his hero Fred Astaire. For ­Halloween, he arranged a tryst with Heather in a London hotel, ­filling their suite with ­lanterns. And for New Year’s Eve, they went to his house on ­Merseyside where Heather met the rellies, as Paul called his ­Liverpool family. The rellies, however, looked upon her askance. ‘I went in the kitchen for some reason. Seated at a table, in white faux fur and a white Cossack fake fur hat, is this very glamorous-looking blonde,’ recalls Paul’s cousin Mike Robbins.

    He extended his hand, but the blonde didn’t shake it and seemed to want to stay in the kitchen rather than join ­everyone else in the living room. Mike assumed she was ‘one of Paul’s brief bits of crumpet’. But, he adds, ‘the more you met her, the more you knew she was a nutter’. Clearly, Paul didn’t think so. Nor did he seem bothered by the stories now emerging that suggested Heather had been a party girl who kept company with rich Arabs, including the Saudi ­billionaire Adnan Khashoggi. Why did Paul invest such trust in a self-­publicising minor celebrity with a dubious past? Mike Robbins thinks he knows the answer: sex. Paul had been in a monogamous relationship for almost 30 years and then along came a busty blonde who may have had a certain expertise in the bedroom.

    ‘I’m being crude now, but he was c**k happy. He confused sex with love,’ says Mike. ‘He couldn’t tell the difference.’ Another way to look at Paul’s relationship with Heather is to consider that, like John ­Lennon, he’d spent his adult life being venerated by almost everybody he met.

    Indeed, both Beatles had become so famous, so rich and so powerful that they were inevitably slightly monstrous. And they were only ­comfortable with women who weren’t overawed by their fame. When Heather admired a beach house near Hove in ­Sussex, Paul lent her £800,000 to buy it. By then, nearing 60, he also delighted in arranging romantic ­surprises — so he flew with her to India for her 33rd ­birthday and took her shopping in Manhattan on ­Valentine’s Day.

    'You know when a woman loves a man she’s with and there was no love there. Everyone could see it'

    Not everyone believed she was equally smitten. Anthony Smith, president of Magdalen ­College, Oxford, who had them both to stay several times while Paul was writing a choral work for the college, says: ‘You know when a woman loves a man she’s with and there was no love there. Everyone could see it. Everyone around them. ‘You could just see it, you could feel it, and he didn’t, or he’d convinced himself that because he was a good man — which he is, an extremely morally motivated person in all things, I think — he felt he ought to love her. That’s my theory.’ Among Sir Paul’s friends and ­associates, the consensus was that Heather was trouble. The musician Eric Stewart of 10CC was so ­concerned about his old friend that he wrote a letter to Paul, warning him about Heather.

    He didn’t get a reply, nor could he get through to Paul on the phone. ‘It was like he was trying to sweep out anybody who knew him and Linda together.’ When Paul introduced Heather Mills to Tony Bramwell, another old friend, the former Beatles employee recognised Heather as a girl who used to hang around the London club scene. ‘Heather looked at me in horror,’ Bramwell says, ‘knowing I’d been in the clubs when she was slapping around looking for a rich man.’ Unwilling to spend time in his ­company, she announced: ‘There’s nobody interesting here — I’m going shopping.’ Paul followed her meekly. Bramwell concluded that Heather was every bit as horrible as he’d always found Yoko Ono to be.

    lisa and vivian imerman This judgement still DOES NOT protect a separated man's right to PRIVACY from a golddigging ex wife. Her and her crooked lawyer can ask JUDGES for permission to access a mans private affairs and get a court order to do so. For any MAN dragged into divorce courts should realise the consequences of giving powers over to who you marry who can then rifle through EVERY part of your affairs. Many of us on this group have VAST experience of ex wives raking through our personal effects to pass to their dodgy and corrupt lawyer. THEY ARE THE UTTER SCUM OF THE EARTH. One piece of IMPORTANT advice NEVER EVER share a bank account with another person especially your wife or partner. Lawyers at a stroke can close down any such account and is another SHOCKING tactic used by these vermin to fleece you of your money and wealth. There is seldom any left after these evil bastards manipulate the laws to forcibly remove it from you.

    Court of appeal's judgment in the Imerman case has huge implications for family lawyers – and snooping spouses

    What skulduggery. The master of the rolls, Lord Neuberger, called it "an extreme case of wrongful access to confidential material" and regaled us with tales of how judges have for years turned a blind eye to spouses scrabbling around in dustbins, foraging in desk drawers, reading personal diaries and generally indulging in other dubious forms of "self-help" to get the best financial deals in divorce proceedings. The former wife's lawyers said the court of appeal's decision robbed women of protection previously afforded to them and declared the result a cheat's charter. "Wives have until now been allowed to produce an ace from their sleeve: a document proving the husband had lied about his finances was admissible even if improperly obtained," they said. The erstwhile husband said: "I was determined that my private papers could not be stolen and the perpetrators get away with it without retribution." Yesterday's judgment in the Imerman case covered areas of law usually viewed as mutually exclusive: breach of confidence and the admissibility of evidence in divorce proceedings. The principle characters in this drama are: the brothers Tchenguiz, their sister Lisa (Mrs Imerman) and her ex Vivian Imerman. They are all fabulously wealthy, or as Lord Neuberger put it: "Both Robert and Victor Tchenguiz were and are in a substantial way of business, and Mr and Mrs Imerman each appears to have been independently rich."

    Under scrutiny was the conduct of the Tchenguiz brothers who, fearing that Mr Imerman would conceal his assets in their sister's divorce proceedings, copied (with the help of the other defendants) between 250,000 and 2.5m pages of his documents stored on the server used by an office they had previously shared. The files were handed over to their lawyer (also a defendant) who passed them on to Mrs Imerman's lawyer. Mr Imerman said they'd invaded his privacy and he argued that, since the documents were acquired unlawfully, Mrs Imerman shouldn't be able to use them in divorce. The court of appeal agreed with him. Divorce lawyers relying on the "Hildebrand rules", a set of principles peculiar to family proceedings, have for years been telling their clients to snoop and provided force wasn't used and electronic or snail mail wasn't intercepted – and as long as the sneaky spouse copied rather than stole documents – judges in the family division apparently approved of this. In the Imerman case the court tested the Hildebrand rules for compatibility with the law of confidence and found them wanting. While the court of appeal accepted that lawyers and judges are concerned about lack of candour in divorce cases, it found there was simply no legal basis for the rules.

    Mr Imerman's article 8 rights were engaged and in accordance with the law of confidence, set in out in cases such as Naomi Campbell's against the Mirror, he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his email correspondence and other documents stored on the server. The fact Robert Tchenguiz owned the server and had physical access to it didn't alter that. "Confidentiality is not dependent on locks and keys or their electronic equivalent," said Lord Neuberger. There was also the possibility that some of the defendants had committed criminal offences under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 and the Data Protection Act 1998. The court thought that this sort of "unregulated self-help" in divorce proceedings couldn't be condoned.

    As for Mrs Imerman, she could not be allowed to benefit – at least not at this point – said the court. Wives ought to apply for Mareva (freezing) orders or Anton Piller (search orders) if they have "substantial reasons" for suspecting that their husbands are not going to comply with their obligation to provide full and frank disclosure of their assets, said Lord Neuberger. The significant expense involved in making such applications is perhaps not such a problem for the wealthy Mrs Imerman, but in other cases it will be a huge obstacle. It should be said that the documents themselves didn't disclose an intention to hide assets and at the time they were purloined Mr Imerman wasn't yet under an obligation to file details of his finances in the divorce proceedings. The court ordered that the files should be handed to his lawyers and they will need the court's permission to part with them. Mrs Imerman and her lawyers don't have access to the documents now, but they can't be expected to erase them from memory, the court said. If full and frank disclosure is not forthcoming it is possible that they might be justified in applying for an order for some of the documents to be produced.

    The court of appeal said that where two parties are living together as spouses, civil partners or lovers, there may be room to argue that documents are not confidential: "If a husband leaves his bank statement lying around open in the matrimonial home, in the kitchen, living room or marital bedroom, it may well lose its confidential character as against his wife," said Lord Neuberger. "If the parties each had their own study, it would be less likely that the wife could copy the statement without infringing the husband's confidence if it had been left by him in his study rather than in the marital bedroom, and the wife's case would be weaker if the statement was kept in a drawer in his desk and weaker still if kept locked in his desk." The implications are clearly far-reaching for family lawyers and their clients. I'm not a divorce lawyer, or even a divorced lawyer, and would be interested to hear from specialists how this ruling affects the advice they'll be giving in future.


    A millionaire dubbed the “Man from Del Monte” today won a landmark victory in a £350 million divorce battle.

    The decision in the Court of Appeal removes protection given to thousands of divorcing couples and has major implications for people fighting over hidden wealth and documents. Until today a husband or wife who came across information revealing hidden wealth could copy it and put it before the courts. But the Court of Appeal reversed that principle in a case involving Vivian Imerman, 53, who made millions from selling the Del Monte fruit company.

    He won an appeal against property tycoons Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz, who took thousands of documents about his wealth to help their sister Lisa — Mr Imerman's wife. Lawyers described the judgment as “ground-breaking”. The couple, who are in the midst of a divorce, signed a pre-nuptial agreement after their 2001 marriage. She filed for divorce in 2008. A bitter battle broke out over her demand for £100 million of his fortune because since the pre-nup deal he had made a fortune from selling the spirits company Whyte & Mackay. The two brothers obtained thousands of documents about his wealth from a computer at Mayfair offices Robert Tchenguiz had invited Mr Imerman to share. They attempted to use information about his multi-million-pound estate at her divorce hearing. Robert Tchenguiz said he was concerned to protect his sister's interests and feared that Mr Imerman would try to hide his assets from her. In July last year a High Court judge ordered the material to be returned and not disclosed to anyone else. Today that order was confirmed by the Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger, sitting with Lord Justices Moses and Munby.

    They decided that the “Hildebrand rules” — a long-standing acceptance that divorcing couples can secretly obtain and use otherwise private documents in family court proceedings — have “no legal basis”. They stated: “Nothing in the so-called Hildebrand rules can be relied upon in justification or provide a defence to conduct which would otherwise be criminal or actionable.” Legal experts say today's ruling will lead to a sharp rise in new court action in divorces where husbands or wives suspect each other of concealing assets. Mr Imerman's solicitor Frances Hughes said he was delighted “to have succeeded in a long battle for the return of his confidential and privileged documents.” Lisa Tchenguiz said the judges had given her husband every incentive to lie and hide his wealth. The “ace from a sleeve” which wives have been able to play in producing documents to prove the lies has now been ruled inadmissible, she said. Her solicitor Diana Parker said: “Lisa Tchenguiz is prohibited from saying what her husband claims he is worth, compared with what is in the public domain as to the wealth he created during their marriage.

    “But she is not gagged from saying that she finds the Court of Appeal decision a cheats' charter.” Vivian Imerman said: “I was determined that my private papers could not be stolen and the perpetrators get away with it without any retribution.” The ruling could have a significant impact on the long-running battle between businessman Scott Young and his estranged wife Michelle.


    • Oligarch and wife Galina only lived together for two years

    • Ruling cements London as divorce court of choice for rich

    He has survived several assassination attempts, false charges of fraud by the Russian authorities and won high-profile libel cases in London courtrooms. But the exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky has been unable to escape the wrath of his second wife, Galina. Today she won a divorce from the businessman in the high court, in a settlement that lawyers believe could be the biggest in British legal history. Berezovsky, who will not contest the case, is expected to pay his second wife anything up to £100m, say reports, which would be more than double the previous divorce settlement record of £48m. The couple were married for 18 years and had two children together, although they have been separated since the mid-1990s. In divorce papers, Galina describes herself as a "housewife".

    She lives with their teenage children in Kensington, west London, in a penthouse overlooking Hyde Park, while he lives in the 172-acre Wentworth Park estate in Surrey he shares with his girlfriend of 15 years, Yelena Gorbunova, whom he now plans to marry, and their two children. Berezovsky's fortune, built up after he separated from his second wife, was once estimated at more than £1bn. Aside from the £10m Surrey estate he bought from the radio DJ Chris Evans in 2004, he reportedly owns a house in Cap d'Antibes in southern France where his 86-year-old mother lives, and a £60m villa at Cap Ferrat, also on the French Riviera. The pair are separating because of 64-year-old Berezovsky's "unreasonable behaviour", say court papers.

    Galina, 51, apparently filed for divorce after becoming irritated at reports describing Gorbunova as the oligarch's "wife". The last big payout was awarded to the wife of insurance tycoon John Charman, in 2007. Beverley Charman, his wife of 28 years, won £48m of £131m in assets. Frank Arndt, a lawyer at Stowe Family Law, which specialises in big money divorces, said: "The starting point in a long marriage, such as the Berezovsky case is equalisation or 50:50 split of all matrimonial assets. This is all the capital created in a marriage, including all savings and pensions. "The Berezovskys were married for 18 years, have two teenage children and, though estimates of the couple's fortune vary, it is indeed likely that any settlement eventually awarded to Mrs Berezovsky will dwarf the £48m awarded to Beverley Charman."

    Arndt said Berezovsky may use what is known in the legal profession as the "stellar or genius" argument used by Charman, in which he said his wife had made no financial contribution to the fortune he had built up in the insurance market during their marriage. His case resulted in a discount from the 50:50 position: a high court judge ruled Charman should have 63.5% of the couple's wealth rather than half because of his special contribution to building it up and because the assets he was keeping were riskier than those which went to his wife. " It is difficult to speculate what the husband and wife teams would have argued in the Berezovsky case but she will come out of this very wealthy. At one point his fortune was estimated at £1bn and 37% of that is £370m.""However, the biggest challenge facing Mrs Berezovsky might not be the size of the eventual settlement, but how the payment of that settlement can be enforced. This is a question that has been exercising family judges of late, and much can depend upon the locations in which the couple's assets are held." Lawyers say that in cases of the very wealthy, who claim several residences around the world, they advise such clients to file for divorce quickly in London. The couple met in 1981 when Berezovsky was a professor of mathematics in Moscow earning £60 a month.

    He later moved into the used car business, founding the first Mercedes dealership in the old Soviet Union, before becoming one of the original Russian oligarchs when President Boris Yeltsin sold off state assets to favoured supporters. Berezovsky picked up Sibneft, a newly created oil firm and also became the main shareholder in the country's main television channel, ORT, which he turned into a propaganda vehicle for Boris Yeltsin in the run-up to the 1996 presidential election. He married Galina in 1991 after divorcing his first wife, Nina, with whom he has two further children. Lord Bell, Berezovsky's spokesman, said yesterday there would be no appeal. He has previously confirmed that the businessman was intending to marry Gorbunova when the divorce was finalised. "The divorce is settled. Uncontested. That's it. They haven't lived together for over 15 years."

    Split decisions

    Multimillionaire John Charman described as "grotesque" his wife's record-breaking £48m settlement in 2006 and said he had been penalised for the 15 unhappy years he had spent with her for the sake of their sons. Madonna reportedly reached a £50m settlement with Guy Ritchie after their 2008 divorce. But sources close to him cast doubt on the figure.

    Heather Mills was awarded £24.3m in her divorce settlement with Sir Paul McCartney in 2008. The judge ruled that McCartney was worth £400m. Mills had put his fortune at twice that. Phil Collins paid his third wife, Orianne Cevey, £25m when their six-year marriage ended in 2008.


    Fathers who refuse to pay child maintenance should not be sent to prison, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke suggested today.

    Highlighting the need for "radical" reform of the criminal justice system, Mr Clarke said some prisoners are currently "far away from being there for serious crime". Last month he pledged to "shut the revolving door of crime and reoffending" by locking up fewer offenders and using more community sentences. During Commons question time, Labour former minister Kevin Brennan, MP for Cardiff West, asked: "Would you give the House three examples of the kind of criminals currently in jail who won't be in prison under your plans?" Mr Clarke replied: "The last person I met in jail who clearly should not have been there had been sent there because he was in dispute with his ex-wife over the maintenance he was supposed to pay for their children.

    "Well of course he was under an obligation to pay for his children but it wasn't the best use of prison, providing a place for him. "And anybody who visits prison will find people who are there through a rather surprising combination of purposes - some far away from being there for serious crime." The Justice Secretary said prison is the "most effective punishment we have for serious criminal offenders".

    He added: "But what we have not paid enough attention to in recent years is how we actually at the same time minimise the risk of reoffending, seek to reform those in prisons and divert them from future crime, and eventually make sure there are better and more effective ways of dealing with those that are capable of being dealt with."

    Families are being torn apart by a system veiled in secrecy, says Christopher Booker

    I have never, in all my years as a journalist, felt so frustrated as I do over two deeply disturbing stories of apparent injustice that cry out to be reported but which, for legal reasons, I can refer to only in the vaguest terms. To cover them as they deserve, and as the victims so desperately wish, would challenge a part of our legal system shrouded in an almost impenetrable veil of secrecy. Two weeks ago I recounted four examples of what I described as one of the greatest scandals in Britain today – the seizing of children by social workers from loving families, on what appears to be the flimsiest and most questionable grounds.

    The children may then be handed on to foster carers, who can receive up to £400 a week for each child, or are put out for adoption, in a way which too often leads to intense distress for both the parents and the children involved. One case I referred to concerns a north London couple whose five children were seized in April by social workers from Haringey council and sent into foster care. The mother was then pregnant, and her baby was born last month. Shortly afterwards, according to her account, nine police officers and social workers burst into her hospital room at 3am and, as she lay breastfeeding, wrested her baby from her arms with considerable force. Discovering they had nowhere to put the baby, the authorities took it to another part of the hospital, where the mother was escorted four times a day to feed her child, until she was discharged four days later.

    Having talked at length to the mother, I found this story so shocking that I put a series of questions to the council, to get their side of the story. The response of Haringey (which, since the national furore over its failure to prevent the battering to death of Baby P, has been somewhat sensitive on these issues) was to ask the High Court to rule that I should not be allowed to write about the case at all. In the end, the court did not go that far, but The Sunday Telegraph was reminded of the comprehensive restrictions on reporting such stories. After spending several hours with the parents, looking at their neat home, the little beds where their children used to sleep and the cot prepared for the baby, I came away more convinced than ever that something was seriously amiss. I found the wife impressive in her detailed account of the events, clearly a devoted mother who feels herself and her children to have been the victims of an extraordinary error – the nature of which, alas, I cannot reveal. This week, two days have been set aside for the mother to put her case to a judge. Despite the tragedy that has torn their family apart, the parents have never previously had an opportunity to challenge Haringey council's version of the story. I only hope the court takes particular care to check out the evidence put before it, and that in due course I can fully report a case that sheds a revealing light on a system supposedly devised to protect the interests of the children but which too often seems to result in the very opposite.

    Also this week, the fate of another family hangs on another court hearing. This is the story of a couple who last January were rejoicing at the birth of their first child. Some weeks later, concerned that the baby's arm seemed floppy, they took it back to the hospital to seek medical advice. An X-ray confirmed a minor fracture. This proved to be the start of a nightmare, which led to them being arrested, handcuffed and driven off separately to a police station, where the mother was held for nine hours without food. The father was imprisoned overnight. It emerged that the doctor they saw had reported her suspicion about the child's fracture to Coventry social workers. The couple were put on police bail, ordering them to surrender their passports, forbidding them to be unsupervised in the presence of anyone under 16, and only allowing them to sleep in one of two named houses (the other being the father's family home). But because no charges had been brought, the social workers allowed the baby into the care of its Irish grandmother, a respected primary school headmistress. To avoid the baby being seized, she took it to her family home in Dublin, where it has been supported by a band of relatives. Determined not to be thwarted, Coventry's social workers then asked the Irish courts to rule – in a case to be heard this week – that the baby must be sent back to them in England. The hospital doctor has meanwhile contacted the Irish medical authorities demanding that in no way must they carry out specific medical tests on the baby which might account for its injury.

    On Thursday I spoke again with the mother, who reported that her own bail had been lifted. She was therefore about to join her baby in Ireland. But the child's father has been told that he may face charges for harming his son, a possibility they find incredible. This will be reported to the Irish court, prompting the fear that the child may be taken from his mother and grandmother, neither of them under any suspicion, and deported to England to be placed in foster care. In the House of Commons last week I met the one politician who has done more than any other – as this kind of story grows disturbingly frequent – to expose what is going on. John Hemming, the Lib Dem MP for Yardley, Birmingham, not only set up the Justice for Families website, which contains details of many similar cases, but recently assembled an official all-party group of concerned MPs to campaign for the radical overhaul of a system which seems so horribly off the rails, and too often to be betraying the very principles it was intended to uphold. Not the least startling feature of this system is the secrecy with which it has managed to hide away from the world almost all it gets up to. As is confirmed by Ian Josephs, a remarkable businessman who runs the Forced Adoption website and has helped hundreds of families in similar plight, one of its most glaring flaws is the extent to which aggrieved parents are deprived of any right to put their case, not just to the courts but to anyone who might be able to help them.

    It is a system hermetically sealed off, in which the fate of parents and children can be decided by an incestuously closed community of social workers, police, lawyers, doctors and other professional "experts", who all too often seem to work together in an alliance which is ruthlessly oblivious to the interests of the families who fall into its clutches. Again and again I have heard of the misery of children torn from their distraught parents, forced to live unhappily in the hands of inadequate foster carers, and whose only wish is to be returned to those they know and love. The more I learn about this scandal, the more I understand why, in April, an Appeal Court judge, Lord Aikens, savaged the actions of Devon county council social workers in a forced adoption case as having been "more like Stalin's Russia or Mao's China than the west of England". The council's lawyers were told to read a judgment by Lord Justice Wall, now head of the High Court's Family Division, which condemned Greenwich social workers as "enthusiastic removers of children". It is high time the veils of secrecy were ripped from this national outrage; that politicians intervened to call the system to order; and that the press was free to bring properly to light family tragedies such as those I have only been allowed to hint at above.


    The number of middle class family homes sold due to divorce has almost doubled in the last year, according to new figures.

    One in ten property sales for houses worth £500,000 to £1 million in the first six months of 2010 were the result of families and relationships splitting up. The rate is almost twice that for the same period in 2009 when 6 per cent of house sales were put down to divorce.

    Property experts said the increase is due to rising house prices in the mid-range of the housing market allowing couples who were hampered by the lower prices last year to consider separating. Lucian Cook, director of Savills residential research, who commissioned the survey, said:"Greater fluidity in the lower tiers of prime market has allowed divorces to proceed and, regrettably, at this level a house sale can often be inevitable, hence the increase in divorce related sales from 6 per cent of this market segment in 2009 to 10 per cent this year to date." Wealthier families are less likely to sell the marital home to accommodate a divorce with one partner more likely to just buy or rent another property instead. From January to June this year divorce accounted for 6 per cent of sales for homes over £2million. However, a prized family home can often become the cause of conflict in an acrimonious separation, experts said. Ruaraidh Adams-Cairns Head of Litigation Support at Savills said "At the very upper end of the market a divorce rarely triggers the sale of a property, particularly where a family home is involved. That said, prime properties are considered a significant asset and their value can be keenly debated in a disputed divorce. The timing of a divorce, therefore, in relation to the property market cycle is not insignificant."

    David Adams, Chesterton Humberts' head of Residential, said that economic uncertainty had prevented estranged couples from physically separating in the previous year but that recent rises in house prices had made division of assets more possible. He said: "Many couples were prevented from separating by the recession, as the costs of splitting their property assets at the bottom of the market were even more unbearable than remaining in the same home together. As house prices have started to recover, these ex-couples are selling their properties and buying separately." Divorce is the third most common reason for people entering the housing market, after downsizing and upsizing, according to a report by Winkworth property carried out in May this year.

    Elena golubovich Ilya golubovich Much of this article quotes comments from judges who are actually the cause of the UK becoming a billion dollar divorce industry for foreign women to take men to the cleaners. Those judges all part of the masonic structure that sees vast amounts of money being retained by crooked lawyers acting for foreign golddiggers, and why so many foreign women are desperate to get hitched in the UK and who later fleece unsuspecting men of their hard earned wealth.

    Judge slams foreigners' use of British divorce court

    A judge has strongly criticised foreign nationals who use the British divorce courts to settle their disputes, despite having little connection to this country. Lord Justice Thorpe made the remarks during the latest twist in the “bitter and unruly” divorce battle between Russian tycoon Ilva Golubovich and his former wife Elena. Both parties have used delaying tactics at the courts in London and Moscow and have racked up legal costs in excess of £2.25 million during their long running dispute. Mrs Golubovich, 26, has been attempting to secure a British divorce in the hope of gaining a more generous settlement from her 24-year-old ex-husband, while he has been seeking a Russian decree nisi. Yesterday three appeal judges accepted that his Russian divorce was valid but slammed the couple’s use of UK court time. Lord Justice Thorpe said: “There are only 17 judges of the family division (of the High Court) whose primary responsibility is to do justice domestically.

    “There they operate under great pressure of work. I question whether there should not be a more stringent allocation of judicial time to cases such as this where the parties have slender connection with our jurisdiction and where the extent of their financial resources permits disproportionate demands on our family justice system.” In recent years the British courts have gained an international reputation for awarding extremely generous settlements to the wives of wealthy men embroiled in high profile divorce cases. Mr and Mrs Golubovich, who were married in Italy in 2007 and have a two-year-old daughter, Maya, both live in London but have spent most of their lives living abroad.

    The marriage broke down last year and Elena filed the first divorce petition in London. Her husband, who works in the British office of a Russian hedge fund, and is the son of one of Russia’s richest couples, has twice obtained decrees in Moscow to end their marriage. The first was dismissed as a forgery and the second was initially dismissed by the British courts as being too late. That ruling was yesterday overturned and the Russian divorce was accepted as genuine.

    Lord Justice Thorpe said: "The wife's preference for a London divorce, although not articulated, is obvious. Equally obvious is the husband's unarticulated preference for a Moscow divorce." He added: "Each thoroughly understood that whichever jurisdiction dissolved the marriage would then decide ancillary relief claims according to its internal law and practice." The judge accused both parties of embarking on a “crude race” in an attempt to gain the upper hand. Mrs Golubovich, a former fashion student, who has already won a £300,000 a year interim settlement claims if the divorce settlement is finalised in Russia, she will be left virtually penniless.

    Her husband, whose father is a finance director for Yukos, the Russian oil firm, and whose mother owns Russian Product, the country's equivalent of Nestle, is thought to have a personal fortune running into hundreds of millions of pounds. Deborah Bangay QC representing Mrs Golubovich said that the husband had “embarked on a determined campaign “ to delay her divorce and financial settlement and even tried to get her deported. She claimed: “The wife would be left penniless in Russia while he continued to enjoy his jet set millionaire’s lifestyle.” But in unanimously overturning the ruling with Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger and Lord Justice Etherton agreeing , Lord Justice Thorpe said the Moscow court had a straightforward jurisdiction to dissolve a marriage between two Russian citizens. He added: “To refuse recognition of the Moscow decree would disregard our obligation to respect the function of that court.” They allowed the husband’s appeal and set aside the wife’s decree granted in March.

    Multi-million pound divorce cases could become a thing of the past under radical proposals to make prenuptial contracts legally enforceable.

    The changes would see pre-nups, once considered vulgar and socially unacceptable in British society, enshrined in law and recognised in divorce courts. Currently, such contracts – drawn up by couples to establish how assets would be divided up in the event of a divorce – are not legally binding although they may be taken into account by a judge. The country's official adviser on family law has told The Sunday Telegraph that the fear of big payouts should a marriage fail is deterring some people from getting wed in the first place. Pre-nups could end the 'financial carnage' wrought by bitter divorce battles.

    The new plans will be outlined in a consultation paper being prepared by the Law Commission, the official body in charge of reviewing the law in England and Wales. The review of the law has been prompted by concern over spiralling divorce payouts and acrimonious disputes – such as the £24 million paid to Heather Mills by Sir Paul McCartney after just four years' marriage. Professor Elizabeth Cooke, the Law Commissioner in charge of family law and who is in charge of drawing up the new proposals, said: "The consultation will include a number of options. "One option will be to recognise the pre-nup and the post-nup.

    "A lot of people have said to us they are deterred from marriage by the current law. If the current law is deterring marriage that isn't good for public policy. "There is a certain amount of financial carnage when people get divorced. A well drawn up pre-nup can give greater predictability. "There is nothing that will take away the general pain of divorce but it may be that pre-nups can go some way to making things more certain." The Law Commission will propose a series of options for legally binding pre- and post-marriage contracts in a detailed consultation which is expected to be published within the next two weeks.

    Most family lawyers are in favour of pre-nup contracts because they believe that subsequent divorces are more easily settled without the need for costly and bitter court cases. In recent years, English courts have tended to rule in favour of wives who have given up careers to stay at home and help husbands establish successful careers. Payouts include the £48 million awarded to Beverley Charman after 28 years marriage to the insurance magnate John Charman and the £5 million received by Melissa Miller after just two years' marriage to Alan Miller which produced no children. Wealthy men have argued they now need to be protected from 'gold-diggers' and that they are put off marriage by the prospect of losing businesses, inherited estates or family heirlooms in the event of a divorce.

    Prof Cooke said divorcees in particular were often put off remarrying in case the few assets retained from the first marriage should have to be handed over should they get divorced a second time. The Law Commission is expected to set out a series of 'best practice' guidelines, designed to prevent spouses being coerced into signing draconian pre-nup contracts. For contracts to be upheld in courts, spouses would have to show that they had each received independent legal advice before signing. Punishing pre-nups that left children in penury and the ex-partners of wealthy men or women at the mercy of state handouts would also be unlikely to be legally binding.

    The details of the consultation are due this summer but will not be published until the Supreme Court rules on the divorce of Katrin Radmacher, a German heiress. Ms Radmacher and her ex-husband Nicolas Granatino signed a prenuptial agreement that neither would make a claim against the other in the event of divorce. But Mr Granatino, who is French, then pursued his wife, who is worth £100 million, for a payout after the break up of the marriage. The High Court awarded him almost £6 million but that decision was overturned on appeal. A Supreme Court decision had been expected before the summer recess at the end of the month. The Law Commission report will take into account the Supreme Court ruling and the views of the nine presiding judges before publishing its consultation.

    That will be followed by a final report and accompanying draft bill which will be submitted to Government for scrutiny. About three-quarters of Law Commission recommendations become law. Julian Lipson, head of family law at Withers, a leading divorce firm, said: "Pre-nups used to be the preserve of the Americans. They used to be seen as vulgar and 'not British' but now they have become increasingly commonplace. There has been at least a three or fourfold increase in the number of people coming to us to organise a prenup. "We are advising clients that it is extremely likely that properly done pre-nups will be highly persuasive and that they are always in the interests of the financially stronger party. The problem, however, is the lack of absolute certainty about whether they are enforceable, and that is unhelpful."



    When most marriages crumble, the house is usually sold and the couple go their separate ways.

    But when Pinchs and Nechama Gold both refused to leave in their bitter divorce battle, the courts found a unique way round the impasse. A judge ruled the Orthodox Jewish couple, in their 50s, had to build a ‘divorce wall’ down the middle of their home to formally separate themselves. They have two weeks to agree where it should go, or the court will decide for them.

    How they will split up essential features such as the stairs, the toilet, the bathroom and other amenities such as their kitchen have yet to be determined. What is also not clear is what kind of form the wall will take - Judge Eric Prus did not stipulate whether bricks and mortar or a sturdy piece of thick cardboard would suffice to carve up the huge Victorian property in the Williamsburg area of New York, which has a large Orthodox Jewish community. ‘This could be called the divorce wall,’ said Rabbi Mendel Gold, Mr Gold’s brother. ‘It could probably even help healthy couples.’ The Brooklyn court’s order comes toward the end of the Gold’s bitter divorce battle which has seen a series of claims from either side. The couple married 21 years ago, but after years of marital strife Mrs Gold, who says her husband verbally abuses her and their five children, wants him out. He refuses. She also claims he blows out the candles she lights for Shabbat, the day of rest in Judaism.

    Mr Gold claims his wife hides his medications and has banned him from the bedroom, forcing him to sleep in the dining room. On May 18, her lawyer asked the court for temporary exclusive occupancy and they have been rowing about the house ever since. ‘They've been living like there was a wall up for two years now,’ said Abe Konstam, an attorney for Mr Gold.

    ‘This just helps them completely avoid each other.’ He added: ‘If she's so religious, why does she refuse to get divorced the right way -- in a beth din,’ a reference to the religious tribunal that grants Jewish divorces. Under Mr Gold’s preliminary plan, his wife and children will remain in the rooms they are in now and receive about 700 more square feet because they will live with her. ‘It's a large house, so I think we can come up with some sort of agreement,’ said Mrs Gold’s lawyer, Brian Perskin, adding: ‘But she wants him out.’


    Victoria Jones now lives in an imposing modern pillared house in a private estate in Gerrards Cross, Bucks

    The former wife of a retired oil and gas millionaire has launched a legal battle to overturn her £5 million divorce payout complaining it is “simply not enough”.

    Victoria Jones, 44, has been granted permission to contest the payout from her former husband Gareth at the Court of Appeal after three judges were told it did not truly reflect the “pot of gold” he had amassed. But lawyers for Mr Jones, 58, insist that the settlement is fair following a “troubled” 10-year marriage. They argue that Mrs Jones had always given the impression of being independently wealthy with a wardrobe of designer clothes and a taste for expensive cars.

    She now lives in an imposing modern pillared house in a private estate in Gerrards Cross, Bucks, with a collection of Porsche, Mercedes and Range Rover sports cars, each with personalised number plates, parked outside. Described as a self-made man, Mr Jones made his fortune in the Scottish offshore oil and gas industry, where he started out as a teenage apprentice. Now retired and living in a 16th Century castle in Aberdeenshire, he has spent part of the £32 million proceeds from the sale of his specialist gas business, Dominion Technology Gases, indulging his taste for supercars.

    He made headlines earlier this year when he submitted one of Britain’s biggest ever car insurance claims after his Italian made Pagani Zonda S was crashed on a country road during a test drive by a professional racing driver, costing £300,000 to repair. Jackie Stewart, the former Formula 1 champion and associate of Mr Jones, was forced to deny rumours that he was at the wheel after Mr Jones told a newspaper that the unnamed driver was a “household name”. Mr Jones has since consoled himself with a £900,000 Pagani Zonda F Club Sport. The court heard that Mr Jones sold Dominion, which supplies specialist diving and welding, in May 2007, about a year after he and his former wife had separated.

    Their divorce was finalised at the High Court in March of this year when the assets to be divided between the couple were assessed at just under £25 million. Mr Justice Charles ruled that 60 per cent of the value of Dominion’s value had been built up by Mr Jones before the marriage meaning that his wife was only entitled to a limited share. But Martin Pointer QC, for Mrs Jones, dismissed the award as “plucked out the air”, insisting that “the pot of gold was truly created during the marriage”. He told the Court of Appeal that the effect of taking £15 million out of the pot, left Mrs Jones with half of the remaining £10 million, plus £400,000 towards her legal bills. The case is said to have already run up £1.5 million in legal fees.

    Mr Pointer told Sir Nicholas Wall, the President of the Family Division, sitting with Lord Justice Thorpe and Lady Justice Black, that the payout was at odds with accountancy evidence that Dominion was only worth £3.2m when the couple married. It would mean that 90 per cent of its value had been built up during the marriage, greatly increasing Mrs Jones’s entitlement. He said she should have received about 40 per cent of the £25 million total. But Lucy Stone QC, for Mr Jones, said that Mrs Jones had been just one year old when her former husband started a career in the oil and gas industry which culminated in phenomenal success.

    She said that when the couple married Mrs Jones, who had been married previously, had “all the appearances of a woman of independent wealth”, with a “wardrobe of couture clothes” and driving prestige cars. Mrs Jones denies having had substantial wealth of her own. At a bitterly-fought hearing last year, both parties accused the other of not being frank about their finances. After hearing two hours of argument, Sir Nicholas declared Mrs Jones’ complaints “arguable” and granted her permission to challenge the award at a full Appeal Court hearing, a date for which has yet to be set. However, Lord Justice Thorpe urged the former couple to seek mediation, rather than lavish yet more legal costs on further litigation.

    stolen children Big money to be made in the adoption trade

    If ever there was a scandal which called for the full glare of publicity it is the highly secretive system which allows thousands of children to be sent for forced adoption, writes Christopher Booker. On June 3, a 17-year-old Staffordshire girl, living with her parents and seven months pregnant, was horrified to receive a letter which began: “Dear Corrinne, I am the new allocated social worker for your unborn child. We have serious concerns about your ability to care for your unborn baby. We are so worried that we intend on going to Court to apply for an Order that will allow us to place your baby with alternative carers.” This so shocked the family that they raised what money they could and, like many others faced with similar threats, escaped abroad, where they now live in circumstances hardly conducive to a happy delivery of their new child.

    Staffordshire social workers were also involved in the tragic case of Maureen Smith, the mother so desperate at the prospect of losing her two children that she fled to Spain, where she killed them before attempting suicide. As she wrote in her suicide note: “Social Services In Staffordshire and their policy of forced adoption are responsible for this.” These are just two instances of the vast, long-running tragedy which Bob Geldof, launching a report last December on the “barbaric” chaos of our family law system, called “state-sanctioned kidnap”, whereby social workers, abetted by family courts and an army of complicit lawyers and “experts”, routinely snatch children from loving parents to feed the maw of the adoption and fostering industry.

    Yet contrast this with last week’s report exonerating Kirklees social workers from any failings in the case of Shannon Matthews, the Yorkshire girl made subject, after years of neglect and ill-treatment, to a fake kidnap by her mother (described by local police as “pure evil”). Even though no fewer than 22 agencies had been involved with this dysfunctional family over many years, the report found that Shannon’s treatment did not justify taking her into care. If ever there was a scandal which called for the full glare of publicity it is the highly secretive system which allows thousands of children to be sent for forced adoption, often on no proper pretext. Meanwhile the list of cases where social workers ignore all evidence in allowing the abuse of children to continue, grows ever longer.

    It is not generally appreciated how adoption and fostering, organised by social workers, have become big business – quite apart from the fees charged by those lawyers and experts who are part of this corrupt system. Adoption payments and access to a wide range of benefits can provide carers with hundreds, even thousands of pounds a week. Still to be found on the internet (see the Forced Adoption website) is an advertisement by Slough Family Placement Services headed “Balloons and family fun to promote fostering”. This promised that Slough’s town square would be “bustling with activities including face painting and balloon modelling”, complete with a “David Beckham lookalike” (“bring a camera”), to launch “a new fostering allowance of £400 a week”. I have recently reported the harassment and repeated arrests of Mauren Spalek, the devoted Cheshire mother whose two younger children were taken from her in 2006, and who faces trial on June 29 on a criminal charge of sending her son a birthday card. Last week it emerged, from an official register, what the occupation is of the woman who adopted her stolen children. She is a social worker.

    scot young Men's privacy and human rights are being seriously abused by vicious and venomous golddigging ex-wives and partners who, with their crooked lawyers, think they can use and abuse a man's private and financial papers with impunity. A warning to any man who is concerned about privacy and rights. THEY HAVE NO RIGHT WHATSOEVER TO ABUSE YOUR PRIVACY AND LAWYERS AND THEIR FEMALE CLIENTS ARE ACTING CRIMINALLY WHEN DOING SO.

    The latest twist in a bitter £400m divorce battle threatens to cause jitters among a wealth circle.

    Michelle Young and her children have received more than £1m from some of her estranged husband's friends and business associates. THE wife of the tycoon at the centre of a £400m divorce is to hand secret files on his dealings with the super-rich to the taxman. Michelle Young, 45, who is divorcing her husband Scot, is to give HM Revenue & Customs a computer disk containing hundreds of pages of emails and other documents outlining his dealings in property, shares and film companies over the past five years. The files were held on the hard drive of a laptop computer used by the tycoon. He believed he had deleted them before handing the laptop to his estranged wife to help their children Scarlet, 17, and Sasha, 15, study for exams.

    She hired private detectives, including the former head of Scotland Yard’s computer crime unit, to examine the laptop and they recovered a large amount of encrypted material. This weekend Scot Young, 48, said he had already been subjected to one Revenue inquiry that ended with him declaring himself bankrupt and owing £2m to the taxman. “I have nothing to hide. A copy of the hard drive is with my former lawyers and I’m happy to give that to the Revenue.” The latest twist in the high-profile divorce battle will unnerve some of Scot Young’s friends, who have already told him privately they are unhappy with the publicity surrounding the case. The couple split up four years ago.

    A fixer to Russian oligarchs and British billionaires, Young, whose assets were once estimated at £400m, claims he is broke after losing his fortune in a series of disastrous financial deals. The court has given him a six-month suspended jail sentence for failing to disclose full details of where this money has gone. He insists that properties he has been linked to in a £100m portfolio have all been repossessed or sold. Last December Mrs Justice Black awarded Michelle Young £27,500 a month in maintenance on top of rent and school fees for her daughters, conceding the sums would be seen by some as “exceptionally generous”. She pointed out that the family had become used to a “luxurious lifestyle”, however. Scot Young has declined to provide a penny of the maintenance award.

    In the past, Michelle Young and her children have received more than £1m from some of her estranged husband’s friends and business associates. There were direct or indirect contributions from Sir Philip Green, the boss of Topshop, and Harold Tillman, the chairman of Jaeger, the fashion chain. Sir Tom Hunter provided £124,000 in rent and school fees. Richard Caring, the restaurateur, has paid £50,000 towards Scot Young’s legal fees. Scot Young sold Boris Berezovsky, the oligarch, a family home on the Wentworth estate in Surrey for £19m in 2001. The files show that in 2004 he sold Berezovsky a London property estimated to be worth £4m for just £350,000. Scot Young said last week the price paid was the market value because the property had only a five-year lease.

    The computer disk and other documents contain details of transactions involving the sale of 15 properties, including half a dozen mansions in Belgravia, central London. The files also contain references to film investments. Scot Young discussed funding Manolete, a film about a Spanish bullfighter released in March, starring Adrien Brody and Penelope Cruz. He confirmed he did invest in one film company because associates told him it would be “tax-efficient”. Other files include references to a technology firm called EU Smart, in which Green’s wife Tina held some shares.

    Michelle Young said she and her daughters faced penury because she was unable to pay school fees or rent due this week on their three-bedroom house in St John’s Wood, London. “I have been humiliated. He has stolen the last three years of our lives. We are just living one day at a time. He is eating in the finest restaurants with beautiful young models while my girls don’t know their futures,” she said last week. She said she was now looking for “an angel investor” to help fund her case. The tycoon Vincent Tchenguiz has reportedly shown interest but has not yet committed any funds. Sofia Moussaoui, Michelle Young’s solicitor, said the taxman had “a bottomless pit in terms of resources” to find out what had happened to her husband’s assets. Young said he had only one girlfriend, Noelle Reno, the former fiancée of Matthew Mellon, heir to the banking fortune. He was “delighted” that the taxman or the trustee in bankruptcy would be “looking at this in a rational fashion, unlike my wife, who I believe is refusing to come to terms with the fact that we can no longer live a luxury lifestyle”.

  • Crooked family court lawyers and their golddigging clients continue to illegally abuse mens' privacy
    lidiya shulga The merry widow of Ukraine: Peter thought he'd wed the perfect wife - then he discovered what she'd done to her last husband

    The simple wedding last Friday was just as Peter Barnes hoped it would be - a register office affair in Wales with his beloved new wife Lidiya, followed by a romantic meal in a local restaurant. In fact, Peter, a widower, considered himself a very lucky man to have found love a second time around after losing his former wife 12 years ago.

    But two days later, his happiness was shattered - when his brother-in-law arrived at his home with some rather alarming news. In his hand was a news story from last Saturday's Daily Mail, and the picture on the page was eerily familiar. There, sure enough, was Lidiya, dressed in the same outfit she'd just worn for their wedding, at her marriage to her former husband. And why was the story in the paper? Well, far from being the impoverished widow she'd made herself out to be to Peter, Lidiya was, in fact, a divorcee and by the time they had married she was very wealthy. Such had been the financial demands she'd placed on her previous husband that she had decimated his estate and, as the Mail reported, left his son facing the prospect of losing the family farm.

    'I felt sick,' says Peter, 62, a retired British Gas draughtsman from Neath in South Wales. 'As soon as I saw her photo I didn't need to read any more - she was wearing the same dress on her previous wedding day as she had to ours. 'And worse, I'd just taken out an £18,000 loan that she'd asked me for - thanks to her, I was in financial trouble, too. 'I can't remember the rest of Sunday, as I was in a complete daze; it was so surreal to suddenly find out all this, that I'd been lied to all along. 'Last weekend I couldn't have been happier because we'd just got married. Now I'm destroyed. I don't know how I'm going to cope.'

    When Peter met 54-year-old Lidiya Shulga last July - after striking up a relationship on a dating website - she portrayed herself very differently. After years of loneliness following the loss of his wife to breast cancer in 1998, Peter was encouraged by friends to try online dating and Lidiya's description of herself as 'a friend for you' resonated with the retiree. 'She looked like a very nice person,' says Peter. 'She said she was looking for a friend and she was really attractive. She didn't say she was foreign, but when she started corresponding I guessed, because of her broken English.' They soon met for lunch in Cardiff and spent two hours chatting, and again the following day.

    'I thought she was very, very nice - although sometimes a little strongwilled, I just put that down to being Ukrainian. I grew very fond of her and started seeing her regularly.' Lidiya, who revealed little about her background in the Ukraine, told Peter that she had been recently widowed in Wales and was still living unhappily in the marital home - but had been left nothing in the will and that her stepchildren were causing trouble. 'I thought the situation sounded terrible and felt really sorry for her - losing her husband and then having nothing to survive on. I said that if we got married she wouldn't end up without a roof over her head because I'd leave everything to her.' Which must have been music to her ears. 'I had no idea she had divorced before her previous husband died; all the time we were together she acted like a grieving widow.

    'She never broke down when she talked about him, but I thought that was her being a strong woman.' Looking back, Peter is kicking himself over his naivety. It's a feeling that must have been all too familiar to farmer Chris Morgan's father, Keith. 'She said she would be happy to walk away from the marriage with £250,000' Keith Morgan, from Henllys, South Wales, whose farm had been in the family for 30 years, married Lidiya in 2002.

    They had been introduced two years earlier as pen pals by a local man who had married a Ukrainian - though the first Chris knew of his father's relationship was when he disappeared for six days. It transpired that he'd gone to visit his 'pen pal' in the Ukraine - and after just two more visits he brought Lidiya home to Wales and married her. Impulsive, certainly. And it was to prove a disastrous entanglement for the whole family. Chris, 34, says: 'I was really surprised and thought it strange, but couldn't say anything as I knew he wanted company - he had tried dating after he and Mum divorced 18 years ago, but it's difficult for farmers to meet women because of the hours they work. 'She seemed nice at first and I was pleased for him because he was excited. But Grandad, my father's dad, was worried and suspicious, like quite a few local people.' Oh, how Chris must wish his father had taken heed of those concerns. But Lidiya was an attractive woman - and Keith was infatuated. Lidiya settled in quickly but, according to Chris and his wife Ceri, 39, she soon began making financial demands.

    'She wanted a business of her own - that was her big thing,' says Ceri. 'In Eastern Europe they think we all have lots of money and opportunities, so she thought Dad would open a business for her. 'First she wanted a cafe, but she wasn't any good in the kitchen. Then she wanted to ice cakes, but she was hopeless at it.' Soon, relations within the family and community became strained. 'She wanted everything her own way - she was a bit of a brat,' says Ceri. Then, according to the family, Lidiya stopped socialising with her husband as well. Chris says: 'She would cook dinner then run upstairs and leave Dad sitting alone in the living room all evening.'

    According to divorce papers, she moved out of the marital bedroom in 2004. But it was her cost of living which proved hardest for Keith to handle. 'She cost a fortune,' says Chris. 'She racked up big phone bills calling the Ukraine, took regular trips out there and flew her two children, from a previous marriage in the Ukraine, back and forth to visit.' Lidiya was also receiving £700 'housekeeping' money each month - almost everything Keith drew from the business. So you'd think, then, that at least domestic supplies would have been plentiful. Not so, says Ceri: 'The cupboards were usually empty. I got suspicious as he was giving her a good wedge of housekeeping money, but she wouldn't buy anything for the house. 'If he'd had a nice, normal relationship I'm pretty sure he'd still be here'

    'When she went to the Ukraine, Keith would ask me to go and buy him some cans, as he had no money - she'd taken it all with her. 'Then she'd come back and say: "Keith, I need more money." '

    Although Lidiya took a couple of short-lived part-time jobs, Chris and Ceri say she never contributed any money to the home. And yet, despite this, Chris says Keith still lavished her with gifts - such as a Vauxhall Corsa - and even funded a generous pension for her. 'Dad would hide his cheque book so I wouldn't see it,' says Chris. 'We were business partners because my grandfather left me his half of the farm, but I didn't know what was going on.' The couple later found out Keith had been persuaded to take out a £15,000 loan for Lidiya's son to buy a tractor in the Ukraine. The promised repayments, they insist, never arrived. Yet Keith continued with the marriage, despite being upset by his wife's strange behaviour and long, unexplained absences - when she would disappear for hours on end. One likely explanation was she was meeting other men: two years before the couple divorced, Ceri discovered letters in the house from a dating agency.

    She says: 'I was really shocked, but didn't say anything then as Keith would have been upset and Chris would have been furious.' The marriage ended only when Lidiya's financial demands became too much. Chris recalls: 'Dad said: "What am I going to do?" He didn't want to upset her, as he was frightened of losing the farm in the divorce. But she had to go.' Unbeknown to Chris, Lidiya had already written to Keith through solicitors 18 months earlier, saying she was unhappy with the marriage and would be happy to walk away with £250,000. When the divorce was finalised in 2008, Lidiya moved out.

    'Keith was happier for a while,' says Ceri. 'He seemed chirpy and his health improved. But then he started worrying, as the solicitor said the initial £20,000 divorce payout he predicted looked like increasing.' He suffered a burst artery and died in September 2008. The family feels the timing, weeks before the divorce settlement was due in court, was no coincidence because he was under extreme stress. 'Dad was worried sick about the settlement,' says Chris. 'He had grown so thin and was terrified of losing the farm - the strain was really showing. He was only 64 when he passed away and should have lived another 20 years. 'If he'd had a nice normal relationship I'm pretty sure he'd still be here.'

    After his death, Lidiya launched a claim on the estate under British inheritance laws, which allow a divorcee to claim on the deceased's estate within a year. Meanwhile, while this court case was still going on, Lidiya had struck up her relationship with Peter Barnes, who was to become her next husband - and feeding him the story of her misery at being a widow. Peter recalls: 'We met nearly a year ago and she said she needed to move because of difficult stepchildren and that her solicitor was advising her to find accommodation for the pending court case. 'I felt so upset for her that I decided to rent her a flat - paying the deposit, rent, bills and council tax. It was a heck of a strain as I live off my pension, but I was trying to support her as best I could. It makes me so embarrassed now to think I fell for it.'

    Lidiya would not accept cheques - only cash - and divorce documents show she was also receiving housing benefit. Despite a lack of intimacy - Peter admits they had sex only a few times, after which she refused to share his bed - their relationship progressed. Again, Lidiya created tension with her partner's friends and family. Peter says: 'She was sceptical of meeting my friends and said: "It's just our lives, don't tell other people too much". 'She would turn nasty if I worried about money, shouting that I wasn't a man'

    'I became very isolated and stopped going out so much. Friends and family said I'd changed, but I just thought I was adjusting. 'After a fall-out between Lidiya and my sister in December, when a row erupted between them when my mother was ill, I became estranged from my family. It was very difficult - I didn't feel like I was living a normal life.' It meant Peter became even more dependent on Lidiya. She moved into his semi-detached home in January and he began giving her £100 a week to live on. A month ago, she asked him to take out an £18,500 loan for her daughter to start a business in the Ukraine.

    'She said the repayments would cost the same as I was already giving her, and I went in like a sheep - I trusted her.' What Peter did not know was that she was by now a wealthy woman: in December 2009, a court had awarded her £115,000 from her ex-husband's farm estate. Yet she complained to Peter that she had been awarded just £22,000. Inevitably, the loan repayments and the effort of providing financially for Lidiya began to put a strain on him. (Over the coming seven years, he must pay back £360 every month out of his £570 monthly pension.) But instead of being sympathetic, he says his wife was angry. 'She knew I wasn't well off, but said I had money coming in. She didn't appreciate all the bills and payments.

    'She would turn nasty if I worried about money, shouting that I wasn't a man for worrying. 'My health really suffered and I lost a lot of weight; it put a strain on my nervous system. 'I sometimes felt like a lemming going towards a cliff edge, but I couldn't stop myself. She had a lot of control over me. And I really loved her.' So it was that Peter proposed, and she asked to marry quickly, before a planned visit from her family - she has two adult children from a previous marriage.

    'The wedding service was very quiet, as she didn't want my family to know. She said she just wanted it to be the two of us and I respected that,' says Peter. Little wonder she wanted the wedding kept quiet - just 40 miles away at Cwrt Henllys farm, near Newport, Chris and wife Ceri were preparing to auction off the farming equivalent of the family silver. Last Saturday, he sold all his award-winning cattle and equipment to raise money for the payout. He made £80,000, so will have to sell land to raise the rest. 'We were shocked when the judge awarded her £115,000 plus £30,000 legal costs,' says Chris, as he wanders sadly through the empty farmyard. 'She came over to Britain with nothing, took loads of money from my father and was only married to him for a few years.

    'This farm has been in our family for generations and I've worked on it all my life. It's been very hard.' Ceri says: 'I feel really, really angry. Britain is sold as a nice place to come and live, with a fabulous health service, good social security system and lots of wealth. 'Women in poorer countries think it's a fantastic opportunity - and once here they can bring the rest of the family over. Men must protect themselves.' Sadly, it's too late for Chris and Peter, whose lives have been ruined by the sweet-looking Ukrainian woman who took hundreds of thousands of pounds from them.

    Now, Peter and Chris are trying to pick up the threads of their lives. After Peter confronted his wife with the Daily Mail cutting this week, she scuttled out of the house and is now 'on holiday' - and when we tried to contact her last night, she refused to comment. But while she may be hoping for yet another sizeable divorce settlement, she's in for a surprise - Peter has applied for their marriage to be annulled. 'I trusted her. She had a lot of control over me'