The High Court in London has awarded a woman a half-share of her brother’s farm after a cat found an old Will among a stack of papers heading for the shredder.

The Daily Star reported that Venetia Murray was given her £2 million share when the solicitor’s cat knocked over the papers. Ms Murray’s brother, Dean, was thought to have died without leaving a Will. His share of the family farm went to his mother as his next of kin according to intestacy laws. She gave the farm to her oldest child, Dale.

Ms Murray claimed her brother Dean had made two Wills in 1999, which led to a family feud that lasted 20 years with she and her uncle disputing the distribution of the estate with her brother Dale and her mum.

‘Crucial evidence’

The document uncovered by the cat formed “crucial evidence” solicitors said, of Dean’s intent to give his sister half of his wealth.

At the High Court in London, Judge Paul Teverson rejected claims by Dale and his mother that the Wills had been forged, and ruled that Venetia was to receive half of Dean’s share of the farm.

The three siblings had inherited the farm at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire from their grandfather, Arthur Nichols. Mr Nichols bought the farm with his earnings as a prize fighter. He died in 1990.

Worth £6 million

Dean died in 2007 after stepping in front of a train. The coroner recorded an accidental death verdict. His mother inherited his share of the farm and passed it to Dale, so that he owned two thirds of the land and business, estimated to be worth £6 million. Venetia received the rest.

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A family row resulted, with Venetia accursing her brother Dale of “bullying” her out of running the business. She lives in a house on the land. She also accused him of treating their 80-year-old uncle Winston Wrangle badly by trying to force him to leave his house, which is also on the same land.

In 2018, Dean’s former legal advisor Howard Day discovered what he claimed was Dean’s final Will among his files. The document backed Venetia’s claim to half of the £2 million.

‘Crucial’ second Will

Acting for Mr Wrangle, barrister Duncan Macpherson, said the ‘crucial’ second Will was found after Mr Day’s death and only a few weeks for the case was due to be heard in the courts.

Papers about the disputes had been sent from Mr Day’s office to Katy Sillett’s office in London. Ms Sillett was the solicitor for Mr Wrangle.

While she was organising her papers, she piled up what she thought were the unneeded duplicate copies ready to be shredded. But her cat then knocked the pile over and as she picked them up, she realised that what she’d thought was a duplicate Will was an original.

Judge Teverson said the total evidence in front of him satisfied him that Dean had understood what was in his Will and approved what was to be done with his estate should he die.

Dean’s estate is now to be divided so that his share goes equally to Dale and Venetia.


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