Albert Pearce (pictured) faces jail after failing to pay back an inheritance he was wrongly handed
An 83-year-old retired window cleaner who was wrongly handed a £300,000 ‘inheritance’ could be jailed after failing to hand it back to the rightful heir.
Albert Pearce claimed to have blown the fortune on travel and gambling, or lost it when his car was seized by bailiffs with the cash in the boot, the High Court heard.
The pensioner, of North Finchley, London, received the money from the will of 98-year-old Julie Spalding, who died in 2008 leaving him her every penny.
The will was overturned by a judge in 2014 who found Ms Spalding did not have the legal capacity to make a legal will, but Mr Pearce was then made bankrupt after failing to hand the money over to Ms Spalding’s nephew Cecil Bray, 82.
And he now faces a potential prison sentence after being accused of contempt of court by the trustee in charge of his bankruptcy.
Mr Pearce, of Holden Road, is accused of lying about blowing or losing the cash, instead retaining it in his family through a ‘chain of transactions’.
‘No consideration was given for these transactions; they were gifts,’ said barrister, Benjamin Gray, at the High Court.
‘These were transactions for less than fair value.’
Mr Pearce is contesting the contempt of court accusations.
During a previous High Court hearing in 2015, Judge Murray Rosen QC found that Ms Spalding did not have the legal capacity to make a valid will.
She had earlier promised her savings and home in Great North Way, Hendon, to nephew Mr Bray, who had given up his work to look after her in 1996.
Mr Bray was at her ‘beck and call’, running errands and organising her affairs as the pensioner ‘called the shots’ around her home.
Cecil Bray (pictured in the wheelchair) is locked in a legal battle to recover the contents of his aunt’s will. Julie Spalding left her money to window cleaner Pearce but a judge later invalidated the will
But in 2005 she underwent a major personality change following a series of falls, after which Mr Bray was ‘excommunicated from her life’.
He said he was ‘ordered out of her house’ soon after meeting his aunt’s window cleaner, Mr Pearce, at her home in July 2005.
From that point onward, Mr Pearce became an increasingly important figure in her life and Mr Bray had to recede into the background due to his own failing health.
The judge rejected claims that Mr Pearce had procured Ms Spalding’s final three wills by ‘undue influence’, saying there was no evidence of coercion on his part.
However, he said she had ‘expressly agreed’ that she would leave her house to Mr Bray when she died and it was right to hold her to her promise.
Mr Pearce was ordered to hand back everything he had received from Ms Spalding’s estate.
At the High Court today, Mr Gray, who is representing the trustee in Mr Pearce’s bankruptcy, accused him of a series of contempts of court.
Mr Pearce (pictured) claimed to have blown the fortune on travel and gambling, or lost it when his car was seized by bailiffs with the cash in the boot
He had failed to provide details of his bank accounts when required to and falsely claimed not to have given away any money in the five years up to his bankruptcy.
In fact, a ‘chain of transactions’ had seen sums of over £200,000 passed between various accounts.
In a bankruptcy hearing, he had ‘falsely stated that he had spent all of the money he inherited from Julie Spalding on travelling and gambling’, said the barrister.
‘He did not. He retained the money and moved it through the chain of transactions, which were transactions at undervalue and/or defrauding creditors,’ he claimed
He had also falsely asserted that, when his car was taken by High Court bailiffs in 2014, it had ‘approximately £300,000 in cash in the boot’, said Mr Gray.
‘That was not true,’ the barrister added.
The pensioner should be sent to prison for contempt of court, Mr Gray told judges Lady Justice Gloster and Mrs Justice Andrews.
The case was adjourned until October so that Mr Pearce, who appeared in person today, can try to get legal aid.