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Consultant ‘conned a dying actress out of her £1m estate’

According to Iain MacMaster (pictured), the will was signed in the back of a minicab by the two witnesses and Ms Gordon

A property consultant accused of conning a dying actress out of her £1 million estate said he did not think it was ‘significant’ that her will was witnessed by a mentally ill man, a court heard.

Iain MacMaster, 70, and Morris Benhamu, 42, allegedly convinced Claire Gordon to leave all her money to them when she was ‘not in a fit and proper state’ to sign a will.

Ms Gordon, who was once billed as ‘Britain’s answer to Brigitte Bardot’, had an estate worth nearly £1 million when she died in April 2015 at the age of 74.

She starred in a series of raunchy comedies and appeared alongside British comedy legends including Bob Monkhouse and ‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em’ star Michael Crawford in West End plays during the 1960s.

MacMaster was the executor of her will and he received 60 per cent of the estate, while Benhamu, also a property consultant, got the other 40 per cent.

The mentally ill man who witnessed the signing suffered from acute paranoia, and signed his name as ‘Can Say’. He has been referred to as ‘Mr Say’ or ‘Janner’ throughout the trial.

MacMaster told Southwark Crown Court: ‘He was suffering from acute paranoia. I didn’t realise until I met Mr Say that paranoia was a significant mental illness but it doesn’t render someone incapable or disqualified from witnessing a will – far from it.’

According to MacMaster, the will was signed in the back of a minicab by the two witnesses and Ms Gordon.

MacMaster said: ‘He does have issues and why he proceeded to sign like that I do not know.

Ms Gordon (pictured), who was once billed as 'Britain's answer to Brigitte Bardot', had an estate worth nearly £1 million when she died in April 2015 at the age of 74

Ms Gordon

Ms Gordon (pictured), who was once billed as ‘Britain’s answer to Brigitte Bardot’, had an estate worth nearly £1 million when she died in April 2015 at the age of 74

‘I actually considered asking the minicab driver but, I don’t want to sound unpleasant, he was foreign and I didn’t fancy having to explain it all to him.’

Prosecutor Mark Halsey askedL ‘Wouldn’t you expect that a document as important as a will would be signed in an office?’

MacMaster replied: ‘The requirement is for the will executor and two witnesses all to be present, whether they’re in the back of a car or in an office. It doesn’t matter where it’s signed.’

Mr Halsey said: ‘Claire Gordon’s signature is not her genuine signature, is it?’

‘It is. I saw her sign it,’ MacMaster replied.

‘I was looking in through the window of the car. It was the rear window. Strictly speaking I don’t have to see her sign it, it was the witnesses, but I did see it.’

Mr Halsey asked MacMaster on the brevity of the three-paragraph will, saying: ‘It’s incredibly brief. How could it be briefer?’

MacMaster was the executor of her will and he received 60 per cent of the estate, while Benhamu (pictured), also a property consultant, got the other 40 per cent

MacMaster was the executor of her will and he received 60 per cent of the estate, while Benhamu (pictured), also a property consultant, got the other 40 per cent

‘Well,’ MacMaster replied, ‘it could be a two-paragraph will. It’s brief for a will, certainly, but that’s what she said she wanted.’

The Crown alleges the will is a complete fiction and that the jury can only rely on MacMaster’s evidence of its signing.

MacMaster said he would have used his own car if Ms Gordon had not insisted on meeting within the congestion zone.

He said when he met the actress over 30 years ago, ‘she obviously found me attractive, but after she went to Ibiza in 1971 we didn’t have anything sexual – let me be clear about that.

‘We had a close non-sexual relationship.’

Ms Gordon married the playboy William Donaldson in 1967, a playwright with whom she had a rocky and sexually liberal relationship.

At the funeral, eulogies were given by friends and family but MacMaster said: ‘I didn’t want to give a eulogy myself because I didn’t want to appear to be monopolising the whole thing.’

The screen star did not have any children, but from her mother’s side had a number of cousins and was godmother to the daughter of close friends Tom and Laura Boon.

The estate, which includes a cottage near the giraffe enclosure at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire and a property in Hurghada, a beach resort in Egypt, was valued at £905,836.

Ms Gordon married the playboy William Donaldson in 1967, a playwright with whom she had a rocky and sexually liberal relationship

Ms Gordon

Ms Gordon married the playboy William Donaldson in 1967, a playwright with whom she had a rocky and sexually liberal relationship

Ms Gordon appeared in cult films including the 1958 farce ‘I Only Arsked!’ and 1970 caper ‘The Dirtiest Girl I Ever Met’ after she was spotted by a photographer and signed to an acting contract aged 16.

MacMaster, of Fitzrovia Court, Carburton Street, Westminster, and Benhamu, of Watford Way, Hendon, deny one count of conspiracy to defraud and one count of fraud by false representation.

The trial continues. 

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