Jason Patrick (pictured outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London) was a live-in handyman who had an affair with Daphne McKinley, the ex-wife of F1 driver Guy Edwards
As the glamorous daughter of a wealthy stud farmer, model turned businesswoman Daphne McKinley has always lived the good life. Her marriage to Guy Edwards, the 1970s racing driver best known for pulling champion Niki Lauda from his burning car, was filled with track meets and exotic holidays.
But, more than anything, Daphne knew how to have fun. So when her younger live-in handyman, Jason Patrick, showed an interest in her during her divorce in 2003, Daphne, now 62, might be forgiven for throwing caution to the wind.
For her, their dalliance was little more than an entertaining friends-with-benefits fling to see her through a difficult period in her life. Indeed, her friends jokingly referred to Jason – who is 16 years her junior – as ‘Lady Chatterley’s lover’.
Jason, however, saw things rather differently, as Daphne discovered when he sued her for a sizeable chunk of her £9.5 million fortune.
Using an obscure Victorian trust law, which has potentially ruinous consequences for any wealthy person who is unmarried but co-habiting, Jason argued that the couple had lived together as ‘man and wife’ and were 50-50 partners in Daphne’s successful property business.
The case was dismissed in 2014 by a judge, who described Jason as a ‘fantasist’ and ‘unreliable witness’ prone to ‘obfuscate, evade and lie’.
Nevertheless, he appealed and the case dragged on for a further three years until it was finally rejected by the Court of Appeal this month.
Today an emotionally exhausted Daphne can manage half a smile at the absurdity of Jason’s claims – which included a Christmas card as an indication of their commitment.
But the ordeal has taken a terrible toll on her and her two daughters, Jade, 29, and Natasha, 42 – not least because when the marathon case began, she was still reeling from the loss of her 26-year-old racing driver son, Sean, in an horrific crash in Australia in 2013.
The pair ended up in a legal nightmare that lasted seven years. After their relationship ended, Jason argued that the couple had lived together as ‘man and wife’ and were 50-50 partners in Daphne’s successful property business
Now, free to speak for the first time, Daphne is keen to warn others who are co-habiting about the archaic law that nearly ruined her life. She also remains furious that the case was allowed to come before the courts.
So how did this independent businesswoman find herself in this legal nightmare that lasted seven years? ‘Jason Patrick is a conman who targeted me when I was at my most vulnerable,’ Daphne says when we meet at a four-bedroom London mews house, one of 40 in an enviable property portfolio that includes a six-bedroom home in Ireland, a villa in the south of France and a flat in Monaco.
‘My friends warned me and tried to stop me from seeing him, yet I had the wool pulled over my eyes. He took total advantage of me.
‘I won’t blame myself. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are – this can happen to anyone.’
Jason, a former RAF fireman, came to work as a live-in handyman at Fayland House, Daphne’s 50-acre home in Buckinghamshire, in 2003 when she was at her lowest ebb because of her acrimonious divorce and the death of her father.
‘Jason arrived in a Proton car worth £300. That was his total wealth,’ Daphne recalls. ‘He was clean-cut, polite and called me ma’am, but I didn’t fancy him.’
At the time, Daphne travelled the world as her son Sean’s manager. Whenever she arrived back home, she would often chat to Jason, 46, over a glass of wine. ‘He made me laugh,’ Daphne says. ‘And that was a big thing during a stressful time.’
He attempted to sue her for a sizeable chunk of her £9.5million fortune. Daphne is now keen to warn others who are co-habiting about the archaic law that nearly ruined her life
Their relationship quickly became physical but Daphne made it clear it would never be serious and she had no intention of ever marrying again.
Her friends found the dalliance highly amusing. ‘They’d ask, “How’s Lady Chatterley’s lover?” or “How’s the toyboy?” she says, laughing. ‘They knew it wasn’t serious.’ The fling provided much-needed fun and frivolity until, a year later, Daphne noticed Jason’s personality change after a few drinks. ‘He couldn’t go a day without drinking,’ she says. ‘He would become totally irrational and turn my words around. The next day he would say he hadn’t meant it.’
He realised we had no future and became bitter
By 2005, Jason was verbally abusive to her.
‘He was drunk. He called me vile, disgusting names. It was horrible,’ she says. ‘I was shocked, even though I thought it was the alcohol talking. The next day he would apologise. It was classic alcoholic behaviour.’
She claims he also began trying to undermine her confidence. ‘He used to say that if it hadn’t been for my divorce I would have nothing,’ she reveals. ‘He probably realised there was no future for us and became resentful and bitter.’
The relationship began to take a toll. ‘My friends saw a deterioration in my health and that Jason was becoming more possessive and controlling,’ Daphne says. ‘They tried to stop me from seeing him. I wish I’d acted on their advice. I should have listened to myself. My gut was saying to get him out of my life. But it’s very difficult being on your own. You have to be resilient and I was too vulnerable.’
The relationship began to fizzle out when Fayland House was sold for £6.75 million in 2008. The final straw came in late 2009 when, following an argument, Jason turned violent. Indeed, the court heard there was ‘clear and compelling evidence’ of his verbal abuse and violence, though he denies the claims. ‘My biggest regret is not going to the police because I had bruises,’ Daphne says.
Daphne is the ex-wife of Formula One racing legend Guy Edwards and the couple had a son together Sean, together when he was a child, who tragically died in motor racing crash
Racing driver Guy Edwards with team mascot Suzanne Turner at the height of his fame
However, in 2010, she allowed Jason to rent her daughter’s London flat with his two children, then 15 and 12, while he got on his feet.
‘He gave me a sob story and I felt sorry for him,’ she says.
But when she gave him notice to leave, he put in a legal claim against her. ‘It took £100,000 in legal fees to get him out.’ She expected Jason to slink away quietly.
Instead, legal letters arrived demanding a share of the profits on three of Daphne’s properties, including Fayland House. Initially Daphne thought the claims were ludicrous. She also knew he didn’t have the money to pursue a case. But, funded by legal insurers, Jason used the little-known law of constructive trust, which enables people to sue a former partner for a share of their wealth, even though they were never married.
Before the case came to court, she received the news that Sean had been killed on a racetrack in Australia. ‘My life fell apart in that moment,’ Daphne says.
Less than six months later, Daphne endured a month-long case at the Central London County Court. ‘I used to go to the church every morning, light a candle and sob my eyes out for my son, then stand up in court and listen to a load of lies,’ Daphne recalls.
‘Jason never said he was sorry for my loss. That was the moment it clarified everything for me. He had targeted us as a family.’
In court Jason tried to establish they had been in a committed relationship. ‘His barrister asked if I remembered a trip to Greece in 2003 when Jason wrapped a piece of vine tree around my engagement finger and proposed. This was a month into us having a relationship and when he was still married to his wife! It was nonsense.’
He cited Bulgari and Irish Claddagh rings he had bought as signs of their commitment. The judge, however, accused him of a ‘blatant attempt to interfere with and influence’ the evidence when it emerged that he had telephoned his 63-year-old mother to discuss the case before she took the stand.
But perhaps the most galling thing was Jason’s insistence that he had been instrumental in setting up Daphne’s property business. ‘Why would I give 50 per cent of my company to somebody who had no skills, no money and was lazy?’ Daphne asks. ‘I had about 15 lever-arch files of evidence. He had no documentation. If he was running the show surely he would have emails?’
Jason lost the case and was ordered to pay Daphne’s costs but she received no compensation. By the time the legal case was finished, Daphne had run up legal bills of £150,000
Jason lost the case and was ordered to pay Daphne’s costs but she received no compensation. And by the time his appeal was dismissed earlier this month, Daphne had run up legal bills of £150,000 – money that could have educated both of her grandchildren.
‘I don’t feel like celebrating because the damage is done,’ she says. ‘It’s not about the win – it’s about the trauma it has created in my family’s life.
‘It affected my business. I had to put everything to do with Sean’s foundation on hold to focus on the case. I was put through something that I should never have gone through.’ Daphne concedes Jason’s feelings for her were at first genuine but he rapidly came to feel entitled. ‘His motivation was that my money would sort out his life.’
Jason, meanwhile, denies being an abusive alcoholic, adding: ‘My biggest mistake was falling in love with that woman. I still love Daphne and feel sick to my stomach we have had to go through this. I didn’t love her for her money, but she loves her money more than me.
‘We talked about marriage many times – we were engaged. Yet I’m portrayed as the big bad wolf and a violent fantasist. It’s the complete opposite of who I am.
‘I never laid a finger on Daphne. I have no faith in the justice system. She calls me a conman but she is the one who conned me out of eight years of my life.’
For her part, Daphne says her ordeal has made her hesistant about finding a new man. ‘I’m certainly wary,’ she says. ‘I’d never live with anyone unless we were married. I will go in with my eyes open.’