A bereaved husband who torched all his wife’s money because he was so upset about her dying is now being sued by her lover who is demanding he replaces the cash.
Navpreet Walia, 40, says he was so deranged with grief at the premature death of his estranged wife Jocelyn that he “literally burned” the £68,000 in cash that represented the whole of her estate, London’s Appeal Court heard.
Mr Walia, of Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire, as his wife’s next of kin, was her sole heir when she died without making a will at the age of just 38, in March 2011, despite the couple having separated some years previously.
Now the “articulate and intelligent” husband is being sued by his wife’s partner and her two young children, in what a judge described as “a family tragedy [turned] into a modern day version of Jarndyce and Jarndyce.”
Jarndyce v Jarndyce is a fictional court case concerning the fate of a large inheritance in the novel Bleak House by Charles Dickens.
Lord Justice Davis, sitting in the Appeal Court, heard that the couple married in July 2003, and had daughter Emma, now aged eight, before Mrs Walia left the matrimonial home in Lancaster and formed a new relationship.
She had another child, this time a son, Philip, now four, with her new partner, Felipe Lim.
Because Mrs Walia had not made a will before her death from cancer, everything she owned – including her half share of a £130,000 life insurance policy and the equity in the home they once shared – was inherited by her estranged husband.
But Mr Lim and Mrs Walia’s children claimed a share of the estate and Judge David Hodge ruled last year at Manchester High Court that they were entitled to “reasonable provision” from the money she left behind.
Mr Walia, however, insists that his late wife’s estate is insolvent and that he burnt all her cash to ashes whilst in a state he described as “more than upset” following her passing.
Describing the case as “somewhat unusual”, Mr Walia’s counsel, Neil Vickery, told Lord Justice Davis that he could lose his home if he has to replace the money he incinerated.
Simon Charles, for Mr Lim and the children, said: “It has admitted frankly that the money has been burnt. This is conduct that one should bear in mind when considering whether to grant Mr Walia the indulgence which he seeks.
“My clients have some difficulty accepting that the money has gone,” he added, although he accepted that bank records showed that “tens of thousands of pounds” had been withdrawn from the account holding the late Mrs Walia’s money around the time that her husband says he burnt it.
Mr Charles added: “Mr Walia says the money has been burnt. If the money has been burnt, it doesn’t stop a judgment being entered against other assets held by Mr Walia.”
Lord Justice Davis granted Mr Walia permission to appeal, on condition that, within 10 days, he signs a sworn statement, “giving details of exactly how, where and when the money was literally burnt.”
Invoking Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, the judge said: “This is a relatively modest estate. All this has turned this family tragedy into a modern day version of Jarndyce and Jarndyce.
“Mr Walia has suffered significant bereavements in the last year or so; not only his wife had died but [other family members] have been lost.
“There is some evidence he has been suffering from a significant depressive illness [although] he is clearly an articulate and intelligent man.
“I have been told by Mr Vickery, on instructions from Mr Walia, that some £68,000 has been burnt at some stage by Mr Walia.
“If that is so, the circumstances in which that happened must be clearly identified – where, when and the circumstances in which the burning took place and whether any other person was present at the time”.
The judge added: “I have come to the conclusion that it would be right to grant permission to appeal.
“Mr Walia must, within 10 days, state by affidavit exactly what has happened to the proceeds of the insurance policy”.
And, in a warning shot, the judge concluded: “This is an affidavit, which if found to be untruthful, will attract a sanction from the court.”
Outside court afterwards, when asked if he had burnt the money because he was upset at his wife’s death, Mr Walia said: “Yes, I was more than upset, but I don’t want to say any more about it at the moment. I’ll put it all down in the affidavit for the judge.”
If Mr Walia does not file the affidavit within the 10-day deadline, his appeal will be automatically dismissed.
Widower who ‘torched’ wife’s money now being sued by her lover
Judge describes court case as being like that of Jarndyce v Jarndyce in Charles Dickens’s novel Bleak House
December 9, 2013