An “extraordinary saga” stretching back 50 years spilled over into a venomous legal feud as two elderly women battled it out in court over a £2 million Falmouth landmark.
Retired academic, Dr Kathleen Baker, 72, denied claims that she was “motivated by hatred” in pursuing an “obsessive and destructive” campaign against 71-year-old Audrey Line, the current owner of Harrogate House, in Falmouth.
Miss Line’s barrister, Guy Adams, said Dr Baker’s firm belief that the house should in part be hers had led to a series of bizarre episodes over the years - including unfounded fraud accusations against Miss Line and others that “resulted in her arrest and investigation”.
None of the allegations led anywhere and Miss Line's reputation remained completely untarnished, he added.
On another occasion, he claimed Dr Baker had “rampaged” through a hotel in Falmouth then owned by Miss Line, pointing out items she claimed belonged to her family.
That and all other accusations of unreasonable behaviour were vehemently denied by Dr Baker.
The origins of the legal tangle stemmed from Dr Baker's “unsubstantiated suspicions about the administration of her father, Albert Line's, estate in the early 1960s”, Mr Adams told London’s High Court.
He added: “This has caused her ... to pursue claims against Miss Line’s property over very many years in an obsessive and destructive manner”.
Albert had had an affair with Miss Line’s mother, Norah, in the 1950s, claimed Mr Adams, although he added that Dr Baker “does not accept there was any such relationship”.
He and Norah set up a company to manage the hotel she ran in Falmouth - the Palm Beach - four years before Mr Line died there in 1961, said Mr Adams.
The following year, 250 of Mr Line’s shares in the company were transferred to Norah, making her the effective owner of the company and the hotel.
She continued to run the Palm Beach with Audrey, who the barrister said was “paid a pittance” but was always assured that she would ultimately inherit the business.
Norah later transferred her shares to her daughter and died in 1995, said Mr Adams.
Miss Line finally sold the Palm Beach and acquired Harrogate House in 2007, and that property - a spacious villa close to the beach that was designed by renowned architect, Alfred Cornelius, in the 1920s - is now at the centre of the dispute.
Dr Baker’s barrister, Graham Sinclair, said it is her case that the transfer of Albert Line’s majority share holding in the Palm Beach was invalid, and that she is entitled to "trace and follow the value of such shares into the hands of Miss Line" and, ultimately, to Harrogate House.
However, Mr Adams urged Judge Kevin Prosser QC to finally call a halt to a legal battle that had been raging for decades.
He argued that the time had come for the court to declare that Dr Baker has “absolutely no claim whatever in respect of this property”.
Miss Line, he added, was desperate “to put an end to this extraordinary saga”.
In the witness box, Dr Baker, who lives near Colchester, roundly rejected Mr Adams’ claims that Norah had been her father's “mistress”.
“Now you are going too far - that I will not accept”, she told the court.
She claimed that, in his final years, her father had regarded Norah as an “employee” and that he was planning on “asking her to go” shortly before his death.
Dr Baker was also pressed by Mr Adams about an episode in 1997, when Miss Line was still ensconsed at the Palm Beach.
The barrister claimed that Dr Baker and a sibling had “rampaged around the hotel, pointing out things they said belonged to them”.
“They said the hotel belonged to their father”, said Mr Adams, who also alleged that the incident had ended with the police “ejecting” Dr Baker from the hotel.
“That’s what happened isn't it?” the barrister went on. “You had to be forcibly ejected from the hotel didn’t you?”
Dr Baker denied the suggestion, insisting that she and her sister turned up at the hotel to examine some documents in connection with the case.
They were “there on lawful business”, said Dr Baker, who added: “My husband and sister’s husband were outside waiting and I’m sure they wouldn't have encouraged any rampage”.
She said that, during his lifetime, her father had always told her that the Palm Beach would be “her portion” after his death.
Far from pointing out heirlooms, claiming they belonged to her family, Dr Baker said the only item she “registered” during her visit was an old bench at the front of the hotel where she and her father once sat and “watched the tugs in the harbour”.
When asked by Mr Adams if she had been “motivated throughout by hatred of Miss Line”, Dr Baker told the court: “No, I don't bother with hatred; it is such a negative force.
“I am a religious person and you get nowhere hating anyone.”
Judge Prosser has now reserved his decision on the case and will give his ruling at a later date.