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Judge brings epic Falmouth property battle to an end
10:30am Tuesday 13th May 2014 in News
An “extraordinary saga” that began in a seaside hotel more than 50 years ago - and ended with a venomous legal feud over a £2 million Falmouth landmark - has been finally brought to an end by a top judge.
Businessman Albert Line died as long ago as 1960, but his daughter, retired academic, Dr Kathleen Baker, 72, has always insisted that she and her sister were deprived of part of their rightful inheritance.
She has for years been at loggerheads with 71-year-old Audrey Line, the current owner of Harrogate House, in Falmouth, insisting that she is entitled to a share of the historic house which was designed by renowned architect, Alfred Cornelius, in the 1920s.
However, last Friday Dr Baker’s case was brought to a shuddering halt by Judge Kevin Prosser QC, who ruled that she and her sister, Margaret Gardner, “have no beneficial interest whatsoever in Harrogate House”.
Miss Line's barrister, Guy Adams, earlier claimed that her mother, Norah, had had an affair with Albert Line in the 1950s, although Dr Baker did not accept that there had been any such relationship.
Albert and Norah - who took his surname although neither she nor her daughter were related to him - set up a company to manage the hotel she ran in Falmouth, the Palm Beach, four years before his death, the court was told.
The following year, the executors of Albert's estate sold the hotel to the company for £11,500 and his majority shareholding was transferred to Norah who continued to run the hotel with Audrey. Norah later transferred her shares to her daughter and died in 1995.
Audrey finally sold the Palm Beach and acquired Harrogate House in 2007, and that property was at the heart of the dispute.
Dr Baker's legal team argued that the transfer of Albert's shares in the company to Norah was invalid, and that she was entitled to “trace and follow the value of such shares into the hands of Miss Line” and, ultimately, to Harrogate House.
Rejecting those arguments, however, Judge Prosser, said that, although there was a “slightly odd” discrepancy in the shares transfer, there was nothing 'suspicious' about it.
The executors had handed the shares to Norah 'as part and parcel of an overall bargain' and after taking professional legal advice, he said.
They had not breached their duties and the transfer was 'for a proper purpose' bound up with the administration of Albert's estate.
There was no evidence of any “deliberate concealment” of evidence by Audrey and Dr Baker, who lives near Colchester, and her sister had in any event launched their court action too late, the judge ruled.
Dr Baker had told the court that, during his lifetime, her father had always told her that the Palm Beach would be “her portion” after his death.
But Mr Adams had pleaded with the judge “to put an end to this extraordinary saga”.
Doing just that, Judge Prosser concluded: “In the light of my conclusions on the merits, I will make a declaration that Dr Baker and Mrs Gardner have no beneficial interest whatsoever in Harrogate House”.
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