A CLEANER who cared for an ex-Savoy waiter has won a four-year legal battle to inherit his £500,000 house.
Leonora Da Costa, 50, looked after Harold Tickner in his dying years causing him to leave his assets to her in his will — but his family say he changed his mind 16 days before he died in June 2015.
3 Leonora Da Costa with husband Eduardo outside the High Court – where a judge ruled she should inherit her boss Mr Tickner’s houseCredit: Champion News Service Ltd
3 Dennis Germain, Mr Tickner’s nephew, argued he should inherit the house as his uncle drew up a new will 16 days before his deathCredit: Champion News Service Ltd
3 But the judge ruled that the £500,000 house in Harrow should go to Leonora – because Mr Tickner wasn’t mentally competent to write a new will so near to his deathCredit: Unknown. Supplied on research/identification basis only by Champion News Service Ltd.
Mr Tickner initially decided to leave his house in Harrow to Leonora who cared for him before his terminal colon cancer diagnosis in Decemeber 2014.
He wrote his intentions in a will penned in January 2014, ensuring the property would go to Leonora — who currently lives in Northwood Hills, Middlesex.
As his condition deteriorated, he was transferred to a nursing home in May 2015.
It was there Mr Tickner made a new will disinheriting Leonora and leaving £15,000 of financial assets to his daughter, Karen.
On the same day, he wrote a separate letter gifting the house to his nephew, retired criminal barrister Dennis Germain.HIGH COURT DECISION
But last Monday, High Court Judge William Henderson ruled Mr Tickner didn’t have the mental capacity to know what he was doing when he changed his will just two weeks before his death at the age of 91 in June 2015.
He said there was “no real doubt about the validity” of the 2014 will.
Leonora told MailOnline: “All I wanted was to honour Mr Tickner’s wishes.
“He was very independent-minded and would have been furious to see all this. I did what anyone with a conscience would.”
Leonora first met Mr Tickner 25 years ago when her landscape gardener husband, Eduardo, tended Mr Tickner’s garden.
When Mr Tickner’s wife Ursula began showing signs of Alzheimer’s in 2008, Leonora agreed to help him by cleaning his house three hours a week.
Over time, Leonora’s duties steadily increased until she was working for him full-time as Ursula became seriously ill and Mr Tickner’s eyesight faded.
Ursula died in 2012 and two years later, on Boxing Day 2014, Mr Tickner phoned Leonora to say he had terminal colon cancer.
He’d already made a will some months before leaving the house to her.
Solicitors notes presented to Judge Henderson also showed Mr Tickner felt his nephew Dennis was trying to “brainwash” him into leaving him the house instead of Leonora.
In the weeks before his death, Leonora says she felt deliberately kept away from seeing Mr Tickner — it was then that the will was changed.
Responding to Leonora’s allegations, Dennis Germain said: “I find Mrs Da Costa’s allegations deeply upsetting and, for the most part, they are totally untrue.
“It is true that my uncle was very ill when he changed his will. He was, in fact, dying from colon cancer, although neither his daughter nor I were aware of that at the time.
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“Far from being ‘kept away from the hospital’, Mrs Da Costa gave evidence that she visited my uncle every day for the three weeks he was at Northwick Park Hospital but only visited him occasionally after he was transferred to Central Middlesex Hospital because she felt ‘nervous’ about driving there.”
He added the only issue at trial was his uncle’s mental capacity when he changed his will.
Dennis also said he did not intend to appeal the judge’s decision to uphold Mr Tickner’s first will.
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