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A former model and UKIP councillor has been thrown out of her £800,000 home after losing an inheritance battle with her stepchildren despite begging the judge to ‘please help me’ in a handwritten letter.
Diana Dale-Gough, 71, lived at the substantial four-bedroom property in Berkshire with her husband Peter until his death in August 2013.
During their eight-year marriage, the couple had lived together at the four-bedroom family home in Burnham, Slough, which was in Mr Dale-Gough’s sole name and was the principal asset of his estate.
Under his 2005 will, his wife was granted the right to live in the property for the rest of her life.
It stated that if the house were to eventually be sold, either when she moved out or gave consent, the proceeds would be split between Mrs Dale-Gough and his two children Ben Dale-Gough and Mary-Jane Pettit.
But the case ended up in court when Mrs Dale-Gough lodged a claim against her stepchildren at Slough County Court, asking for further provision from her late husband’s estate.
Mrs Dale-Gough’s claim was struck out in 2020 and she was ordered to pay the legal costs incurred by the stepchildren, which with interest now total almost £100,000.
But the former catwalk and photographic model, businesswoman and restaurateur made an impassioned plea to a judge when she was threatened with eviction in order to pay the costs.
Diana Dale-Gough, 71, lived at the substantial four-bedroom property (pictured) in Berkshire with her husband Peter until his death in August 2013
Mrs Dale-Gough, a former catwalk and photographic model, businesswoman and restaurateur, is a former UKIP councillor
Peter Dale-Gough, himself also a Tory councillor and former headteacher, died in hospital aged 74 in August 2013 after collapsing while playing golf with friends
Ben Dale-Gough ( left) and Mary-Jane Pettit (centre), the children of Mr Dale-Gough, pictured with Ben’s wife Laura (right)
In a hand-written letter delivered to the court, she complained of ‘stress and anxiety’ from the threat of losing her home and begged in a letter for the judge to ‘please help me’.
Barrister Aidan Briggs argued that, despite her pleas, the court should order that the house can be sold, given that the only other way the siblings would ever see their money would be by making their stepmother bankrupt.
Deputy Master Marsh has now rejected Mrs Dale-Gough’s case and granted an order allowing her stepchildren to sell the detached house so debts owed to them by their stepmother can be paid off.
The court heard how Mr Dale-Gough, himself also a Tory councillor and former headteacher, died in hospital aged 74 in August 2013 after collapsing while playing golf with friends.
His funeral was attended by hundreds, who paid tribute to the ‘appreciated, liked and loved’ community champion, who had for a time been Conservative group leader in Slough.
Julian Reed, representing Mrs Dale-Gough in court, argued that, in ordering a sale of the house without her consent, the court would be going against her late husband’s wishes, as he set down in his will.
He said: ‘The deceased clearly envisaged protection for the defendant so that she could live at the property with a life interest.’
Mr Reed also described how she had been living in the house for many years and is now ‘very vulnerable’ as she is largely housebound and suffering from multiple sclerosis
He told the court: ‘What is being sought cuts through the intention of the deceased. He would have known both the age of my client and the fact she has multiple sclerosis.
‘This is a very vulnerable defendant, who needs to be protected.
‘It is only right that my client remains living at the property for as long as she can and is able to do so.’
But urging the judge to allow the sale so the stepchildren could be paid the near-£100,000 owed, Mr Briggs said delaying matters would only make things worse as the debt continues to increase every day.
He added: ‘My clients honestly believe that she has no other assets that she can call upon, and so the debt continues to accrue interest and continues to grow,” he said.
‘My clients are very substantially out of pocket in the meantime.
‘If the court makes this order, the property can be sold. Half of the proceeds can be applied to the debt and then the balance – that should be more than £250,000 – given to Mrs Dale-Gough for her then to make new arrangements for accommodation.
‘The property is much more substantial than would be required for a single person. It’s a family home.
Mrs Dale-Gough has been ordered to sell the home in order to pay nearly £100,000 owed to her stepchildren after she lost a court battle when she asked for further provision from her husband’s estate
Mary-Jane Pettit (pictured) and her brother Ben Dale-Gough are owed nearly £100,000 after Mrs Dale-Gough’s attempts to ask for further provision from her late husband’s estate were struck out
‘The more this debt grows, that can only be to the detriment to this defendant over time.’
Ruling in favour of the stepchildren, Deputy Master Marsh said Mrs Dale-Gough had brought the whole situation on herself by her conduct during her failed claim against her stepchildren.
He said there had been a ‘very considerable degree of default’ in failing to file documents when she had to and then a ‘failure to cooperate’ in paying the lawyers’ bills.
The court heard she had failed to participate even in the proceedings relating to the forced sale of her home, until at a late stage she wrote to the court begging a judge to help her.
The judge continued: ‘It was the intention of Mr Dale-Gough that his wife should have the opportunity to reside in the property during her lifetime, subject to certain conditions.
‘It is also right that, with her agreement, a sale of the property could take place and, if that sale took place, there was an arrangement under which part of the proceeds would be available for an alternative property to be acquired.
‘It follows that the intentions of the deceased were not absolute. He contemplated the possibility that there might be a sale of the property within her lifetime.
‘There is now a long-standing personal debt, which on any view is substantial.’
He said the court will now use its power to provide ‘consent’ to a sale on behalf of Mrs Dale-Gough.
Deputy Marshal Marsh concluded: ‘The principal consideration I have had in mind, although carefully considering her circumstances, is that the debt that has arisen is a direct consequence of the manner in which she conducted the Inheritance Act proceedings.
‘Furthermore, she has done nothing to ameliorate or mitigate the position since those proceedings were struck out.
‘In my judgment, the balance comes firmly down in favour of the claimants being entitled to recover the debt arising from court proceedings which has now been outstanding for a lengthy period of time.’