United Kingdom

Three brothers who lost battle to share their mother's £850,000 fortune with sister launch appeal

Three brothers left empty-handed after their sister pocketed their dead mother's £850,000 fortune have launched an appeal.

Remo, Nino and David Rea have already lost one court fight with their sister Rita over their mother Anna's decision to leave everything to her only daughter in her will.

Anna Rea died, aged 86, in July 2016, leaving her £850,000 home in Tooting, south London to Rita, for whom she always had a 'soft spot.'

The three brothers later went to the High Court, challenging the will and claiming Rita, 56, had poisoned Anna's mind against them.

They wanted the judge to rule in favour of their mum's previous 1986 will, which split her fortune equally between all four of the children.

At the end of the case, Judge Jonathan Arkush rejected the brothers' challenge, finding that the will was valid and there was no evidence to support their accusations.

However, his judgment is now under attack as the three brothers seek to appeal and force a retrial of the case, claiming the trial was unfair and ended up in unseemly 'bickering' between siblings in the witness box.

Brothers Remo (left), David (centre) and Nino (right) took their sister to court, demanding a share of their mother's house, but a judge ruled against them, finding that their sister was entitled to the house

The court heard that the three sons were left empty-handed after their mother declared in her final December 2015 will: 'I give my daughter my property absolutely as she has taken care of me for all these years.

'My sons have not taken care of me and my daughter, Rita, has been my sole carer for many years.'

The will left the three sons with nothing beside paltry legacies which have been eaten up by funeral expenses.

Rita Rea was the sole inheritor of her mother's house after she cared for the elderly woman in her later years

Former tennis coach Rita had moved into her mother's home in 2009 to help care for her following a heart attack.

She claimed her brothers provided dwindling levels of support for their mother, although at one point in 2015 a rota was set up by Nino and David to cover Anna's care.

The brothers claimed Rita planted a false idea in Anna's head that they had abandoned her, which she flatly denied.

The trio had no legal representation throughout the lengthy High Court trial, with much of their case presented by motorbike race manager David Rea, although Rita had a barrister on her side.

Finding against them, the judge said their case was grounded on 'inference and supposition,' and found that Italian-born Anna knew exactly what she was doing when her will was drafted.

'She had reached her own decision on the matter and her mind had not been poisoned by anyone,' he ruled.

But the brothers now say the trial judge should have adjourned the case before it kicked off to allow them to engage a trained barrister.

And they also say there may be fresh evidence available which could reveal the truth about the relationship between Rita and their mother.

Robin Howard - the barrister who has now taken up the brothers' bid to appeal the High Court ruling - told Mr Justice Nugee the trial had presented real 'case management' challenges since none of the trio had legal representation.

And he argued that Judge Arkush left them at a disadvantage by ordering the trial to go ahead before they could engage a lawyer.

He acknowledged that the judge was placed in an awkward position as the trial was scheduled to proceed and the brothers' application to delay it was 'late.'

But the brothers' lack of representation resulted in the trial becoming increasingly fraught and highly charged, and meant the judge had to step in to impose order, he said.

When one of Rita's brothers had to cross-examine her in the witness box, tempers began to flare, the court heard.

'The central issue was whether Rita had persuaded the deceased that her sons had 'abandoned' her,' said Mr Howard.

The court heard that the three sons were left empty-handed after their mother declared in her final December 2015 will: 'I give my daughter my property absolutely as she has taken care of me for all these years' 

Rita Rea moved into her mother's house in Tooting to look after the elderly woman

'This involved formulating questions and putting them to the witness, a process particularly badly suited where the parties were brother and sister.

'The appellants' instructions are that the cross examination descended instantly, almost on the first question, into brother-sister argument, which could be characterised as bickering.

'The judge was obliged to intervene and take over, and while he was able to impose order and extract clear answers from the witness to some points, the whole exercise was not satisfactory.

'The appellants certainly did not get the opportunity to cross examine properly.'

On top of that, Mr Howard said that, after the trial, the brothers received an out-of-the-blue text from a former neighbour of their mother which suggested a volatile relationship between Rita and her mother.

'She stated that she saw and heard Rita 'every day screaming and shouting at (her mother). It is always loud as Anna is deaf'.'

And although the witness, who currently lives in France, may now be reluctant to give evidence, Mr Howard said the brothers should have the right to call her if a retrial is ordered.

After an hour of argument, Mr Justice Nugee adjourned the brothers' appeal bid to allow their lawyers time to obtain a transcript of the trial evidence.

The case will now return to court at a later date.

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