Daughter disinherited by father loses battle over £6million fortune
Daughter who was disinherited by ‘ruthless’ property tycoon father after he hired a hitman to kill her mother loses battle over his £6million fortune
- Norman Gill, who died aged 83, left almost none of his money to his children
- His eldest child, Jessica Hicken, challenged her father’s decision to cut them out
- But a judge dismissed her case, ruling that Mr Gill’s last will was valid
A daughter who was disinherited by her ‘ruthless and spiteful’ businessman dad after he hired a hitman to kill her mum has lost her fight to inherit some of his £6million fortune.
Norman Gill died aged 83 following a stroke in March 2018, having spent his working life carving out a lucrative career as a ‘successful and driven’ property tycoon.
Mr Gill built his wealth through a property management company based in Leicester, but cut his children, Jessica, 58, Marcus, 57 and Elizabeth, 55, out of his will.
Nearly 40 years earlier in 1979, he had pleaded guilty to conspiring to murder his wife, Mary, receiving a hospital order by way of sentence.
Psychiatric evidence at the time suggested he was motivated to plot his wife’s murder due to a combination of ‘morbid jealousy syndrome,’ drink and drug abuse, depression and business failures.
Property tycoon Norman Gill, who died aged 83 in March 2018, gave almost none of his £6million fortune to his children
Norman’s will left £2m in ‘substantial pecuniary legacies’ to extended family members, friends, assistants and carers.
But his son and two daughters received just £5,000 each in legacies.
The rest of his estate, estimated at around £4m, was given to the Norman Gill Charitable Trust to ‘benefit the people of the city and county of Leicester’.
His eldest child, Jessica Hicken, challenged his February 2018 will in the High Court at Birmingham, claiming it was ‘irrational’ because it cut out Norman’s children and grandchildren and was ‘inconsistent with a pattern of over 30 years of executing wills’.
She said her dad also ‘suffered a personality disorder diagnosed in 1979 which poisoned the natural affection for his children and grandchildren’, and was frail and vulnerable when his last will was executed.
But Judge Richard Williams ruled against Jessica, declaring her dad’s will valid and concluding: ‘There are no circumstances which excite suspicion that the will did not represent Norman’s intentions at the time of execution’.
The judge highlighted medical evidence from a psychiatrist, who reported that Norman was neither mentally unwell nor in the grip of a personality disorder in his final years.
But he pointed out that, although there was ample evidence that Norman loved his children, it was equally clear that he was ‘controlling’ and saw things in black and white terms.
The judge told the court: ‘It is also clear to me that Norman lacked any understanding or insight of the emotional harm suffered by the children during their childhood.
‘Rather he continued to view himself as the victim, as evidenced by the letter he sent to Marcus and his wife dated 12 August 2013, in which he complains of having received no help from the family following the marriage breakdown in 1979. At that time, the children were aged between ten and 13.
‘Norman loved his children and was financially generous towards them, but exploited his financial wealth as a means of exerting control over his children*’
The octogenarian had a ruthless streak, was used to getting his own way, and could also be ‘cruel and spiteful,’ said the judge.
This trait was shown by the terms of an earlier 1996 will, which left the ‘token’ sum of just £5 to his ex-wife and murder conspiracy victim, Mary.
This was ‘in view of her vindictive attitude and negative actions from 1979 until her re-marriage, from which time she excommunicated herself completely from me, thus causing the healing of the rift with our children to be much more difficult.’
Even Norman’s oldest and closest pal, top lawyer Adrian Weston MBE, testified the hold his friend tried to exert over his children.
Mr Weston, who has since died, stated in evidence: ‘I believe that Norman was generous financially for many years, but I understand there would always be a price to be paid in the form of doing what Norman told them to do.
‘Norman found it difficult to accept that his children had their own minds. His personality was such that he always thought he was right and this particularly applied to his children’s affairs.
‘The irony is that Norman loved his children and as they drifted further and further away he felt it very keenly.’
Mr Gill’s eldest child, Jessica Hicken, 58, contested her father’s decision to write her and her siblings out of his will, but lost her case after the judge ruled that it was valid
Jessica, 58, was left haunted by her childhood experiences living with a violent father, the court heard, with her treating psychiatrist noting that the case had ‘reawakened’ memories of traumatic experiences when she was growing up.
‘She had a difficult childhood with a controlling, violent father, who hired a hitman to kill her mother and he was arrested for this and went to prison.
‘This understandably had a huge impact on her life.’
The court heard Norman and his children had turbulent relationships in his final years, characterised by him abruptly terminating contact only to kickstart it later, but often on his terms.
Despite those tensions, in 2015, he drew up a will which left legacies of £175,000 to each of his children, their partners, and his grandchildren – plus £1.4m earmarked for a family trust.
But relations soured terminally in the ensuing years despite Jessica offering an olive branch, and in October 2017 she wrote to her dad asking him to ‘cease all communication with me and my family’.
The case went before the High Court after the trustees of the Norman Gill Charitable Trust sought a declaration that the will was Norman’s last true will.
Jessica challenged it on the basis that her dad had lacked testamentary capacity in respect of the will, or did not know and approve of the will when he made it.
Ruling against her, Judge Williams said Norman’s decision to disinherit his children might be labelled ‘unfair,’ but it was not irrational.
In his final months, he had developed a passion for chewing over how his legacy would be spent after his death, in particular costing a £45,000 to Leicester City Council.
The judge said that, when he made his will, Norman ‘knew his mind and had strong, and at times, blinkered views’.
There was no solid basis for Jessica disputing her dad’s final will, and in any case she had forfeited the right to challenge it with her own medical evidence by previously accepting its validity in a pre-trial settlement agreement back in February 2022.
This settlement, which contradicted Jessica’s case at trial, gave her £700,000 from the trust’s share of her dad’s estate, said the judge, adding: ‘The agreement was expressed to be conditional upon the court propounding the will in solemn form’.
With the judge having now accepted the will’s validity, the terms of the settlement should now take effect.
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