Friday, 17 October 2008
Legal Action To Recover £2.34 Million From RSPCA
Christine Gill was devoted to her parents, caring for them and helping run the family farm.
So she was understandably devastated when she discovered they´d left every penny of their £2.34 million estate to the RSPCA.For 30 years, Dr Gill had put her mum and dad first. She went to university nearby so she could return home regularly.
Later, despite qualifying as an architect, she took a poorly-paid, part-time job as a lecturer at the same university in order to spend more time at the farm. When she married a colleague in 1988, they bought a dilapidated farmhouse next door to her parents´ land and lived in a caravan for seven years while it was renovated.
The story unfolded at the High Court in Leeds as Dr Gill began legal action to recover her inheritance.
It can´t have been an easy life. Her father, John, who died aged 82 nine years ago, was described as a ´stubborn, domineering´ man, especially towards his wife.Mind you, it sounds like he had good cause to be grumpy. Christine´s mother, Joyce, was said to be ´unusual´ - as in completely Looby Loo. Mrs Gill had a panoply of ´phobias´ which prevented her leaving the compound, talking to strangers or using the telephone. She often spent the day sitting under a sheet of tarpaulin. On the rare occasions she could be coaxed away from the farm, she wore rubber gloves and took her own cup and saucer with her. Mr Gill was banned from bringing friends and business associates into the house and was forced to entertain them in his car.
Despite all this madness, their daughter seems to have accepted it as her lot in life.They were a ´very close family´ and there was nothing to suggest that she would be cut out of the will.
Her mother assured her that she ´didn´t need to worry about money´. So she was naturally distressed when, on her mother´s death in 2006, she discovered her inheritance had been signed over to the animal charity.Dr Gill claims Joyce left all the paperwork to her husband and must have been coerced into signing the will, that´s if she had any idea what day of the week it was.She maintains her mother disliked the RSPCA, which she called a ´bunch of townies´.
Of course, there are plenty of cases of parents deciding, justifiably, not to pass anything on to wayward sons and daughters.
But this doesn´t seem to be one of them. Christine Gill isn´t a spoilt, airhead heiress who thinks she can rely on her old man´s money to keep her in sex and drugs and rock ´n´ roll for the rest of her life.
We´re not talking Paris Hilton here.She´s a 58-year-old mother of an 11-year-old boy, living in modest circumstances, seeking what she is justified in thinking should rightfully be hers. It´s not as if there´s pots of ready cash floating around, either.
Most of it is tied up in the farmland. That hasn´t stopped the RSPCA already flogging off the contents of the house without bothering to consult her. And here´s where the story really becomes grotesque. For however the money landed in its lap, the RSPCA´s behaviour is monstrous.
This should never have gone to court. The charity could have looked at the circumstances of the legacy and concluded that Dr Gill had a legitimate claim. She´s the daughter, for heaven´s sake, not a long-lost cousin, twice removed, from New Zealand. It could have refused to accept the money. Even if it has a legal duty to respond to all challenges to posthumous donations, there was a deal to be done.The RSPCA could have said: ´We couldn´t possibly take this money, but if you´d care to make a donation in memory of your parents, we´d be very grateful.´How the hell can a charity which has the word ´Cruelty´ in its title seek to deprive an only child of her inheritance?
But then, the RSPCA is a ´charity´ in name only. In reality, like Oxfam and dozens of others, it is a big business, which spends as much time playing politics as rescuing donkeys.
I don´t dispute that there are thousands of decent people working for these organisations out of the purest, most altruistic reasons. But at the top, they´re all run by interchangeable, Identikit ´charidee professionals´ who would be equally happy co-ordinating Haringey Council´s diversity unit.
The RSPCA recently advertised (in The Guardian, natch) for an £110,000-a-year chief executive and an £80,000-a-year head of finance. Both packages come with company car, private health insurance and ´ performance-related´ bonus.No wonder they couldn´t give a stuff where the money comes from, just so long as a large wedge finds its way into their bank accounts. Isn´t there something rather disgusting about a charity worker getting a ´performance-related´ bonus?
That´s the reason I try to make it a rule never to give a penny to any of these mega-charidees, stuffed with six-figure salaries and vast public relations departments, who dream up ever more expensive and offensive advertising campaigns to try to shame us into handing over our hard-earned.
Instead, I support small charities, run in the main by compassionate volunteers who never seek any payment in return. If you want to give to animal welfare, make your donations out to a local sanctuary or dog´s home.The RSPCA would rather waste hundreds of thousands of pounds of your money on lawyers´ fees, trying vindictively to hijack the inheritance of a respectable woman who has spent her life caring for others.
I´m sure Dr Gill´s dad never took her out on the veranda, surveyed his 287 acres, and said: ´One day, all this will be the RSPCA´s.´