Monday, 10 November 2008


A Woman who left her £2.3m farm to the RSPCA had 'psychiatric problems'

An elderly woman was suffering from psychiatric problems when she made a will leaving her £2.34million estate to the RSPCA, a court heard today.

Joyce Gill suffered from agoraphobia with panic disorder when she and her husband, John, made their wills, leaving their 287-acre farm to each other and then to the animal charity when both died, a medical expert told a High Court hearing in Leeds.

The couple's daughter, Dr Christine Gill, 58, (pictured) from Northallerton, North Yorkshire, launched a legal battle in July this year to challenge the will, which she claimed her father coerced her mother into making.

Dr Christine Gill has challenged her parents' will
Today Rob Howard, a consultant psychiatrist, told the resumed hearing he had compiled a report about Mrs Gill's mental health based on witness statements and came to the conclusion she suffered from agoraphobia with panic disorder, which began in her childhood.
Professor Howard told the court he believed Mrs Gill would have been very anxious when faced with meeting a solicitor and would not have been able to take much in.
In his statement, he said: 'Seeing a solicitor, even with Mr Gill being present, would have been outside the set of situations within which Mrs Gill would have been expected to have been able to prevent the emergence of severe anxiety symptoms.
'My opinion would be that this would be likely to have materially affected her ability to concentrate upon and digest what was being said to her during such a meeting.'
Professor Howard agreed with Claire Royston, a consultant psychiatrist giving evidence for the RSPCA, that it was likely Mrs Gill would have conformed with the wishes of her husband when they made their wills in 1993.
The court heard previously that Mr Gill was stubborn and domineering towards his wife, who went everywhere with her husband and was dependent on him to make decisions for her.
Professor Howard's statement continued: 'Her dependence upon Mr Gill would have made it very difficult for her to express a wish to make a will that was different from one that he wished to make.'
But the two medical experts disagreed about Mrs Gill's mental state.
In a joint statement, Professor Howard and Dr Royston said: 'Dr Royston does not believe that Mrs Gill would have met criteria for any formal psychiatric disorder but should most usefully be viewed as having been an eccentric woman.'
The court has heard that Dr Gill - an only child - was given repeated assurances that she would inherit Potto Carr Farm, in North Yorkshire, when her parents died.
The university lecturer told the court she had devoted most of her spare time over a period of more than 30 years to voluntarily helping out at the farm.
When Mr Gill died in 1999, aged 82, she was left to look after her mother and run the farm, the court has heard.
It was only when her mother died in 2006, also aged 82, that Dr Gill saw the will, which left everything to the RSPCA.

Vena Says

The RSPCA recently advertised (in The Guardian,) 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 hearing is due to last until the end of the week.

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