Christine Gill, an only child, wept as a judge ruled that she was entitled to inherit the 287-acre North Yorkshire farm to which she had devoted years of labour to support and care for her ageing parents. The RSPCA said that it would appeal against the ruling.
Dr Gill’s widowed mother Joyce, who died at 82, did not even support the charity. She was pro-hunting and, according to her daughter and other witnesses, thought the RSPCA “were just a bunch of townies who knew nothing about the countryside”. The High Court in Leeds ruled that the shy, reclusive mother had been bullied into the will by her ill-tempered husband, John, before his death.
The animal charity, which two years ago rejected an offer of three quarters of the estate, may have to pay both sides’ legal costs, totalling £1.3 million. The court will rule on costs later.
Dr Gill, 58, a part-time university lecturer whose 12-year-old son can now fulfil his ambition to become a farmer, said she was “shaking with relief” at the court’s decision.She felt that her heart and soul had been “ripped out” when she first learnt that the will said she would get no money or land.
As the RSPCA had made plans to sell the farm, the Gills wrote to its patrons, including the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury. It refused to negotiate, and the Gills sought an injunction to prevent the sale of Potto Carr Farm, near Northallerton.
The judge was satisfied that Mrs Gill had “an avowed dislike” of the RSPCA and wanted her daughter to inherit the farm, but that she had been unduly influenced by her husband.