A burger bar chef will inherit a £5m fortune left to him by an eccentric businessman after the millionaire’s ‘conniving’ sister failed to have the will nullified in the courts.
Sam Jones met David Turner while serving him a burger at a mobile catering site in Chertsey, Surrey, in the year 2000, the High Court in London heard.
They instantly bonded over a mutual passion for guitars and classic cars, and remained friends for almost two decades, before Mr Turner’s death from an aggressive brain tumour at the age of 71 in 2017.
He had treated Mr Jones ‘like a son’, the court was told, but described his own sister Linda Cano, who he lost contact with in 2008, as a ‘conniving b***h’.
He decided to cut Mrs Cano and his ex-partner out of his will in 2013, creating a new document that left everything to Mr Jones and his other close friends.
In order for Mr Jones (pictured) to collect the inheritance left to him, he had to fight a ten year legal battle with Mr Turner’s sister Linda Cano
The late David Turner, 71 also left Mr Jones his half share in a 14-acre plot near the M25, which if granted planning permission for development could have a price tag of up to £10million
Mr Turner ran a skip hire business and owned a family pig farm at Woodside Farm in Bittams Lane, Chertsey, which had been in his family for 70 years.
He also owned half a share in a 14-acre plot near the M25, which if granted planning permission for development could have a price tag of up to £10m.
In the new will, the multi-millionaire left his younger friend both the farm and the share in the mammoth 14-acre plot.
Additional lesser legacies went to other pals – including his musical instruments – while £5,000 was left to the British Polio Fellowship, as Mr Turner had been stricken by polio as a child.
But the new will ended up being challenged in court by his sister Mrs Cano, because a copy of his original testament had never been found.
Lawyers for Mrs Cano, who lives in Spain, argued that it couldn’t be proved that her brother had not destroyed his original will after changing his mind about who he wanted to inherit his fortune.
She asked the judge to nullify the 2013 will, which would have left her free to inherit under the laws of intestacy, because no other will existed and she stood in line as next of kin.
But the judge, Master Matthew Marsh, ruled against Mrs Cano at the High Court, leaving Mr Jones to inherit his friend’s fortune.
During the trial, Rose Fetherstonhaugh – Mr Jones’ barrister – said there was ample evidence that Mr Turner wanted his longtime pal to inherit his wealth, pointing out how he cared for him in his final months and organised both his funeral and his wake.
Not only was his sister excluded from benefiting under his 2013 will, she told the judge, but Mr Turner was adamant that she should not get a penny.
Mr Turner was described by the judge as a ‘highly gregarious’ character with a passion for shooting, classic cars and music, who kept an ‘open house’ at his ramshackle farmhouse home, socialising with a close group of friends in an outbuilding they ‘perhaps rather grandly called the music room’.
He and Mr Jones were inseparable and went on regular day trips to France and Belgium, while Mr Turner was also close to Mr Jones’ own family, said the judge.
Ms Fetherstonhaugh told the court: ‘Mr Turner, who had no children of his own, treated Mr Jones like a son and was very close to his family.
‘Mr Jones looked to him as a father figure and he was a grandfather figure to Mr Jones’ children.
Burger bar chef Sam Jones, pictured outside court, was left a £5million fortune by an eccentric businessman who befriended him at his roadside snackbar
‘Mr Turner grew closer and closer to Mr Jones, and Mr Jones would be around the deceased regularly and up at the farm in the evenings.
‘By contrast, Mr Turner had a very poor relationship with his sister. This was well known amongst the deceased’s friends; for example, one friend’s evidence is that he ‘never heard Mr Turner say a good word about Mrs Cano he spoke in language that I wouldn’t repeat… he did not like her and did not want to talk about her’.’
The siblings had been estranged for nearly a decade, said Ms Fetherstonhaugh, and there was evidence that Mr Turner had a grievance against his sister after she sold her half share in the 14-acre roadside plot to a property development company.
Ms Fetherstonhaugh also highlighted a document recording his instructions around the time of his will, in which he stated that neither his sister nor his ex-partner should have ‘any beneficial interest in my money, property or chattels – the reason for this is the way I have been treated by two conniving b*****s’.
Mrs Cano accepted she had had little contact with her brother since 2008, but claimed he had a habit of making and changing his will.
But Mr Jones insisted his friend had consistently shown that he wanted him to inherit most of his fortune, even assembling his band of pals together after making his 2013 will when he ‘announced to his friends that Mr Jones was to be treated as the owner of the farm’.
Mrs Cano had previously sold her half share in the 14-acre roadside plot to a property development company
The court heard that both Mr Jones and the executors of Mr Turner’s estate have hunted high and low throughout the 14 outbuildings and internal rooms of Woodhill Farm in a vain search for Mr Turner’s original will
Much of the debate in the case hinged around whether Mr Turner may have deliberately destroyed his original will, although Mr Jones rejected this notion.
The court heard that both Mr Jones and the executors of Mr Turner’s estate have hunted high and low throughout the 14 outbuildings and internal rooms of Woodhill Farm in a vain search for the original.
The search was made all the harder because Mr Turner, although a sharp businessman, had a reputation as a ‘hoarder’ and one witness said his office ‘looked as if it had been through two world wars’.
Four copies of the original will survived Mr Turner’s death, the judge noted, and there was no evidence that he ever tried to make a new will or tore up the original.
Mrs Cano suggested that in the past her brother had made several wills but always ended up changing them when he ‘fell out with a particular beneficiary.’
But the judge said her claim was ‘unsupported’ by the evidence.
Mrs Cano, who gave evidence via a video link, claimed her brother also had ‘a tendency to lie and would be selective with the truth’, but the judge dismissed her comments as ‘general assertions’.
‘I don’t find her evidence to be of any assistance to me,’ he said.
Finding in favour of Mr Jones, he concluded: ‘It’s clear from the evidence that Mr Turner expressed a strong dislike for his sister. His intentions were clear in 2013 that he wanted Mr Jones to benefit as his friend and that he didn’t want any part of his estate to go to Mrs Cano.
‘There’s no evidence of any kind to suggest that Mr Turner’s intentions changed from the date he made his will in 2013, and he remained estranged from his sister.
‘There is clear, unchallenged evidence that Mr Jones was a daily visitor to the farm. Mr Jones and others helped care for Mr Turner when his illness became debilitating shortly before his death, showing the strong bond and connections between them.
‘There’s no evidence that Mr Turner attempted to make a new will.’
The judge’s ruling means that the 2013 will stands in favour of Mr Jones.