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14 April 2014
Husband kills wife's pet ram in bitter divorce battle
The couple, who moved to the UK from abroad in 1976, had been married for 43 years and their property portfolio included a £15 million home in Camden, north London, a flat and a chalet in the wife’s native Austria, and a house near Cannes, in the south of France.
The pair, who cannot be named, had purchased the French property after selling a country home in England, because the wife disliked the British weather and preferred warmer climes.
However, the husband, who had become “completely anglicised” – meaning he had embraced shooting and fine wine as his “second” and “principal passions” respectively – was said to have been disappointed by the relocation.
The ram was kept at the home near Cannes and was “put to death” last June after a “most animated argument” between the husband, 68, and his 70-year-old wife, according to Mr Justice Mostyn.
By this stage, their relationship had already soured. But the judge said that after the death, relations “irretrievably broke down”.
The details have emerged after the couple fought over money at a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
The mother of two grown up children issued a divorce petition in London, insisting that her husband had made his home in the UK.
Although he had for years insisted to the tax authorities that he had ‘non-dom’ status, his claim to live abroad was, she said, ‘complete nonsense’.
Believing she would get a ‘more generous’ deal from the English divorce courts, she pointed to the fact he had used his London address to obtain a shotgun certificate and a London Transport ‘freedom pass’ – for subsidised travel in the capital.
However, her husband insisted that he had already divorced her by a Muslim ‘talaq’, and that in any event the dispute should be heard in Austria, where she has two homes.
The judge said the wife had already put aside £500,000 to cover lawyers’ bills to fight her case in England and that was likely to be only a fraction of the costs of a ‘highly expensive piece of litigation’.
The husband had spent over 110 days in England during the last 12 months – more than anywhere else in the world – and the wife therefore had an ‘arguable case’ that he was domiciled here, the judge ruled.
Pending a full hearing of their dispute, the wife claimed a total of more than £390,000 in annual maintenance to tide her over.
That included £24,000 for ‘clothes and footwear’, £18,000 for eating out at restaurants and £70,000 for holidays and flights.
She also wanted her husband to pay her £170,000-a-year to rent a suitable London home, with a housekeeper in attendance – saying she could not be expected to stay in the Camden house, described as an “ambassadorial residence”, with him when visiting Britain.
However, trimming down her maintenance to a total of £170,000-a-year, Mr Justice Mostyn said that ‘two mature people’ should be able to share such a large house, which includes two self-contained flats.
The husband had offered to keep the main bedroom as ‘the domain of the wife alone’, and the judge said he expected them to ‘signal by email’ when they would each be in London and to tailor their travel plans accordingly.
They could also share one car and the judge substantially cut down the wife’s clothing, eating out and holiday allowances.
The husband was ‘a very rich man’ and Mr Justice Mostyn was ‘amply satisfied’ that he could ‘afford to pay’ the £170,000-a-year.
The case will return to court later this year when a judge will decide if the English courts have jurisdiction to hear the wife’s divorce petition.