Moira O’Hara outside the High Court in London last week, where she is fighting to win back money Paul Markham owes her
A high-flying lawyer who handed her ‘charming and convincing’ lover more than £1million is still fighting for her money back more than a decade after they split.
Moira O’Hara lavished a fortune on ‘confidence trickster’ film director, Paul Markham, now 75, during the course of their six-year relationship.
A judge ordered him to pay back hundreds of thousands of pounds she lent him, saying she was ‘deeply in love’ with Markham’ but his ‘charm, persuasion and lies clouded her reason and common sense’.
But at the High Court in
In a bid to wriggle off the financial hook, Markham accused his ex of holding onto a £900,000 hoard of his treasured possessions.
He threatened to ‘devastate’ Miss O’Hara’s life if she failed to hand over his stash of fine art and furnishings, Mr Justice Males told the court.
He wrote to one of her work colleagues ‘referring to taking the necessary steps for her to be debarred and imprisoned for fraud’.
The judge added Markham’s behaviour ‘points strongly to the fact that the current proceedings are part of a course of conduct intended to harass Miss O’Hara.’
The former couple met when Miss O’Hara – who was once married to a judge – was doing voluntary work at a Citizen’s Advice Bureau in 1999.
She helped Markham out with advice but within weeks of meeting him, was ploughing massive sums of cash into his account.
They lived together between 2003 and 2005 and Markham promised he would pay her back when a French film project paid off.
But Miss O’Hara finally confronted the truth after finding out that he had been spending her money on a collection of fine art.
He claimed she had ‘given’ him the cash but in 2009, Judge Philip Raynor QC described him as a ‘convincing and effective confidence trickster.’
The High Court in London heard that Miss O’Hara, 56, has so far only retrieved a small fraction of the cash her ex-lover owes her
Markham was ordered to pay her back £850,000, plus nearly £300,000 in interest which has continued to build since then.
He was also ordered to hand over a property in Notting Hill – then already worth over £1million – which he held on trust for Miss O’Hara.
‘Her conduct was extraordinary but she was deeply in love with Mr Markham,’ Judge Raynor said at the time.
‘I find that love and Mr Markham’s charm, persuasion and lies clouded her reason and common sense.’
Markham later lost an appeal against the ruling and was hit with an asset freezing order.
She managed to obtain a seizure order from a French court over a flat owned by Mr Markham in Rue St Louis, Paris, in 2014.
But her barrister Daisy Brown, said Mr Markham still owes more than £1 million ‘outstanding on the judgment debt’ from 2009.
‘His conduct is obsessive and part of a wider campaign to cause distress to Miss O’Hara,’ the barrister claimed.
Mr Markham, however, insisted she had held onto his valuable furniture and works of art worth £900,000 and demanded that she either hand over his possessions or that their value be set off against his colossal debt to her.
He claimed the items included an 18th century Chinese pot, six 1940s French bridge chairs, a 1950s Russian painting, and 16 Indian statues of deities.
Insisting that Miss O’Hara has none of his possessions, Miss Brown said he left her home in 2006 with a ‘truck full of items’.
Throwing out Mr Markham’s claim as being ‘totally without merit’, Mr Justice Males said his valuation of the antiques was ‘entirely fanciful’.
The judge added: ‘It is quite clear he has no intention of paying anything to Miss O’Hara in respect of the judgment sum and outstanding costs.
‘The only money she has received is in respect of a property owned by Mr Markham in France.
‘It is somewhat ironic that he should bring this application out of curiosity to know how much he owes when he clearly has no intention of paying whatever sum that is.’
The judge said Mr Markham has no known address and ‘says that he has no assets or income’.
Moira O’Hara (pictured outside court in 2010) lavished a fortune on her ex-boyfriend Paul Markham during the course of their relationship. Mr Justice Males (right) said Markham threatened to ‘devastate’ Miss O’Hara’s life
But he ruled: ‘I conclude that the current application is an abuse of process and should be struck out.’
The judge stopped short of issuing a ‘civil restraint order’ barring Mr Markham from making further court applications without judicial permission.
He added: ‘The court will be minded to make a civil restraint order if a similar application is made in the future’.
Describing the case as ‘truly extraordinary’ in his 2009 ruling, Judge Raynor said ‘Miss O’Hara’s heart had ruled her head.’
Mr Markham claimed she had given him the money in return for business advice, emotional support and help in looking after her three children.
But Judge Raynor described much of his case as ‘incredible’, ‘untrue’, ‘extraordinary’, ‘fiction’ and ‘unbelievable’.