When Shakespeare wrote King Lear, he could hardly have imagined that his tragedy of paternal angst would be cited more than 400 years on, in the rarified surroundings of the High Court in
Yet for widowed Pamela Shearer, Lear’s sense of bewilderment at his treatment by his grown-up daughters perfectly paralleled that experienced by her late husband Tony.
‘I’m going to quote King Lear here: “Sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.” And that is how my husband felt,’ she told the court.
It was one reason, she said, why Tony left the daughters who had jokingly called him ‘the chequebook’ nothing in the will he made two years before his death in 2017.
Tony Shearer (pictured), who had a net worth of just over £2 million, left his entire estate to his second wife of ten years Pamela, 69
Instead, he left his entire estate — with a net worth of just over £2 million but which, with other property interests, heirlooms and expensive wine could be as much as £7 million — not to Juliet 40, nor Lauretta, 39, but to 69-year-old Pamela, his second wife of ten years. That decision proved the springboard for a highly emotive legal battle which arrived at the High Court earlier this year after Juliet and Lauretta took legal action to demand maintenance from their father’s estate.
That battle ended in failure, when judge Sir Julian Flaux ruled that the evidence of the two sisters was ‘imbued with and influenced by a sense of entitlement’.
And this month they were again left empty-handed: after the sisters contested his judgment in another High Court hearing, Sir Julian rejected their challenge to his original ruling, telling them it was ‘deficiencies in their own evidence’ that had led him to rule in favour of their stepmother.
The case, with its backdrop of second homes, private schools and lavish holidays, raised questions about the extent to which grown-up children should expect to be provided for by their parents after their deaths.
And today we can reveal that the battle goes on. Speaking to the Mail from the £1.6 million mansion in the village of Enford, Wiltshire, that she shares with her mother Jenny — Shearer’s first wife — mother-of-two Juliet revealed that she and her sister will take further legal action. ‘We are going to appeal,’ she confirmed.
It marks another extraordinary chapter in a family history mired in lurid claim and counter-claim.
Tony Shearer, born into a family who were comfortably off and privately educated at Rugby School, had been a partner at the accountancy firm Deloitte, taking on various investment management roles before ending his corporate life as finance director of a merchant bank, Singer & Friedlander. He resigned from this role in 2005 amid concerns about a hostile takeover by the Icelandic bank Kaupthing.
He had met his first wife Jenny Dixon while posted by Deloitte to South Africa in the early 1970s, and in 1972 the couple married there, returning to live in England the next year. Juliet was born in August 1980 and Lauretta 18 months later.
Juliet 40, (pictured) and sister Lauretta, 39, who received nothing from their father after his death, were raised in multimillion-pound homes and privately educated
Privately educated, both girls were raised in multimillion-pound homes in exclusive areas of London: South Kensington, then Holland Park.
Even into their 20s, thanks to their father, they enjoyed what Sir Julian Flaux called ‘a high standard of living’ — regular luxury holidays, membership of the exclusive Hurlingham club, rent assistance and regular maintenance payments.
Yet according to Pamela, the girls had been ‘wayward and out of control’ and Tony had told her that their behaviour had sown the seeds of the breakdown of his marriage to Jenny, as they could never agree on how best to control it.
The court was also told by Barbara Rich, Pamela’s barrister, that Tony was ‘disappointed’ when both his daughters failed to complete their degrees: Juliet studied classical civilisation at University College London, Lauretta classical studies at Newcastle University. She also read the court an extract from a letter from Mr Shearer, describing his daughters’ schooldays: ‘We had alcohol, clubbing, boyfriends, mostly ghastly ones, and lies, lies, lies.’
‘We were teenagers,’ Lauretta told the judge. ‘I don’t think we were more naughty than everybody else.’
What seems clear is that father-daughter relations soured following the breakdown of Tony and Jenny’s marriage in June 2006.
In the wake of their separation, Tony had written to both his daughters to try to explain his feelings.
Tony was ‘disappointed’ when both his daughters failed to complete their degrees – Juliet studied classical civilisation and Lauretta (pictured) classical studies
‘I have tried very hard to tell you and Juliet the truth and I wrote to you both when it all happened between your mother and me,’ he wrote in an email submitted in evidence and sent to Lauretta in July 2011. ‘Neither of you replied — which hurt me very much indeed and made me feel very pushed out into the cold. Perhaps I wasn’t the perfect father, but I sure as Hell worked as hard as I could to keep the whole family circus on the road.’
What undoubtedly complicated Tony’s relationship with his daughters was that, before his official separation from Jenny, he had already become romantically involved with Pamela, then 43, a former colleague who worked in investor relations at Singer & Friedlander.
The pair married in March 2007 and from the start there were tensions. Lauretta told the court her father had ‘changed’ once he met Pamela.
‘Once Dad met Pam, it was almost impossible to see him alone,’ she said. ‘Support was abruptly cut off.’ For her own part, Juliet ‘never accepted’ Pamela, the court heard.
Pamela (pictured) claims neither daughter accepted being told they wouldn’t be receiving further money after each being given a final gift
Either way, relations between Tony and his daughters were cordial enough for him to give them both a large cash sum from the sale of a flat in West London the following year.
Juliet, then 28, was given a cheque for £177,000; 27-year-old Lauretta £185,000 — a final gift, he told them, that he hoped they would invest wisely, as no further money would be forthcoming. Yet according to Pamela, neither daughter could accept this. In evidence, she said they made ‘repeated requests for money’.
‘There was an occasion when he and I had dinner with Lauretta, which was very nice,’ she said. ‘During the dinner, she made all kinds of allusions to what she and her then boyfriend couldn’t afford in the flat.
‘In the taxi back, Tony said to me: “Wasn’t she ghastly?” I said, “what do you mean?” and he said: “She’s asking me for money again and I only just gave her this large deposit”.’
It prompted Tony to write Lauretta an email, dated May 30, 2008, in which he again outlined his financial position, emphasising the ‘great deal of money’ he had spent funding her lifestyle so far ,and his hopes that the subject could be ‘put to rest’.
‘Last night you mentioned money a number of times . . . as you did when we came to you for dinner a few weeks ago,’ he wrote. ‘I really do not want there to be any surprises/disappointments on this subject . . . It would be wrong for you to have any expectations, and in any event there is not likely to be very much to pass on.’
This was, in part, he added, because half his wealth had gone to their mother; and because he and Pam intended to live for a long time ‘and to spend all our money’.
He went on: ‘From now on, you are on your own financially. I would not approve of it any other way. You can expect the odd present (probably a lot smaller than you might think appropriate) and my love, company, advice and support, etc.’
Tony (pictured) wrote notes to both his daughters over the years, reaffirming his love for them but his relationship with Juliet soured further in 2011
Yet Tony also wrote notes to both his daughters over the years, reaffirming his love for them, among them one penned in 2009 in which he spoke of his pride and affection. ‘I have enjoyed having daughters, though that may surprise you . . . there have been many very good times, though some appalling times.’
What is undisputed by both parties is that Tony’s relationship with Juliet soured further in 2011 after her separation from her husband of four years, the actor Steve Nicolson, 52, father of their two daughters, a 12-year-old and an 11-year-old with severe autism.
Juliet believed her father had indicated that he would pay the £82,500 needed to buy her husband out of their Suffolk property, only for him to withdraw the offer after speaking to Pamela.
Pamela, in turn, disputed that he had ever suggested it.
Juliet went on to marry Keith Miles, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Army, before their marriage ended in separation, after which she moved into the sprawling period home, complete with swimming pool, owned by her mother.
While she does not currently work because of her childcare obligations, she hopes to train as a dog behaviourist.
Lauretta, who earns £57,000 a year working for Sotheby’s, is also a single mother following the breakdown of her marriage — a marriage that caused its own dramatic rift with her father.
In 2010, Lauretta became engaged to criminal barrister Mark Stevens, a man to whom, the court heard, Tony had taken ‘a profound dislike and distrust’.
Juliet and Lauretta went to the High Court earlier this year to claim £1.25 million ‘maintenance’ from their late father’s estate. Pictured: Juliet, with her mother Jenny
Five weeks before her November 2011 wedding, he sent Lauretta an email in which he tried to dissuade her from going ahead. This led to a highly charged confrontation between father and daughter in a London hotel, at which Lauretta told Tony she didn’t want Pamela at the wedding. In turn, he told her he wouldn’t give her away.
Tensions escalated further when Pamela and Tony found scratches on their car apparently made by a screwdriver, and the presence of an intruder in their home. Fearful for their safety, the court was told, Tony had reported his soon-to-be son-in-law to the police.
‘I am certainly not finding that Mark was behind them, but I consider that the concern Pamela and Tony had that Mark was getting at them was genuine,’ Sir Julian later ruled.
TONy did attend the wedding — but he returned ‘traumatised’ and in tears, according to evidence given by Pamela — he did not see Lauretta for another four years. She was then pregnant with their son Alex, today aged five, and her marriage had irretrievably broken down amid Lauretta’s claims of emotional abuse, the court heard.
By then, Pamela and Tony had settled in France, in a £2 million home in Provence called Les Hautes Vignes, which had been largely funded by the sale of another French home previously owned by Pamela.
The Shearers also owned a flat in Kew, West London.
Yet Les Hautes Vignes was where Tony’s heart lay, Pamela told the court. He spent his days there swimming, playing tennis, cycling, walking and writing until, in May 2016, he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour which, despite surgery and radiotherapy, became incurable.
Following a seizure in June 2017, he became bed-bound, with Pamela his primary carer. He died on October 12, 2017.
Tony (pictured) had been in contact with both his daughters before his death, however they were not left a penny to augment the ‘generous financial provision’ he had made for them while he was alive
Happily, he had been in contact with both his daughters before his death, with both visiting Les Hautes Vignes and keeping in touch via email and Skype. Yet after his death, those cordial relations did not extend to his widow following probate on his estate, which was calculated at £2,184,976 but could, his daughters claim, be as much as £7 million.
Either way, they were not left a penny to augment the ‘generous financial provision’ he had made for them while he was alive.
It was a discovery that, backed by their mother Jenny, led Juliet and Lauretta to the High Court earlier this year to claim £1.25 million ‘maintenance’ from their late father’s estate — money both say they need to secure their future housing requirements.
Part of their claim centres on their belief that their stepmother had altered her ‘mirror’ will — a virtually identical will, where one member of a couple leaves their estate to the other — after Tony’s death, totally excluding them or their children from any future inheritance after her own death.
It is a suspicion that was roundly refuted in evidence by Pamela, who refused to give the ‘private’ details of her will, but told the judge she had ‘not revoked’ any provision Tony might have made for his extended family.
This claim was accepted by Sir Julian, who ruled in April that the daughters had ‘pursued an extensive and unattractive attack on Pamela’ and that Tony had acted ‘of his own free will’.
His ruling against their ‘sense of entitlement’ led the sisters back to court last month, where their lawyers argued that Sir Julian had been ‘perverse’ to prefer Pamela’s evidence to theirs, suggesting she had ‘lied to the court’.
But that claim has now ended in failure after Sir Julian ruled that Pamela was a ‘truthful witness’ who had been quite clear that she had not revoked the will.
Her solicitor, Myles Mcintosh, told the Mail his client did not want to comment.
Either way, it is clear this is not the last we have heard of a bitter, protracted legal wrangle that has made the story of King Lear look positively civilised.
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