Man, 80, who claimed he was an 'unwanted war baby' wins £175K payout

Man, 80, who claimed he was an 'unwanted war baby' wins £175K payout

February 4, 2022

Man, 80, who claimed he was an ‘unwanted war baby’ born in WW2 and sued his niece, 41, for £2.4MILLION after his estranged father left her his entire fortune in his will wins £175,000 payout

  • Colin Johnston, 80, claimed he would be left homeless without the money
  • He was left out of his father Sydney’s will after a feud with both his parents
  • His mother Elsie blamed him for ruining her dreams of Hollywood stardom 

An ‘unwanted war baby’ blamed by his mother for dashing her dreams of Hollywood stardom has won his part of a £2.4million family legacy after a lengthy court battle

Colin Johnston, 80, successfully he needed the payout from his estranged father Sidney’s will and sued his niece and goddaughter, Lady Natalie Wackett, 41, for a share.

Sidney, who died aged 95 in 2017, had left everything to his ‘adored’ niece due to he and his wife’s long-standing resentment towards Colin.

But it was argued he had a ‘moral obligation’ to provide for his octogenarian son, given his ‘precarious’ finances.

Branding the decision to cut him out ‘inexplicable’, a judge in 2019 awarded him £175,000 from the estate, but the case went back to court after Lady Natalie claimed his payout should be slashed due to six-figure debts he owed to his father.

Colin insisted any cut in his payout could see him made homeless at the age of 80 and that he should be paid the full amount.

Last week, a High Court judge handed him the final victory, ordering Lady Natalie to pay up.

Colin Johnston outside London’s High Court earlier in the court battle for his father’s will

Lady Natalie Wackett, 41, argued that Mr Johnston should not get the money but was defeated

During the original trial, Mr Johnston told the court that his parents’ resentment towards him dated back to World War Two, and that he was an ‘unwanted war baby’ born while his father was serving in the RAF.

He said his mother Elsie had a grudge against him from infancy for getting in the way of her stage career, and told him: ‘I would have been a Hollywood star if it wasn’t for you.’

His parents favoured his brother and the rest of his family over him, having bought manorial titles for all of them including Lady Natalie, while Colin was left without a handle to his name.

But his niece, Lady Natalie, claimed Colin didn’t deserve a penny because he had been an ungrateful son who turned his back on his parents.

In evidence, Colin said he had preferred his father to his mother when growing up, but father and son ended up falling out badly after working alongside each other in the family business.

Tempers ended up boiling over during a heated business meeting in 1991 which ended with Colin walking out after his father told him he could ‘leave if he didn’t like what was happening’.

A court dispute kicked off the following year over the family business and its assets, and Colin never spoke to his father again due to their ‘rift’.

However, Lady Natalie claimed Colin alienated him with a consuming gambling habit which set in from the early 1980s onwards.

The long-running court battle was finally settled at the High Court last week by a judge

And she claimed Colin made no effort to reconcile with his father after their rift in 1991, even staying away from his funeral in 2017.

Awarding him the £175,000 payout – including to cover his lawyers’ bills – in 2019, Judge Edwin Johnson said Sidney had made a fixed decision back in the 1970s to exclude Colin from his will.

And he had ‘behaved unreasonably in making and maintaining his decision that Colin should inherit nothing’.

‘It seems to me to have been symptomatic of a relationship with his parents – for which Colin was not ultimately responsible, which was always going to cause family strife, did cause family strife, and has now left Colin in…straitened financial circumstances,’ he said.

Following the ruling that she should pay, Lady Natalie took the case back to court, insisting that any payout to her uncle should be cut to reflect more than £100,000 owed by Colin to his father following an earlier legal dispute.

Lady Natalie claimed she had discovered a 20-year-old lawyers’ letter in a box of old family papers, proving that Colin still owed his dad cash due to their legal dispute in the 1990s.

She only stumbled on the documents several months after her original case was rejected in December 2019, the court heard.

But Colin’s barrister, David Giles, said the pensioner is in acute need of cash to help him through his final years – particularly since he doesn’t own his own home and lives in rented housing in Barnet.

If ultimately forced to leave their current home, he and his wife are ‘substantially at risk of ending up homeless,’ said Mr Giles.

In a judgment last week, Judge James Brightwell accepted Lady Natalie as an ‘honest and truthful witness’, although noting she felt a ‘great deal of hostility towards Colin’.

But he said the 2019 judgment in Colin’s favour was made on the clear understanding that he owed nothing to his dad’s estate.

Given that fact, it would be unfair to force Colin now to pay Natalie money from his award, he said.

‘I find, despite the tenacious and perspicuous submissions made on Natalie’s behalf, that Colin is entitled to a declaration that his…award is payable without deduction,’ the judge concluded.

The court heard Lord Sidney Johnston made his money running a car and property business in north London called Johnston and Sons.

His wife, Lady Elsie, died in 2013 and his son, Lady Natalie’s father Lord Gary in 2016.

In all, Lord Sidney left behind a 2.4million estate – with a net value after expenses of £1.4million.

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