The Queen will have to find a new home for a team of rare horses she owns after the ‘deceitful’ occupiers of the stud farm where they live had a possession order issued against them by a judge.
The defendants have run the stud farm for more than a decade where they breed and care for about 100 animals, including Equus Kinsky horses, 10 of which are owned by the Queen.
The farm was the brainchild of a now deceased businessman (the deceased) who entered into a venture with the defendants in 1999 to develop the house and land with a view to onward sale.
The deceased had invested more than £2 million in the property but had not seen any profit by the time he died in 2009.
Following his death, a dispute arose between the defendants and the deceased’s son (the claimant) who sought possession of the farm on behalf of his father's estate along with repayment of a £260,000 loan his father had made to the defendants.
However, the defendants refused to leave the farm, claiming that the deceased had given them the farmland prior to his death. They also refused to repay the loan, claiming that the deceased had waived repayment of the debt before he died.
Ruling on the case at the High Court, Judge Simon Brown QC found that the defendants’ evidence was unreliable. He ordered the defendants to give up possession of the farm to the claimant within 28 days.
The defendants were also ordered to pay £473,250 to satisfy the debt and to pay the legal costs of the case.
The farm was bought in 1999 through a company owned by the deceased and there was an agreement between him and the defendants to split the profits if the property was successfully developed and sold.
However, following difficulties obtaining necessary planning consents, the project did not proceed and the defendants claimed that the deceased subsequently gave them the land to use as a stud farm.
The defendants argued that they had ‘put everything they had’ into developing the stud farm and that they were gifted the farm, excluding the house, by the deceased in 2005 in recognition of their efforts.
The deceased had ‘fallen under the spell’ of the property and had intended to move into the farmhouse, the defendants argued.
However, upholding the claimant’s case, Judge Brown said of the defendants: ‘The defences they have advanced are internally inconsistent and at odds with the picture painted by the documentation.’
The judge said that the deceased had ‘worked things out in trusting collaboration’ with the defendants. Dismissing claims that the deceased had given the defendants the farmland and waived the debt, he added: ‘Such an arrangement would have been ludicrously un-commercial.
‘It is simply incredible that a successful businessman, as the deceased undoubtedly was, would have entered into such an arrangement,
‘The gross discrepancies between the different cases advanced by defendants and the documentary evidence…strongly indicate that the defendants manufactured their cases...in the belief that they cannot now be gainsaid in the absence of the deceased.’
The judge said that the deceased had been a ‘silent witness though his papers’ in the case. He added: ‘In my judgement it is not remotely credible that the deceased felt that the defendants had earned the farm.’
The judge said of the defendants: ‘They are inherently untruthful people in their own self-interests and were in these claims and in court. The deceased mistakenly placed his trust in them and they have abused that trust for their own gain and, by these claims, continue to do so.’
Judge Brown directed that papers in the case be passed to the Director of Public Prosecutions and also imposed a worldwide freezing injunction over the defendants’ assets up to the value of the orders he made against them.
Piers Harrison, the claimant’s barrister, said outside court that the Queen's horses would be returned to her after the defendants have given up possession of the property unless prior arrangements are made for their collection.
‘It is just like when you evict tenants from a house and they leave furniture behind, but the horses are just a lot more valuable," he said.