Widow left £10m for­tune to a Chi­nese restau­rant

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY A JC CORRESPONDENT

A WIDOW who left her £10 mil­lion for­tune to a cou­ple who run a Chi­nese restau­rant did not know what she was do­ing, Lon­don’s High Court heard this week.

Golda Bechal died, aged 89, in Jan­uary 2004, leav­ing al­most her en­tire es­tate went to Kim Man and his wife, Bee, from Chelms­ford, Es­sex.

The other ben­e­fi­cia­ries were a num­ber of char­i­ties, in­clud­ing Jewish causes. Her fam­ily re­ceived noth­ing and are chal­leng­ing wills she made in May and Au­gust 1994.

Mr Man was 13 when he be­friended Mrs Bechal in the 1960s. One of Mrs Bechal’s com­pa­nies had rented out a restau­rant to his fa­ther in Es­sex. Ms Pene­lope Reed, rep­re­sent­ing the Mans, said that Mrs Bechal had be­come one of the fam­ily and would go on hol­i­day with them. She re­lied in­creas­ingly on them as she got older.

Mrs Bechal’s nieces and neph­ews, San­dra Black­man, of Ful­ham; Bar­bara Green, of Re­gent’s Park; Lau­rence Lebor, who lives in Is­rael; Louise Barnard, of Barnet; and Mervyn Lebor, of Leeds, say the pen­sioner was so men­tally frail that the wills are in­valid.

Stephen Lloyd, for the nieces and neph­ews, ar­gued that Mrs Bechal was suf­fer­ing from de­men­tia at the time she made the wills.

Mr Lloyd ar­gued that there was no ev­i­dence to sug­gest Mrs Bechal knew how much her es­tate was worth, and why the doc­u­ments she signed in 1994 dif­fered so much from a 1988 will which ben­e­fited her fam­ily but has never been found.

Mrs Man had ac­com­pa­nied Mrs Bechal to Bar­clays Bank on the days in May and Au­gust 1994 when the wills were drawn up, al­though she waited out of earshot when they were signed.

Mr Man, in his early 50s, said Mrs Bechal had once de­scribed her fam­ily as a “bunch of hooli­gans”, and she be­lieved they were af­ter her money.

He would of­ten buy food for Mrs Bechal — a “proper posh lady” — who was par­tic­u­larly fond of beansprouts and Chi­nese pick­led leeks.

In ev­i­dence, Mrs Man also in­sisted that Mrs Bechal, whose only son died, aged 28, in 1974, did not want her fam­ily to get their hands on her mil­lions. “She said: ‘I’ll leave it to Kim and you, you are the peo­ple who look af­ter me’.”

Mrs Black­man said the fam­ily had in­structed private de­tec­tives in 1994 be­cause of con­cern over “var­i­ous in­flu­ences”. The de­tec­tives tailed Mrs Bechal when she was with the Mans, but re­ported noth­ing un­to­ward.

She in­sisted that the fam­ily “were not very in­ter­ested” in Mrs Bechal’s fi­nan­cial af­fairs. The case con­tin­ues.

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