Widow left £10m fortune to a Chinese restaurant
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.