A bereaved husband who was so upset about his estranged wife’s death he torched all her money is now being sued by her partner who is demanding he replaces the incinerated cash.
Navpreet Walia, 40, of Prenton Gardens, Cleveleys, says he was so affected by grief over the premature death of wife Jocelyn he “literally burned” the £68,000 in cash that represented the whole of her estate, London’s Appeal Court heard.
Mr Walia, as his wife’s next of kin, was her sole heir when she died without making a will at the age of just 38, in March 2011 – despite the couple having separated some years previously.
Now he is being sued by his wife’s partner in what a judge described as “a family tragedy”.
Lord Justice Davis, sitting in the Appeal Court, heard the couple married in July 2003, and had a daughter, before Mrs Walia left the matrimonial home in Lancaster and formed a new relationship.
She had another child with her new partner, Felipe Lim.
Because Mrs Walia had not made a will before her death from cancer, everything she owned – including her half share of a £130,000 life insurance policy and the equity in the home they once shared – was inherited by her estranged husband.
But Mr Lim and Mrs Walia’s children have claimed a share of the estate.
Judge David Hodge ruled, last year, at Manchester High Court they were entitled to “reasonable provision” from the money she left behind.
Mr Walia, however, insists his late wife’s estate is insolvent and that he burnt all her cash to ashes while in a state he described as “more than upset” following her death.
Describing the case as “somewhat unusual”, Mr Walia’s counsel, Neil Vickery, told Lord Justice Davis his client could lose his home if he has to replace the money he incinerated.
Simon Charles, for Mr Lim and the children, said: “It has been admitted frankly the money has been burnt. This is conduct one should bear in mind when considering whether to grant Mr Walia the indulgence which he seeks.
“My clients have some difficulty accepting the money has gone,” he added, although he accepted bank records showed that “tens of thousands of pounds” had been withdrawn from the account holding the late Mrs Walia’s money around the time that her husband says he burnt it.
Lord Justice Davis granted Mr Walia permission to appeal, on condition that, within 10 days, he signs a sworn statement, “giving details of exactly how, where and when the money was literally burnt.”
The judge said there “is some evidence he (Mr Walia) has been suffering from a significant depressive illness, although he is “clearly an articulate and intelligent man.”
Outside court afterwards, when asked if he had burnt the money because he was upset at his wife’s death, Mr Walia said: “Yes, I was more than upset, but I don’t want to say any more about it at the moment. I’ll put it all down in the affidavit for the judge.”
If Mr Walia does not file the affidavit within the 10-day deadline, his appeal will be automatically dismissed.