The strange case of the shredded Will.

Earlier this year (April) Henrietta (Hetty) Katheryn Freeman (nee Magnus) died. (Henceforth HF.)

She married my father in December 1963 – my mother died some 18 months earlier.

In the months following my father’s death in the summer of 2011 – and possibly over the course of in total 12/15 months - HF shredded papers/documents pertaining to my father including a copy of his Will, which was never submitted to probate. The proof I have is conjecture / circumstantial rather than sound and it would of course be for a court of law to render any judgement.

I have been warned that by posting this and the sending of emails on this matter, I could be sued for defamation after the fact by HF’s Will estate executor. But as also pointed out to me, such an action would at least bring the matter to court. I recognize that the solicitor who prepared HF’s Will had no involvement/knowledge of the deception carried out by HF.

HF left four-fifths of her estate to four Bournemouth, UK Jewish organizations. The remaining one-fifth was left to me. Nothing to my sister. Moreover, any items from the estate – such as items given by my parents at their wedding in 1947 – could be purchased from the estate and market value price. As it turned out, the value of these and other items was deemed to be minimal and I was able to secure three items for my sister.

The road to my conclusion was clearly marked with red flags; however not being a Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, I failed to pick up on the clues until recently.

• Red Flag #1: a day or two after my father’s funeral, while still sitting Shiva, HF showed me a copy of my father’s Will. I have zero recollection of the contents, the name of the solicitor who prepared the Will, nor – fool me – did I make a copy of the Will.

• Red Flag #2: A few weeks later I visited Bournemouth – I felt an obligation to visit HF as much as possible. On this visit, I remarked on the appearance of a shedding machine in the apartment lounge close to her chair. When I joked about the machine, HF told me that she received a great deal of junk mail, and rather than just throw the mail away she preferred to shed it “to perverse her privacy as she knew of people in the area who had their bins searched by fraudsters”.

• Red Flag #3: on a subsequent visit a couple of months later, the shedding machine was in her bedroom to the right of the dressing table. HF had asked me to look at the machine as it was jammed. I unjammed the machine – she had tried to shred pieces of cardboard. On the dressing table stall was a pile of paper, presumably for shedding. When I told HF that I would move the shredder to the lounge and shed the pile, she became extremely agitated and asked me to leave her bedroom. The following afternoon when saying my goodbye, HF asked me to carry down to the council trash bin a sack of shredded paper. Although I could easily lift the bag with one hand, I estimate that the sack was around four kilos in weight. I can only suppose that given the state of her physical health, she dragged the sack from her bedroom to the lounge in anticipation of my carrying it downstairs. It must have given her a laugh at my expense, me not knowing that I was in all probability trashing my father’s papers/documents.

• Red Flag #4: Fast forward to April this year. A few days after HF’s death, I received an email from the solicitor who prepared her Will. In a subsequent telephone call the same day, I asked the solicitor if he had a copy of my father’s will. He told me that not only did you not have a copy of his will, he had not seen sight of it. I understood that HF came to see him specifically to draw up her Will. Why I asked myself much later did she approach a new solicitor rather than the Bournemouth-based solicitor who prepared my father’s Will and no doubt handled property conveyancing and other legal issues for my father?

• Red Flag #5: Despite my IT skills, I was unable to find a copy of my father’s Will within the (UK) public domain. This past summer I commissioned an in-depth search by a London-based specialist company. Their extensive search including public domains and resources used by the legal profession in England and Wales provided no results.

• Red Flag #6: Occasionally what is not there, screams the loudest. In my mail of September 17, 2018, to the solicitor, I inquired regarding papers/documents about the Bragovsky/Freedman/Freeman family.

His response highlighted the absence of any “official” papers/documents about my father: his birth certificate, the marriage certificate between my father and mother, papers relating to my mother’s death in 1962, and of course my father’s Will. And much, much more.

The solicitor in his response to me wrote: “For the record when I initially searched the flat for papers with a colleague, we specifically sought official papers of the type that you have referred to along with other financial papers. Furthermore, the company who carried out the flat clearance has worked with us for many years and will always forward to us any official papers that are found.” It was striking that the only “official” papers found in the apartment were 15 pages ALL relating to HF.

The above helped cement a hypothesis that I arrived at a few weeks ago that with forethought, HF did systematically shred papers/documents relating to my father.

Proving it in a court of law is another matter.

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