The widow of a multi-millionaire author embroiled in a High Court battle over their £3.5 million family home and valuable art collection has blasted his “cruel and greedy” kids.
Rana Seale, widow of world-renowned historian and writer Patrick Seale, is fighting in court with their daughter Yasmine Seale and her two stepchildren, following her husband’s death in 2015.
The couple had been married for 29 years, but were said to have had a “stormy” relationship.
Mr Seale had been talking to lawyers about divorcing Rana in the weeks before he died, aged 83, from brain cancer.
In the months leading up to his death, he severed the joint ownership of their £3.5m west London home, meaning his half went into his estate instead of passing to Rana when he died.
Mrs Seale and their son Alexander faced being thrown out of the Holland Park home, which prompted a bitter High Court fight with the mother and son facing off against Yasmine and her siblings Orlando Seale and Delilah Jeary, from Patrick’s other relationships.
Last week, the case reached court, where Mrs Seale blasted the trio as “cruel, litigious and greedy”.
Ahead of a full trial of the house fight due in January, she accused them of “ruining” her and her son’s health.
“Nothing can give us back those years, nothing can give back these five-and-a-half years of burlesque proceedings brought against Alexander and myself by his siblings,” she told Mrs Justice Bacon.
The court heard of how Middle-East expert Patrick and Rana bought their three-storey, six-bedroom home in St Ann’s Villas for £1.75m in 2009.
According to an online house price calculator, it is now worth about £3.5m.
Patrick’s son Orlando, 48, a musician, actor and former understudy to Sir Kenneth Branagh, is from his first marriage, while he brought up ITN producer Delilah, 45, who is the child of his first wife and author Martin Amis, as his own.
He and Rana, who says she “fled totalitarianism” in her native Syria to come to the UK, also had two children together, poet and writer Jasmine Seale, 32, and her disabled brother Alexander Seale, 34.
Prior to his death, papers were filed severing Patrick and Rana’s joint ownership of the property.
This meant his half went into his estate, to share equally under the terms of his will between his widow and all four kids.
Both Rana and Alexander have since cast doubt on the validity of the severance of the joint ownership, alleging that because of the nature of the transaction and his failing health it should be presumed he had been “unduly influenced.”
During an earlier hearing in the dispute, during which Rana has represented herself, she said threats of divorce had been a feature of their “stormy” relationship, but never happened.
“We were saying we wanted to get divorced every day. It was stormy, it was crazy, but it was never subject to divorce,” she said.
“I may have said to him ‘I want to divorce you’ and he may have said to me ‘I want to divorce you’ a hundred million times, but neither of us ever made that step.”
Due to missing court deadlines, Rana has previously been excluded from fighting the case against Yasmine, Orlando and Delilah.
But the court heard she now wants her involvement to be reinstated so that she and Alexander – whose interests are “one and the same” – can join forces.
However, even if she is not rejoined as a party she stands to benefit if Alexander wins, as she will inherit the whole house – and therefore be able to continue living there with him.
For Orlando, Delilah and Jasmine, barrister Richard Fowler denies any undue influence.
He says Patrick had been advised by his solicitor to consider severing the joint ownership to “protect his interests” when he began considering divorce.
He was advised that, because the house was jointly owned with his wife, the children would get no share of it when he died, since his half would pass automatically to her.
The three children did not have control over Patrick’s financial affairs, nor day to day responsibility for his care and welfare, he says.
He also aIso said they were not controlling Patrick, but acting like assistants, with him giving directions and carrying them out.
In court last week, Rana argued she should be allowed to fight alongside Alexander, since he is disabled and she is his carer, and that she does not believe the decision to sever joint ownership was her husband’s.
“My husband wanted me to provide on his death for Alexander,” she told the judge.
“My husband was not in a fit state to do any of the things they say he agreed to.
“I deny completely his capacity to have tried to divorce me…I deny completely that divorce proceedings were anything but a sham to try and steal half of my marital house after 29 years of marriage.”
She also said she contested a previous court order, under which she was told to hand over her husband’s “highly valuable” Middle Eastern art collection to the three siblings, who are executors of his will.
She said she feared that if they were handed to solicitors, they might never be seen again, insisting that since both she and Alexander are entitled to a fifth share each under Patrick’s will, it was in their interests that they were not lost.
But Mr Fowler, for the three siblings, said they were simply acting correctly as executors in seeking to “get in” the assets of Patrick’s estate so that they can be sold and everyone can receive their rightful inheritance.
“This was an estate asset and they were trying to get it in,” he said. “When realised, all five have an interest in it.”
The court heard Rana is appealing various court orders in relation to the long-running case and will next month apply to be restored as a party in the dispute over the house.
Mrs Justice Bacon refused to “stay” the order that she hand over the art but said a hearing in her claim to stand alongside Alexander in January’s trial would take place next month.