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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 March, 2004, 12:56 GMT
Woman loses house to charity
By Tanya Gupta
BBC News Online, South East

Jean Mason says she will hold on to the door frames as she is evicted

A bottle of wine from her sister's wedding in 1959 is one of the memories Jean Mason is preparing to put behind her forever.

The red wine, with its patina of dust, is a memento of the life she shared with her sister Sheila Holmes.

But Miss Mason is now facing the prospect of bailiffs taking possession of the house the two women once shared - after her sister left the 400,000 home to animal charities in her will.

Sifting through the contents of the house, including the bottle, labelled with her sister's handwritten notes saying "please do not open" - Miss Mason expects most of the contents will end up in a skip near the house in Sevenoaks, Kent.

She contends her sister was "not in her right mind" when she made out her will.

When their mother died in 1970, Miss Mason moved in with her sister and brother-in-law and stayed for 15 years.

She said: "I only went for a couple of weeks, but when I said I was going home, Peter said this is your home. Stay here and get a job."

Mr Holmes took the whole family under his wing, including herself when she became a single mother in 1977.

Sheila Holmes
Sheila Holmes left 25,000 to her sister and her house to animals
She said: "He took my sister and her whole family on. He was such a family man. I never bought a car, or paid car tax or road insurance - he wouldn't hear of it. He was a wonderful man."

When she finally moved out in 1985 because she wanted to live on her own, it was to a flat in a neighbouring road.

But she continued to care for her sister, who had fallen ill with bowel cancer the previous year, and the two remained close, seeing each other every day.

Miss Mason said: "I have looked after her. I have been her best friend. I did all her shopping and all her hospital runs. I did everything for her."

She thought she might inherit the house, but realised this would not happen when she discussed the future care of three foxes which Mr and Mrs Holmes had tamed.

"My sister's reply was I couldn't afford to live in the house - and then I realised there was a problem," Miss Mason said.

She said after Mr Holmes' death in 1996, at the age of 59, Mrs Holmes never recovered, buying three wardrobes for her late husband and filling them with clothes for him.

Miss Mason said she has continued to care for her late sister's cats, Misty and Kizzy, as well as the foxes.

One of four children, Miss Mason also has a brother and sister in Eastbourne, East Sussex, where the family grew up - the other two did not benefit from the will, but said they did not want anything.

Cat
The three-bedroom house in Sevenoaks is still home to two cats

Miss Mason was left 25,000 by her sister, who died aged 66, in 2001, but spent most of that money contesting the will after she moved back into the house in 2002 and vowed to stay there.

At a county court hearing, the judge ruled against her after which eviction proceedings began.

Now alone, spending her last weekend in the house in Childsbridge Lane, she said: "You can't blame me for trying."

Charities to benefit from Mrs Holmes' will include the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, Battersea Dogs Home and Cats Protection.

Cats Protection said it regularly benefited from people's wills.

A spokesman said if there were cats in the house, the charity would be happy to care for them and rehome them.

A statement issued by the solicitors to the executors said: "It is not correct that Miss Mason will be evicted from her home, since it is believed her own residence remains available to her.

"Whilst the executors and charities might sympathise with Miss Mason's plight, they are bound by the wishes of Mrs Holmes."




SEE ALSO:
Fur flies over 1m house for cats
04 Mar 04  |  London


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