Page last updated at 12:35 GMT, Friday, 9 October 2009 13:35 UK

Woman wins RSPCA will challenge

Christine Gill: "It's all been tremendously hard"

A woman who contested her parents' will after they left their £2.34m estate in North Yorkshire to the RSPCA has won her legal battle.

Christine Gill, 58, claimed her father forced her mother into making the will and she had been assured she would inherit the farm near Northallerton.

Dr Gill said she was happy and "about to burst into tears" after a judge ruled she should inherit the estate.

The RSPCA said it was "very surprised" and "disappointed" and would appeal.

Speaking outside the High Court hearing in Leeds, Dr Gill said: "It's all been tremendously hard - the waiting was hard, the uncertainty.

"I'm shaking and about to burst into tears. I'm quite happy and very relieved at the same time."

He directed his domineering and bombastic personality to Mrs Gill, utilising her anxiety and fear of his explosive character
Court judgement

Dr Gill, an only child, told the court she had devoted many years to helping out on Potto Carr Farm.

In his judgement Judge James Allen QC said it would be "unconscionable" if she did not inherit the estate.

He found that Dr Gill's mother Joyce had been "coerced" by her husband John into making a will that was contrary to her wishes as she had an "avowed dislike" of the charity.

He said that Mrs Gill had wanted her daughter to inherit the farm but Mr Gill had exerted pressure over his wife to favour the RSPCA.

The judge agreed with expert evidence heard during last year's hearings that Mrs Gill suffered from agoraphobia and severe anxiety.

Judge Allen described Mr Gill as a "bully" and a "domineering" and "determined" man.

RSPCA spokesman Henry Macaulay said the charity was disappointed

The judgement read: "The court is satisfied that having made his decision Mr Gill exerted pressure upon Mrs Gill to make the will, which she did which was contrary to her wishes."

It continued: "He directed his domineering and bombastic personality to Mrs Gill, utilising her anxiety and fear of his explosive character and of the possibility of her losing her support upon which she was so dependent to coerce her into making the will which she did."

'Difficult position'

Previous hearings were told how, after her mother's death in 2006, Dr Gill, from Northallerton, discovered her parents had made wills leaving their 287-acre farm to each other and then to the animal charity when both died.

This was despite Dr Gill having been given repeated assurances that she would inherit the estate when her parents died.

The hearings were told how the Leeds University lecturer had devoted most of her spare time over a period of more than 30 years to voluntarily helping out at the farm.

Christine Gill and her father John Gill
Christine Gill's father John was described as "domineering"

When Mr Gill died in 1999, aged 82, Dr Gill was left to look after her mother and run the farm.

It was only when her mother died in 2006, also aged 82, that she saw the will, which left everything to the RSPCA.

Dr Gill's solicitor Mark Keenan said they backed her because they believed she had suffered an injustice.

The RSPCA said it planned to appeal against the judgement.

It said in a statement: "Throughout this, the RSPCA has been in an extremely difficult position.

"The will left by Dr Gill's parents was very clear - in one sentence they left their entire estate to the RSPCA, and in the next they said their daughter should receive nothing.

"In that situation the RSPCA cannot just walk away, in fact we are legally obliged to seek the funds under charitable law.

"That said, we are a compassionate organisation, and that's why we've tried to settle this matter amicably before it even came to court. Unfortunately our offers were rejected."

The charity said it had made different offers to settle the case through possible compromises, including an offer of £650,000 plus Dr Gill's costs.

It added the case highlighted the importance of people discussing their intentions with family when making a will.

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