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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 17:44 GMT 18:44 UK
Heiress jailed in antiques row
The future of the family home has caused a feud
The future of the family home has caused a feud
A County Down heiress has been jailed for failing to reveal where she has hidden antiques at the centre of a family feud which dates back 10 years.

Marion Scarlett Needham Russell, 33, refused to obey a Northern Ireland High Court order to return the furniture and paintings, worth 250,000, to her family.

She refused a final chance by a judge on Monday to hand over 28 items, which she took from the mansion in Kilkeel, County Down, to her brother and sister.

Mrs Russell was sent to Maghaberry Prison, County Antrim, after being held in contempt of court.

Marion Russell: Vowed to continue to defy court order
Marion Russell: Vowed to continue to defy court order

The court action was the culmination of a 10-year family battle over the future of the Mourne Park House estate in Kilkeel and whether it should be kept private or opened to the public.

The three siblings each own a third of the property and Mrs Needham said her father, who died of cancer 10 years ago, had wanted her to develop it and make it self-supporting.

Before going into custody, Mrs Needham - a relative of former Conservative MP and ex-Northern Ireland Minister Richard Needham - said she would continue to defy the court order.

"I will not tell where the antiques are. I have lost enough," she said.

Richard Needham: Relative of Mrs Russell
Richard Needham: Relative of Mrs Russell

"It's gone too far. It's gone way beyond where it should have been allowed to go."

The Police Service of Northern Ireland confirmed on Tuesday that Mrs Russell had gone to Kilkeel police station with her solicitor by arrangement at lunchtime to be arrested, before being taken to prison.

Although Mrs Russell, a descendant of the Earl of Kilmorey, has been jailed for 14 days she is due to go before the High Court again next week.

Directors

The application to have her committed to prison was made by lawyers acting for her sister, Mrs Debonair Norah Needham Horsman, of Banbridge, County Down and her brother, Philip James Anley, of Mourne Park in Kilkeel.

Speaking before her arrest, Mrs Russell said she had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds preparing the estate for development.

However, in 1998, the other company directors - her brother and sister - decided they wanted to keep it private.

On legal advice, she had taken the decision to separate her interests from her siblings, she said, and four years later had spent 400,000 trying to disentangle herself.

She said the house was now decaying and she had taken the items the court ordered her to return "to salvage something before everything was destroyed".

Mrs Russell added that she had everything valued and "took only what added up to my share of the chattels".

The court ordered her to hand them back because her brother and sister argued a planned auction of family heirlooms would not be a success without them.

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's rural affairs correspondent Martin Cassidy
"She is paying the price of her contempt behind bars"
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11 Feb 02 | N Ireland
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