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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 12:32 GMT
Auction ruling over heirlooms
Mourne Park House
Future of family home and contents have caused feud
Valuable heirlooms which have caused a split among the descendants of a Northern Ireland peer are to be moved out of the ancestral home pending an auction, a judge has ruled.

In the High Court, Mr Justice Girvan made an order allowing an auction firm to enter Mourne Park House in Kilkeel, County Down, to remove and store the heirlooms until an auction could be held.

The judge also made an order restraining Marion Russell, a great-granddaughter of the Earl of Kilmorey, who has already spent a week in jail for contempt of court, not to obstruct the auction house of Osborne Hamilton King.

Mrs Russell, 33, who lives in converted stables on the 800-acre Mourne Park estate, was jailed on the application of her sister, Debonair Norah Needham Horsman, 35, and brother, Philip James Anley, 26.

It followed her refusal to disclose where she hidden 250,000 worth of heirlooms she removed from the house.

Ten-year battle

The court action has been the culmination of a 10-year family battle over the future of the ancestral home and whether it should be kept private or opened to the public.

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

Mrs Russell said she had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds preparing the estate for development.

But her brother and sister want to keep it private.

Much of the legal argument in the case has centred on contradictory lists of heirlooms, from which each of the three siblings had picked a one-third share.

Auction

The court heard on Friday that the order to remove the heirlooms was being made to avoid further expense in guarding them and also to prevent damage due to the state of the former home.

Mr Justice Girvan said that if there was expert evidence that the heirlooms removed by Mrs Russell - which have still not been located - would result in a "devalued auction" then her sister and brother would be entitled to claim monetary compensation.

The judge said that if a further order was sought to commit Mrs Russell to jail, again the court might have to impose a very lengthy period of imprisonment which could end immediately if she purged her contempt.

"In the old days a person could be committed indefinitely," he added.

The judge adjourned the hearing until 10 December when he expected progress to have been made in agreeing a complete list of the heirlooms in dispute.

"If not, I will have to decide what the consequences will be," he said.

See also:

15 Nov 02 | N Ireland
03 Oct 02 | N Ireland
01 Oct 02 | N Ireland
24 Sep 02 | N Ireland
11 Feb 02 | N Ireland
Links to more N Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.


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