Disinherited sisters launch legal battle

TWO sisters have begun a legal battle after being cut out of their father's will and losing what they believed would be their inheritance – a 250-acre racehorse stud at Newmarket.

TWO sisters have begun a legal battle after being cut out of their father's will and losing what they believed would be their inheritance - a 250-acre racehorse stud at Newmarket.

The late Neil Adam, former racehorse trainer and owner of Collin Stud, was in the advanced stages of Multiple Sclerosis and could only communicate by blinking and moving his head when he cut his daughters out of his will, a judge sitting at the High Court heard.

Yesterday saw the start of a legal battle for control of the successful horse-breeding business he founded, between Robin Sharp and Malcolm Bryson, two long serving members of staff named in the will, and Mr Adam's two grown-up daughters.

Barrister Mark Jones, representing Mr Adam's daughters Grace and Emma, told Judge Nicholas Strauss, QC, there was no explanation for the trainer to suddenly omit the women from a will drawn up in June 2001, 14 months before his death.

He said they had been included in all previous wills and at the time the will was drawn up he was "extremely vulnerable" and had suffered brain damage as a result of his condition as early as 1996.

And Mr Jones questioned whether Mr Adam had been mentally fit to alter his will and whether it had been properly executed.

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Gilead Cooper, acting on behalf of Messrs Sharp and Bryson, said that despite Mr Adam's deteriorating health, he had remained "intelligent and strong-minded" and generally "knew his own mind", and was therefore mentally strong enough to know what he was doing.

He described Mr Adam as having been infatuated with horseracing and his passion was manifest in his later years in the stud, which he wished to continue as a business after his death.

He added: "Mr Bryson and Mr Sharp shared Mr Adam's interest in the stud and were the best persons equipped to run it after his death.

"They had, moreover, served him loyally since boyhood and had worked for lower wages than they could have earned elsewhere. Mr Adam owed them a debt of gratitude."

Stud manager Robin Sharp had been with Mr Adam since 1975, when he left school, and worked his way up from stable lad to running the breeding operation.

Mr Bryson joined Mr Adam in 1982 and has been at the stud all his working his life, rising to the position of stud groom and assistant manager.

Mr Adam had been a successful vet and trainer before turning to breeding, earning the nickname "King of the Sprints" for his wins with horses such as Gentilhombre, who was crowned champion sprinter of Europe.

He had been ill for several years with Multiple Sclerosis at the time of his death in August 2002 at the age of 70.

Speaking from the witness box, Grace Adam said that, if she won control of Collin Stud in her High Court fight, she would run it with her sister Emma.

Miss Adam, who has a degree in fine art, added that she expected to be left the property by her father and denied her real intention was to cash it in.

"I work with people, I'm good with people I have got my head screwed on. I would have worked in partnership with my sister Emma," said Miss Adam in response to a claim she had "no experience" in running a stud.

Describing the stud as an "exciting prospect", she added: "I thought dad would leave us the stud and we would keep it going and make it successful."

Earlier barrister, Gilhead Cooper, for Robin Sharp and Malcolm Bryson, subjected Miss Adam to fierce cross-examination on the mental state of her father.

It is Miss Adam's case that her father was so mentally frail at the time he made a will leaving everything to employees Mr Sharp and Mr Bryson that he could not have known what he was doing.

But Mr Cooper asked why, if that was the case, Miss Adam wrote a number of letters shortly before the will was signed saying her father had agreed to give her money to help her buy a house.

The letters were written to those in charge of financial affairs at Collin Stud, and Mr Cooper insisted they would have been pointless had Mr Adam been unaware of what he was doing.

"They did not come back and say how can you possibly have had such a conversation," said Mr Cooper.

Miss Adam claimed her comments in the letter had been "careless" and said she had written it because it expressed her father's wish - made long before he became ill - that she buy a house for herself.

But Mr Cooper insisted: "The truth is he could give his approval, you knew he could and so did other people."

Miss Adam, who had earlier clashed with the barrister over his "aggressive" attitude, replied: "I don't know what you want me to say."

The case continues.

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