Former Royal British Legion secretary accused of 'forgery' over neighbour's £5m will withdraws his claim on the cash

A former British Legion secretary accused of 'forgery' over a neighbour's £5million will has withdrawn his claim on the cash.

Relatives of wealthy but 'vulnerable' former air hostess Joan Sutcliffe had been alarmed at the 'sudden presence' of Mark Pidsley, 70, in the twilight of her life.

They were even more alarmed when after her death, a 'new will' emerged – with Mr Pidsley controlling vast sums of money previously destined for her stepdaughter Bridget Spencer, 68.

Mr Pidsley, a public school old boy, son of a lieutenant colonel, and stalwart of the conservation society of his seaside town - where his garden bordered Mrs Sutcliffe's - launched a legal bid to have the new will validated.

But after Mrs Spencer discovered two witnesses to the new will said they knew nothing about it, she fought in court.

Mark Pidsley, 70, a former British Legion secretary accused of 'forgery' over neighbour Joan Sutcliffe's £5m will, has withdrawn his claim on the cash

Mark Pidsley, 70, a former British Legion secretary accused of 'forgery' over neighbour Joan Sutcliffe's £5m will, has withdrawn his claim on the cash

Former air hostess Mrs Sutcliffe met her late husband John while serving him in First Class, when he was still married to his first wife

Former air hostess Mrs Sutcliffe met her late husband John while serving him in First Class, when he was still married to his first wife

Now Mr Pidsley has told London's High Court that he accepts the 2019 will should be declared invalid. And he has agreed a previous 2011 document, leaving the bulk of Mrs Sutcliffe's £5million to her stepdaughter, should be upheld.

Mr Pidsley's barrister Brie Stevens-Hoare KC, denied all allegations of dishonesty, saying his client had known Mrs Sutcliffe as a neighbour for more than 40 years. The court made no finding of dishonesty against Mr Pidsley.

Retired British Overseas Airways Corporation hostess Mrs Sutcliffe, who died in September 2020 aged 90, owned three luxury homes: a large house in Putney, west London, a flat in southern France and a Victorian harbour-side villa in Lymington, in the New Forest, Hants.

And under a 2011 will, her estate was largely left to stepdaughter Bridget Spencer and Mrs Spencer's three children, Rebecca Spencer, Victoria Turan and Harry Spencer.

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Much of the fortune, after all, came from Mrs Sutcliffe's late husband John Sutcliffe, who she met when serving him in First Class, when he was still married to his first wife.

But the shock new will and letter of wishes, dated March 25, 2019, effectively left the lion's share to Mr Pidsley and his son David.

Aghast Mrs Spencer and other old friends of Mrs Sutcliffe had only first heard of Mr Pidsley two years before her death – when they learned he had driven her from Lymington to her London residence, where he then stayed as a guest.

When he sought to uphold the 'new' document, Mrs Spencer claimed the 2019 will was a 'a forgery and a false document' which 'in all probability' was created by the former British Legion branch officer.

Mr Pidsley and his son denied any dishonesty, maintaining the 2019 documents reflected Mrs Sutcliffe's last wishes.

Mr Pidsley had agreed a previous 2011 document, leaving the bulk of Mrs Sutcliffe's £5m to her stepdaughter, should be upheld

Mr Pidsley had agreed a previous 2011 document, leaving the bulk of Mrs Sutcliffe's £5m to her stepdaughter, should be upheld

But the case has now been settled, with the Pidsleys agreeing to a consent order which declares the 2019 will invalid, and leaves the bulk of Mrs Sutcliffe's £5million to her stepdaughter as directed by the 'true will' from 2011.

Mrs Spencer's barrister Fay Collinson had told the court it was not until two years after Mrs Sutcliffe's death that a 'letter of wishes' supposedly created by her belatedly emerged.

It said the bulk of her fortune should go into a trust controlled by Mr Pidsley and his son David, at their 'sole discretion for your benefit or given to your family as you see fit'.

The 2019 documents left stepdaughter Mrs Spencer with a mere £10,000 and her children just £2,000 each and some jewellery.

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And as the Daily Mail revealed earlier this year, two acquaintances of Mr Pidsley, Simon Parker and Marie Pollack, whose names are down as witnesses to the 2019 will, came forward to say they did not knowingly sign it.

They added, in court statements that they were later asked by Mr Pidsley to put their signatures to a flowery letter he had written setting out 'a fictitious set of events' involving them witnessing the disputed will in Mrs Sutcliffe's presence over a 'slap-up tea' at their Grade-II Listed Hampshire home.

Ms Collinson told the court: 'In all probability, knowing Mrs Spencer was conducting enquiries, Mark Pidsley prepared the letter in a deliberate attempt to give a false and fraudulent impression that the 2019 will was executed by Joan in the presence of Mr Parker and Ms Pollack.'

The new order settling the case strips Mr Pidsley of his appointment as a personal representative of Mrs Sutcliffe's estate.

Neither party would comment last night.

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