Brothers who lost battle to share mother's fortune call judge 'grumpy'

Three brothers who lost battle to share their 86-year-old mother’s £850,000 fortune with their tennis coach sister after being written out of her will launch appeal against ruling claiming judge was ‘hostile’ and too ‘grumpy’

  • Remo, Nino and David Rea claim mother Anna manipulated by their sister Rita   
  • The mother who died aged 86 in 2016 left her £850,000 home to daughter Rita 
  • Brothers sued former tennis coach Rita for an equal share of the fortune in 2019
  • Trio are appealing, blaming a  ‘grumpy’ judge for not giving them a fair hearing 

Three brothers who were left empty-handed after a judge ruled that their sister would receive all £850,000 of their mother’s inheritance she had been left in a will, are appealing the ruling blaming a ‘grumpy’ judge.

Remo, Nino and David Rea claim their mother Anna Rea – who died aged 86 in 2016 – had written them out of inheriting her home in Tooting, south London, after their sister Rita Rea poisoned her mind against them.

The brothers sued former tennis coach Rita for an equal share of their mother’s fortune in the High Court in 2019, when a judge ruled against them and handed everything to their estranged 56-year-old sister.

Now the trio are appealing, blaming a ‘hostile’ and ‘grumpy’ judge for not giving them a fair hearing and insisting they should get a second chance to fight their case.

Brothers Remo (left), David (centre) and Nino (right) took their sister to court, demanding a share of their mother’s house, but a judge ruled against them, finding that their sister was entitled to the house

Their barrister, Robin Howard, said the brothers, largely represented at the trial by motorbike race manager David Rea, had been ‘put off their stroke’ by interventions of a judge who had ‘lost patience’ with them.

The court heard that a previous will, written by Anna Rea in 1986, split everything equally between her four children, but another in 2015 cut her sons out almost entirely.

Rita Rea was the sole inheritor of her mother’s house after she cared for the elderly woman in her later years

They were only left with very small legacies, which were totally eaten up by funeral expenses, while their sister inherited her £850,000 home in Brenda Road, Tooting, south London.

In the will, she declared: ‘I give my daughter my property absolutely as she has taken care of me for all these years. My sons have not taken care of me and my daughter, Rita, has been my sole carer for many years.’

Challenging the will, the brothers claimed it should be torn up because their sister had planted a false idea in their mother’s mind that they had ‘abandoned’ her.

They also claimed that their Italian-born mother did not have the mental capacity at the time to understand what she was doing when the will was made.

However, Rita pointed to the fact that she had moved in with her frail mother in 2009 to look after her after she had had a heart attack.

At the initial trial at the High Court, the judge – Master Jonathan Arkush – rejected the brothers’ case and upheld the 2015 will, leaving Rita to inherit her mother’s estate.

But their barrister Mr Howard is now arguing that the trial was ‘unfair’ due to the attitude of the judge, meaning they conducted their case in a ‘hostile and demoralising’ atmosphere.

The ‘annoyed’ judge had hurried them along and at one point cut off their questioning of a witness, showing an ‘apparent impatience’ with the brothers, despite the fact they are not trained lawyers, he said.

‘There is no way that can be described as fair,’ he told High Court appeal judge, Mr Justice Adam Johnson.

The court heard that the three sons were left empty-handed after their mother declared in her final December 2015 will: ‘I give my daughter my property absolutely as she has taken care of me for all these years’ 

‘It is difficult to imagine any advocate, but certainly an amateur first-time advocate, not thinking he is up against a judge who is a bit grumpy by this stage.

‘It’s the hurrying up, the putting the litigant off his stroke, it’s the imbalance.’

He said the judge had also given a strong indication of the way he was thinking about part of their case early in the trial, causing them to abandon the point, said the barrister.

‘This is a litigant in person who is being prevented from pursuing his line of cross-examination,’ he said.

Rita Rea moved into her mother’s house in Tooting to look after the elderly woman

But for Rita Rea, barrister Natalie Wood argued that the judge had only interfered during the trial because he was trying to make sure the brothers were focused on the central issues in the case.

‘He was seeking to strike a balance, offer assistance where he could, and ensure that their case had been properly put and that he understood all the points made,’ she told the court.

Mr Justice Adam Johnson reserved his decision on the brothers’ appeal until a later date.

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