The widow of a multi-millionaire author has blasted his ‘cruel and greedy’ children during a High Court fight over her £3.5million family home and a valuable art collection.
Rana Seale was married to world-renowned writer Patrick Seale for 29 years and lived with him in their three-storey, six-bedroom property in fashionable Holland Park, west London.
She says their daughter Yasmine Seale and two of her stepchildren – one of them the child of Martin Amis and the other a former understudy to Sir Kenneth Branagh – are now ‘suing to take away her house’.
The couple had a ‘stormy’ marriage and Mr Seale, who was respected for his works as a historian of the Middle East, spoke to lawyers about divorcing his wife before he died, aged 83, from brain cancer in April 2014. Mrs Searle told the court they regularly fell out due to ‘political differences’ regarding Middle East dictatorships.
Oxford-educated Mr Seale severed the joint tenancy on their home, resulting in his half going into his estate instead of to Mrs Seale. Under English law, severing a joint tenancy can be done with or without the agreement of the other owner if they are acting upon their own share of the property.
Now Yasmine Seale and stepchildren Delilah Jeary and Orlando Seale are suing her to sell the house where she still lives, and split the profits.
Rana Seale, widow of world-renowned journalist and historian Patrick Seale, (right) is waging a court battle with their daughter, Yasmine (Rana is seen left with Yasmine, then aged four)
Rana is battling her daughter Yasmine (pictured) and her two stepchildren following her husband’s death in 2015
Actor, authors’ children and TV producer: Who’s who in High Court will row
Patrick Seale: Late writer and historian, who was considered to be one of the world’s leading authorities on Syria. He died, aged 83, from brain cancer in April 2014.
Rana Seale: 63-year-old historian who is Patrick’s widow and with whom she shared a ‘stormy’ 29-year marriage.
Alexander Seale: Patrick and Rana’s disabled son, currently living with Rana in the family home.
Yasmine Seale: Patrick and Rana’s Oxford-educated daughter, who is suing Alexander and Rana for a share of the home.
Also joining her are Rana’s two stepchildren:
Orlando Seale: Patrick’s 48-year-old son from his first marriage to writer Lamorna Heath. He is an actor and a former understudy to Sir Kenneth Branagh.
Delilah Jeary: A 45-year-old ITN producer, who was born after an affair Miss Heath had with the author Martin Amis.
But Mrs Seale, 63, backed by the couple’s disabled son Alexander, with whom she lives, is fighting to get her late husband’s half signed back over to her.
Due to missing court deadlines, Rana has previously been excluded from fighting the case against Yasmine, Orlando and Delilah, with only Alexander taking part.
But the court heard she now wants her involvement to be reinstated so that she and Alexander – whose interests are ‘one and the same’ – can join forces.
However, even if she is not rejoined as a party she stands to benefit if Alexander wins, as she will be able to continue living there with him.
During a hearing at the High Court, she said she and her son are living in fear of being ‘thrown out on the streets’ if she loses.
Mrs Seale blasted the trio as ‘cruel, litigious and greedy’ and accused them of ‘ruining our health’ ahead of a full hearing of the legal fight for the house which is due to take place in January.
‘Nothing can give us back those years, nothing can give back these five-and-a-half years of burlesque proceedings brought against Alexander and myself by his siblings,’ she told Mrs Justice Bacon.
The court heard Middle East expert Patrick and Rana, a British-Syrian historian, bought their three-storey, six-bedroom home in St Ann’s Villas for £1.75m in 2009 and, according to an online house price calculator, it is now worth about £3.5m.
Mr Seale had a son Orlando, 48, an actor and former understudy to Sir Kenneth Branagh, from his first marriage to writer Lamorna Heath. He also brought up ITN producer Delilah, 45, who was born following an affair Amis had with Miss Heath.
Rana’s stepchildren Delilah Jeary (pictured) and Orlando Seale (right) are also suing her
Mr Seale brought up ITN producer Delilah, who was the product of an affair his first wife Lamorna Heath had with British novelist Martin Amis. Pictured: Delilah with Amis and her son Isaac
Mr Seale looked after Delilah and told her before she started university that Amis was her father. Mr and Mrs Seale had two children together, poet and writer Yasmine, 31, and journalist Alexander Seale, 33.
Mr Seale split his wealth equally in his will between Mrs Seale and the four children.
Mrs Seale and Alexander have launched court proceedings to block the sale of the house, arguing that the property should go to Mrs Seale.
Mother and son say terminally ill Mr Seale was under ‘undue influence’ in the weeks before he died, when he began divorce proceedings and severed the joint tenancy.
Representing herself, Mrs Seale – a British-Syrian historian – said threats of divorce featured in their ‘stormy’ marriage, but never happened.
‘I deny completely his capacity to have tried to divorce me…I deny completely that divorce proceedings were anything but a sham to try and steal half of my marital house after 29 years of marriage.’
She said also objected to them being handed to solicitors, insisting that since both she and Alexander are entitled to a fifth share each under Patrick’s will, it was in their interests that they were not lost.
But Mr Fowler, for the three siblings, said they were simply acting correctly as executors in seeking to ‘get in’ the assets of Patrick’s estate so that they can be sold and everyone can receive their rightful inheritance.
‘This was an estate asset and they were trying to get it in,’ he said. ‘When realised, all five have an interest in it.’
The court heard Middle East expert Patrick and Rana, a British-Syrian historian, bought their three-storey, six-bedroom home in St Ann’s Villas for £1.75m in 2009 and, according to an online house price calculator, it is now worth about £3.5m
For Orlando, Delilah and Jasmine, barrister Richard Fowler denies any undue influence.
He said Patrick had been advised by his solicitor to consider severing the joint ownership to ‘protect his interests’ when he began considering divorce.
The three children did not have control over Patrick’s financial affairs, nor day to day responsibility for his care and welfare, he said.
They were not controlling Patrick, but acting like assistants, with him giving directions and them carrying them out, Mr Fowler insisted.