By Edward Davenport
The jury have been discharged in the case of a woman from Bradworthy who is accused of tampering with her dying neighbour’s will.
The jury at Exeter Crown Court were unable to reach a verdict on Claire Symons, who allegedly filled in a blank will form to make herself the main beneficiary of retired doctor Paul Davis.
He claimed to have asked Symons to write down a will leaving his cash, jewellery and other belongings to distant cousins in Australia.
He went to the police after he asked her to return the document and found she had left all but two items to herself or her then partner.
The jury were unable to decide after hearing from her that she had written down exactly what he had told her to do, in his presence, and read the will back to him more than once.
Former nursery manager Symons had debts of up to £100,000 after the break-up of her marriage but was expecting £800,000 when the divorce settlement was finalised and did not need the money.
She said Dr Davis told her he wanted to leave her his estate because he had no living relatives in Britain and she and her partner had helped care for him after he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer during the first lockdown in March 2020.
Churchgoer Symons said her oldest son Tom was also suffering from cancer at the time and she had gone with him to Germany for specialist treatment, which was paid for by other members of the wider family.
She said she did not need Dr Davis’ money and intended to give it to charity.
Grandmother-of-five manager Symons, aged 55, of Ford Cottages, Bradworthy, near Holsworthy, denies making or supplying an article to be used in fraud.
Judge David Evans discharged the jury and gave the prosecution two week to decide whether they want to go through with a re-trial.
Mr Nigel Wraith, prosecuting, said Dr Davis will be consulted before any decision is made.
During a two-day trial, Dr Davis told the jury that he asked Symons to write out a will in which he left most of his property to two distant cousins in his native Australia and she took it away to do so.
He had already got two old friends to witness the blank will, so it would become a valid document as soon as it was filled out.
He said he had to badger Symons to return it and was shocked to discover that she had made herself the main beneficiary. He said he never mentioned leaving anything to her and had no intention of doing so.
Symons told the jury she befriended Dr Davis after moving next door in November 2019 and meeting him as a neighbour. She and her partner took food round for him and helped him after he had a serious fall in July 2020.
She said he asked her to help with his will a few hours after being told by his GP that he was dying and that he had dictated his wishes and she had written them into the document and read them back to him.
She said: “ I wrote it completely as he asked me to, word for word. I have never in my life taken a penny from anyone. There is no way I would do that. I have not acted dishonestly and I have not made a false will.”
She said he had told her at one time that he had £5-million in his bank account but she did not believe him and thought there was only a few thousand, which she intended to give to charity.
The trial continues.