Ian (lovingboth) wrote,

It was apparent .. that theirs was, perhaps, an unconventional relationship...

"On 6 December 2009 a house known as Crossfield and owned by the First Claimant, Mrs. Barbara Cooke, as she then was, suffered substantial damage by fire." She claimed against the insurance policy with the NFU, along with her on-off-on partner, Michael Parker, who she married a few months later. They claimed the rebuilding costs, the contents, and the loss of rent they were going to get from the property.

The NFU said no, you did not act with 'utmost good faith' on the insurance application, and he either burnt the place down himself or got someone else to do it anyway. They relied on two previous insurance claims which he'd made, and said that the lease claiming to rent the place out for £3,500 was a sham.

In summer 2012, it ended up in the High Court for them to decide.

Mr Parker likes very expensive watches (and, although he buys them for her, she does not). In 2002, he claimed that one of them was stolen from his car. He didn't bother to tell the police about the watch when he told them about the other things, and exaggerated its cost when it came to the insurance claim. There is also evidence which suggests that it was never lost, but the NFU paid up for its real value and the other stuff.

They also paid up in 2007, when he claimed that two of them had been stolen from his airline luggage following a flight with BA. Again, he hadn't bothered to tell the police or BA about the loss, although he had immediately started hassling BA about other issues. He never quite got his story straight about which watches they were or why they were in the checked-in luggage, and when both BA and the travel insurers paid up over the same aspects, he didn't tell either of them about the other's payment.

Everyone agreed that the fire was arson - petrol or another accelerant had been used. After the fire, a key to the house was discovered on the outside, and a safe had been moved from a cupboard before the fire before being left there, unopened. Mr Parker also admitted being there that evening.

But did he lie, lie and arson? With serious allegations comes the need for serious evidence to support them and the burden of proof was on the NFU.

The judge decided that there were reasons to suspect that he had lied in 2002, but that there was insufficient evidence to say that he had done so on the balance of probabilities. 1-0 to the Parkers.

However, his curious behaviour and the inability to get his story straight meant that it was probable that he'd lied in 2007. 1-1.

What about the tenancy? The tenant in question was, in some ways, even dodgier. A solicitor returning to the UK after failing in Panama, he agreed to pay £2,500 a month in September 2009 for three months, then in late November, signed another lease for £3,500 a month for twelve months. But he'd got no money: he'd had to borrow the money for the flight back to the UK (and then used Air Miles, keeping the cash!) and hadn't found any work here.

There was certainly a receipt from Mr Parker for the £7,500 he was supposed to have paid for the first three months, but no evidence that it had ever been banked or otherwise used. After the fire, he moved to another one of Mr Parker's properties at £800 a month, claimed Housing Benefit for it, then not paid the rent.

Leaving aside the question of the lease, did Mr Parker burn his soon-to-be wife's house down? His lawyers said it would be "remarkably inept" of Mr Parker to leave the key on the outside, he was a very wealthy business person - not the sort to do this - and his now wife loved the place.

Against that was what he said he'd been dropping off there: some tools, including petrol-powered ones, borrowed from a business that rents another property from him and which owes him money. The manager of that submitted an invoice for the lost tools for the insurance claim... except that ones with two of the serial numbers he gave turned up. Amusingly, one - a generator - was hired by the loss adjusters looking into the fire! Oops, must have been another one... no, that was being hired by someone else at the time.

It also turns out that Mrs Parker had made planning applications to demolish the house and replace it. All that, plus "fraud is not the preserve of persons of without wealth" lead the judge to say that the only reasonable inference is that Mr Parker had indeed played a role in burning it down. 1-2.

This meant that the tenancy wasn't, legally, a sham. Yes, the tenant was never going to pay the money, but it wasn't a common aim of the two to create a sham: "Mr. Parker did not expect that (the tenant) would have to pay the rent because he intended to burn the house down. (The Tenant) hoped to avoid paying, not because the house would be burned down, but because he is the sort of person who hopes to avoid his legal liabilities." 2-2!

But did all this let the NFU off the hook?

It certainly did in relation to him - if he'd been honest about making a fraudulent claim in relation to the watches, they wouldn't have insured him. Plus as he'd ensured the house was burnt down, he couldn't get them to pay up...

... but could Mrs Parker? She wasn't, the judge said, aware of the dishonest claim in 2007. She also wasn't accused of being part of the arson conspiracy, and the tenancy wasn't a sham.

What she had done, though, was fail to provide bank statements when the NFU asked if they had the money to rebuild the house without making a claim, following Mr Parker saying "I've got the money in the bank and demolition starts on Monday". The policy insisted that, in the event of a claim, they provide all documents asked for.

Oooh, but was this an unfair term in the contract, and thus not binding on a consumer? No. Was it an unreasonable thing to ask? No - they wanted to know if there was a financial motive.

So that rules her claim out. (And if it didn't, the NFU could take her rights to sue Mr Parker over burning down her house.) In addition, Mr Parker has to pay back the 2007 insurance claim and the costs of investigating this claim, plus the legal costs for this case.

I'm surprised it hasn't been filmed...

This entry was originally posted at http://lovingboth.dreamwidth.org/517716.html, because despite having a permanent account, I have had enough of LJ's current owners trying to be evil. Please comment there using OpenID - comment count unavailable have and if you have an LJ account, you can use it for your OpenID account. Or just join Dreamwidth! It only took a couple of minutes to copy all my entries here to there.

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