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Family query signature on will at land loss hearings

Commission of Inquiry: The signature on Thomas Smith’s will (Photograph supplied)

A woman claimed yesterday that her great-grandfather’s will was fraudulently signed by his nephews so that they could inherit his property.

Pattie Moore made the claim to the Commission of Inquiry into Historic Land Losses yesterday.

Ms Moore, from Warwick, said Thomas Henry Smith died in 1960 and was survived by a daughter, Louise Simmons.

But Mr Smith left his estate to nephews Vivian Thomas Wilson and Granville Trimingham Wilson, including 19 acres of land in the Cross Bay area of Southampton.

Ms Simmons was left just ₤100.

Louise Simmons went on to have five daughters, one of whom is Ms Moore’s mother.

Mrs Moore told the commission her mother and four aunts began investigating the circumstances of the will about 15 years ago.

She produced a letter written in 2008 from the five daughters to Vivian Wilson to outline their concerns.

The letter said: “There were many stories when we were growing up regarding our papa’s property at Cross Bay, Southampton, that was willed to you and your brother.

“We did ask questions about the authenticity of the will, but were never satisfied with the answers.

“Our mother, Louise Simmons and others, had often asked for a copy of the will and were told that you could not find it.

“Just recently we have managed to get a copy of the will of our grandfather and our concerns have been verified as to the authenticity of our papa’s signature.

“It is remembered that our papa could not read or write and therefore we are very concerned that the signature on the will is not his signature.

“We do not consider it to be a forged signature, but a fraudulent act on your behalf.

“The signature on the will is much too legible from what we can remember of papa’s handwriting.”

The letter also claimed that Mr Smith was an alcoholic and “that he was taken advantage of in that state”.

It alleged: “We remember that you used to have him living in your unfinished cellar enduring inhumane conditions. All he slept on was a mattress that laid on a dirt floor.”

Ms Moore also provided the commission with a copy of her great-grandfather’s will, which was drawn up in 1955.

The three-page typed document was signed “Thomas Smith” in neat handwriting.

Ms Moore told Dirk Harrison, the commission’s senior counsel, that her family had told her that Mr Smith was illiterate.

She said: “It’s a known fact that my papa could not read or write.”

Ms Moore told the commission that when the Wilson brothers died, the property was passed on to one of Vivian Wilson’s daughters.

She said that attempts to find out more about the bequest from Vivian Wilson’s descendants were not successful.

Ms Moore added: “We were shunned away by Vivian Wilson’s family – they acted like they didn’t know anything about it.”

The hearing continues.

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Published January 23, 2021 at 8:51 am (Updated January 25, 2021 at 1:36 pm)

Family query signature on will at land loss hearings

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