Family produce 140-year-old deeds to support 'land grab' claim; see today’s live video
A family that claimed a plot was hatched to take land from them in the 1960s produced documents yesterday said to be title deeds dating back to 1880.
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Charles Brown and his brother, George, brought the paperwork to the Commission of Inquiry into Historic Losses of Land in Bermuda.
Mr Brown represented seven beneficiaries – including his mother – of John Augustus Alexander Virgil’s will.
The nieces and nephews claim rights to land at Spring Benny in Sandys.
Mr Brown said that the beneficiaries placed “reliance on the title deeds … because it’s the heart and soul of the ownership, of this matter.”
He added: “It is the title deeds which Uncle John left to his nieces and nephews which has been the guide post for them and has been the energy that has kept them steadfast in their pursuit of justice.”
Mr Brown said: “The beneficiaries have been in possession of these title deeds to the property since 1972 when Uncle John passed.
“These deeds suggest that the transactions after 1945 would require these deeds in order for them to be legitimate.”
The commission heard last week that the family was concerned about two transactions made in 1961-62 and 1968-69.
Mr Brown added: “The deeds provide the beneficiaries with a valuable instrument in their claim to ownership.”
He said that the documents showed land was sold to Augustus Virgil in 1885.
The commission heard a “chain” of events that involved other parties and spanned several decades.
Mr Brown added that there was a “reconveyance” of land in 1945 to John Augustus Alexander Virgil and others.
He told the commission earlier that a “network of formal and informal business relationships” was part of a plan which he alleged was drawn up to “complete an illegal land grab”.
Several companies, as well as former lawyers and politicians, were among a 12-strong list of “players and acquaintances” that Mr Brown claimed worked together to deprive Mr Virgil’s relatives of “what was rightfully theirs”.
He told the commission earlier that land was supposedly transferred from Mr Virgil to Russell Levi Pearman, an estate agent and parliamentarian, for £7,000 in 1969.
Mr Brown claimed yesterday that paperwork submitted to the Central Planning Authority – later the Department of Planning – was altered.
He said: “It is our position that the documentation that supports the application to subdivide has been tampered with by hand.”
Mr Brown added: “So when this application to subdivide the northern portion of Uncle John’s property was made by Russell Pearman back in March 6, 1968, he had no legal claim, authority or right to the property.
“He was not the owner nor was he acting on behalf of the owner when this application to subdivide the property was submitted to the Central Planning Authority.
“As far as we are concerned this is false representation regarding ownership of the property at the time the subdivision application was made.”
He alleged that a date stamp said to be from 1969 was altered “in an attempt to demonstrate that Russell Pearman did not apply for this subdivision at a time he did not own” the land.
Dirk Harrison, senior counsel for the commission, highlighted the importance of sending notices to all of the organisations and individuals – or their descendants in the case of those who had died – in the group highlighted earlier by Mr Brown, which would offer the opportunity for them to respond.
Bruce Swan, a lawyer assisting Mr Harrison, told the commission that the notices had been drawn up drawn up and were with a printer.
The inquiry continues.