Murderers Must Not Profit from Their Crimes – Court of Appeal Ruling
It is a fundamental rule of law that murderers must never be permitted to profit from their crimes. In a case that put a modern twist on that principle, a businessman who murdered his wife in the midst of their bitter divorce was ordered to pay over £1.5 million to her sister and two of his sons.
The businessman was believed to be worth over £3 million when he stabbed his wife through the heart during an argument. He was subsequently convicted of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. The victim was in the process of divorcing him when she died and it was argued that, had she survived, she would have been entitled to half his fortune.
The sister and the sons launched proceedings against the businessman on behalf of his wife’s estate on the basis that he had benefited financially from her death. They won a £1,503,579 default judgment after the businessman repeatedly failed to comply with orders freezing his assets and requiring him to disclose the full extent of his wealth. He was said to have voluntarily transferred, or purported to transfer, almost all of his assets to another son, who had stood by him.
The Court acknowledged that the claim against him was a novel one that would require an extension of the law to succeed. However, in rejecting his appeal against the judgment, it found that he had, by his obstructive conduct, forfeited his right to defend himself. His sons and his wife’s sister were given leave to enforce the judgment and the businessman was ordered to pay legal costs, estimated at £500,000.