Widow and girlfriend of pop suicide victims fight for royalties

Badfinger are remembered, if only dimly, as a middle-of-the-road early Seventies band who wrote a chart-topping song "Without You" for the late Harry Nilsson.

But the group's story is one of the most tragic tales in the history of pop; its two songwriting members both took their own lives, believing their careers were over. Yesterday the story was recounted in the High Court as the widow of one and the girlfriend of the other began a battle for a share of the royalties of an album they claim was compiled from a live tape taken without their knowledge.

Peter Ham and Tommy Evans wrote "Without You" - a worldwide hit for Nilsson in 1972 and again for Mariah Carey in 1994 - but both committed suicide without having received a penny in royalties for the song. Badfinger had several hits of their own - most notably "Come and Get It" - but the band claimed they did not make any money, and Ham became so depressed that he hanged himself in 1975, aged 27. Anne Ferguson was pregnant with his child at the time.

Evans continued a battle for royalties but in 1983 he too hanged himself, leaving a wife, Marianne, and son aged six. In 1985, the royalties started coming in after a High Court ruling.

Ms Ferguson and Ms Evans have now joined forces with Badfinger's drummer, Michael Gibbins, and the group's manager, Bill Collins, in a legal action against the group's former vocalist, Joey Molland. The High Court was told yesterday that Molland left the band in 1974 and took with him tapes of a live recording in Cleveland, Ohio, which he claimed was of such poor quality it was worthless. But after remastering the tapes more than 14 years later, Molland agreed a record deal that in effect cut out the other four.

Gordon Bennett, representing the four, said Molland had already received a $30,000 (£20,000) advance on the album, Day after Day, and did not tell the other members about it. Mr Bennett said Molland had also received $44,000 in royalties,which he did not intend to share with the others.

All five have been involved in previous High Court litigation, which was resolved in 1985 when it was decided that all recording royalties from performances before Badfinger broke up in 1975 were to be divided equally between them. Ms Evans and Ms Ferguson are the administrators of their partners' estates.

Molland claims he made no secret of having the tapes and the rest of the band knew about them. He said he spent 210 hours and $21,000 in fees in a studio working on the tapes and the money he received had gone towards these costs and his 4 per cent producer's royalty.

Molland said all the publishing royalties for the relevant songs had been distributed in accordance with the High Court order of 1985. He claims the other four should pay him out of the album royalties a producer's fee, reimburse him for the money he spent remastering the tapes, and share equally all the expenses.

Judgment was reserved.