What a bombshell! The tortoise has become an heir

When she died Christina Foyle, owner of the famous London bookshop, left pounds 100,000 to her dog, Bobby. Julia Stuart tracks down some other wealthy animal beneficiaries - and finds out what relatives think
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
MAYBE IT was the way he never answered back, or his ability to find joy in a lettuce leaf. It could even have been an admiration for his pace of life. Whatever the attraction, millionaire Donald Moss was not going to leave his tortoise, Big Tibby, alone and destitute when he passed away.

So he bequeathed pounds 50,000 to his next-door neighbour and devoted carer, Caroline Williams, safe in the knowledge that she'd tend to the animal's every need. Mrs Williams, 55, had spent four years looking after Mr Moss in his home in Butley Town, Cheshire, and then, after he died two years ago, she gave Big Tibby everything he ever dreamed of. The shelled slow- coach enjoyed the life of Riley - a hot water bottle in his box, a private ceramic bath, and Italian selection salads from Marks & Spencer. He even went to university.

Big Tibby was just out of his egg when Mr Moss bought him from a pet shop in Tib Street, Manchester, in 1945. He named his new pet after the street.

Mrs William's daughter Emily, 22, says Mr Moss adored animals. ``He was the kindest man, like a saint, and never had a horrible thing to say about anyone. He was a true gentleman. We were devastated by his death. We think of him fondly, and we're easily brought to tears.''

After the bachelor's death at the age of 80, Emily, who is studying to become a lawyer, took the tortoise to Cambridge University with her, where he was cooed over by the ``bedders'' - staff who cleaned the students' rooms.

It appears, however, that the hedonistic lifestyle became too much for the pet. Big Tibby fell into the garden pond last summer and drowned. He was 53.

``We kept him in his cardboard box, but when it was a sunny day we used to let him out,'' says Emily. We had to barricade the garden so he wouldn't get far, but one day he pushed it aside.

"Three days later he was there in the pond. We were quite upset and still are.''

Mrs Williams, a secretary, had also promised Mr Moss, who had made his fortune in a family bedding firm, that she would care for his cocker spaniel, Billy. Aged four, and still very much in the land of the living, the pooch also receives the same kind of pampering that Big Tibby basked in - Marks & Spencer chicken during the week, roast beef on Sundays and a trip to the dog parlour every six weeks. Billy even fights the master of the house, 53-year-old property renovator David Williams, for his bed at night.

Mr Moss isn't the only animal-lover who made sure his pets had a secure future after his death. It recently emerged that the literary heiress, Christina Foyle, left pounds 100,000 of her fortune to her dog, Bobby.

And when Beryl Maidment, a former hairdresser from Bessacarr, Doncaster, died in January at the age of 72, she left her poodle, Rusty, pounds 10,000. Rusty now snoozes on a handmade quilt and dines on turkey breast in the home of his late mistress's friend, Betty Thorpe, of Bennetthorpe, Doncaster.

``She left the money for me to look after the dog, and if anything was left I could buy myself something with it,'' says Mrs Thorpe, who is in her sixties. ``We try to give him the life that he was used to. His `mother' had a caravan and we have too, and we take him to the same places. He's been all over on holiday. We give him all that's possible to give him. We're always there for him.''

But leaving money to a pet, doesn't necessarily result in happy families. Joan Walker of Raunds, Northamptonshire, can no longer look a cat in the eye after her father, Ken Bonner, left his pounds 90,000 house to an animal sanctuary in Wareham, Dorset, in return for them looking after his feline friend, Sammy, after his death. Mrs Walker, 47, who had to work while bringing up her three children, first heard the news after her father's funeral. ``I was stunned,'' she recalls. ``I couldn't believe it.''

Mrs Walker, a waitress, had only been left pounds 1,000. She had not seen her father, a former farm labourer, for about 20 years, but had always written to him.

She and her two brothers engaged the services of a solicitor to contest the will, but found the process too costly.

``A normal human being would have wanted to make up to his children for what he couldn't give them in the past,'' says Mrs Walker, pointedly. ``I think the cat only lived six or seven months after him.

"I've totally lost my faith in families. I will never understand it."

"I just feel disappointed that I didn't mean anything to my father. I'm hurt that he couldn't consider me or his grandchildren above a cat. I used to love cats, but now I look at a cat, and I just don't like it.''