Millionaire kept prisoner by wife

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The Independent Online
A SENIOR judge described yesterday how a "manipulative" wife deprived her elderly multi-millionaire husband of his wealth and reduced him to a virtual prisoner in his own home.

"It would be hard to conceive graver marital misconduct," said Lord Justice Thorpe in the Court of Appeal. He and two other appeal judges cut 49-year-old Julia Clark's divorce settlement package, estimated at pounds 800,000, to pounds 175,000 and ordered her out of the couple's mansion in Hampshire.

A High Court judge had decided she should receive an additional pounds 100,000 over the amount offered on the first day of the trial, giving her assets and cash estimated at pounds 552,500. Her husband had also settled her legal costs and tax liabilities.

During the appeal hearing, the judges heard that she had only married 85-year-old George Clark for his money and then used her "considerable charm and physical attraction" to take over his wealth.

At times the husband was "relegated" to live in a caravan and was sent to a geriatric home before being housed in an annexe of the home while Mrs Clark shared the rest of the house with her 34-year-old lover. In 1997, after five years of marriage which was never consummated, she took away his telephone and buzzer which operated the gates. "It is hardly surprising the husband attempted suicide by an overdose of his sleeping pills," said Lord Justice Thorpe.

But after a month in hospital, Mr Clark, who had "an unconditional and unquestioning love" for his wife, returned to her. "She again reduced the husband to the status of prisoner in her home by removing his telephone and gate-buzzer."

Then Mr Clark's family became involved and removed him from the house with the assistance of police and he filed for divorce. "Thus ended one of the most extraordinary marital histories I have ever encountered," said Lord Justice Thorpe.

Mr Clark, a retired insurance broker, had an estimated wealth of pounds 4m. When the couple met at a party in 1991, her finances were "desperate".

At a High Court divorce hearing in November to divide the wealth, Deputy Judge Hayward Smith ruled that Mrs Clark did not love her husband and "that she only married him for his money", said Lord Justice Thorpe.