Love across religious divide falls foul of cash wrangle

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The Independent Online

A relationship between a Hindu doctor and a Muslim accountant 12 years her junior ended in an acrimonious property dispute, the High Court was told yesterday.

Ravi Vajpeyi, a GP, started an affair with Shuaib Yusaf in 1976. She was 32 and married with two children. He was then a student aged 20 who lived with his parents and had never had a girlfriend.

Details of the relationship were given in court after Dr Vajpeyi claimed £180,000 from Mr Yusaf. She said that the sum represented money she had lent him to buy property.

Describing the "sad history" of the case, Judge Peter Prescott QC said that despite the boundaries of age and religion, the couple "just could not let go of each other".

Dr Vajpeyi obtained a divorce after the affair began and Mr Yusaf was "like a father to her children", the judge said. The affair continued even after Mr Yusaf, under pressure from his family, married a girl of his own faith in 1984.

Judge Prescott told the court that the pair were so close that they had both sent their sons to Dulwich College. They had also continued to allow each other to use their credit cards as additional card holders.

In 1980, Dr Vajpeyi gave her lover £10,000 to buy a house for £29,000. The property is now worth eight times that amount.

In 1989 she left her home in south-east London and allowed Mr Yusaf and his wife and family to live there rent free for five years. Eventually, in 1994, after they had ceased to become lovers, she lent him £100,000 so that he could buy the house.

Mr Yusaf told the court that by 1994 he had become "fully committed to his wife" and that he had ceased having a physical relationship with Dr Vajpeyi in 1990. She claimed that the relationship broke down two years later.

The judge rejected Dr Vaj-peyi's claim that the £10,000 contribution she made to the purchase of the first property gave her a share in the equity and rental income. It was an interest-free loan, which Mr Yusaf had proved that he had repaid, with all but about £4,000 of the £100,000 she had lent him to buy her home.

The judge said he agreed with the assessment of Dr Vaj-peyi's son, Ram, that "it was time for his mother to let go of her emotional burden'' of her relationship with Mr Yusaf.