Saudi king's 'widow' sees £50bn paternity claim expire

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Janan Harb says she was married to the late king and had a daughter by him. But three appeal judges decided yesterday that any application by her under the Matrimonial Causes Act came to an end when the king died in August.

The king had originally claimed sovereign immunity because of his status. This was upheld by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, then president of the family division, last December. But before any appeal could be heard, the king died. The Saudi royal family then moved to have the case struck out.

Lord Justice Thorpe, giving the lead judgment, said the king's solicitors had written to the court in September reporting his death and saying that because of that, the proceedings had abated.

The judge, together with Lords Justice Dyson and Wall, ruled that the section of the Matrimonial Causes Act, which Mrs Harb could use to claim maintenance, can only be exercised when both husband and wife are alive. And she cannot claim under the Inheritance Act because the late king was not a UK resident.

Lord Justice Thorpe said the case may show that there is a gap in the law which only Parliament can remedy. The appeal judges refused permission to take the case to the House of Lords.

Mrs Harb had wanted a DNA test to determine whether her eldest daughter was fathered by the late king, who died aged 82. If it could be proved that she was his daughter, she believed she could claim a share of the royal fortune.