Widow in family rift 'cleared' by inquest

Nina Clayton, the second wife of Ralph Winstanley, had been accused, by the children from his first marriage, of exaggerating his illness in order to get their father "put down" through palliative care.

Mr Winstanley made his fortune from the family business, Mowing Machine Maintenance, which he sold for £2m in 1987. Mr Winstanley allegedly refused to share the proceeds with his family, instead flying to Antigua where he married Ms Clayton. After living with her in Tenerife, he returned to Doncaster, South Yorkshire, where he developed leukaemia and died in April last year, aged 83.

The children, three of whom were written out of his will, refused to release his body for burial and called for a criminal investigation. At an emotionally charged inquest at Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, Ms Clayton, 67, denied the family's claims saying that when she telephoned his daughters, Charlotte Peters-Rock, 58, and Linda Kirby, 53, to inform them of his death, they contacted police.

The inquest heard that police investigated and were satisfied "no crime had been committed".

The inquest was also told that scientific tests found no evidience of poisons and that none of the palliative drugs had been given in excess. A post-mortem examinationfound the cause of death to be bronchial pneumonia with extensive spread of lymphatic leukaemia. Dr Gill Harding, who administered palliative care, said: "We are not morally or ethically allowed to practise euthanasia and neither would we want to."

Paul Kelly, the coroner, recorded a verdict of death by natural causes at which Ms Clayton wept with relief while Mrs Peters-Rock shouted: "Utter disgrace."

The family is contesting the will and Mr Winstanley's son, Richard, has lodged a court order freezing his father's estate.