Sisters who lost father in airliner crash win payout

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Two young and gifted British musicians, whose father died in one of the world's worst plane crashes, have won their 17-year battle for compensation after a Japanese airline agreed yesterday to pay for their musical careers.

Japan Airlines (JAL) had denied Diana Yukawa, 16, and her sister Cassie, 20, any compensation because their English mother and Japanese father were not married. JAL also disputed their mother's claim that Akihisa Yukawa, a millionaire executive of Sumitomo Bank, was the girls' father. Although Mr Yukawa signed a declaration that Cassie was his daughter, Diana was born after his death.

Yesterday's settlement fully recognises their paternity as well as providing them with enough money to support their promising musical careers.

Diana had to sell her violin to pay for music lessons, but has since gone on to release a CD and is now being hailed as a successor to the international violinist Vanessa Mae.

Mr Yukawa died on 12 August 1985, when the Japan Airlines Boeing 747 crashed into a mountain north-west of Tokyo, killing 520 of the 524 passengers and crew on board.

JAL paid hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation to the families of other crash victims but refused to do the same for Cassie, Diana and their mother.

Mr Yukawa first met Susanna Bayly, a ballet dancer, when he was working in London as head of the bank's European operation and was still married to a Japanese woman.

Ms Bayly gave up her career to move to Japan with Mr Yukawa, who was 20 years her senior, and their relationship continued for almost 10 years. They lived in a flat in Tokyo until he died. Ms Bayly, 43, agreed to publicise her story only because she had run out of money to support her girls' musical careers.

The settlement allows Diana to continue her one-to-one tuition with an international violinist and also releases funds for Cassie's education at the Royal College of Music in London, where she is training to be a concert pianist.

Ms Bayly said: "It was important to prove the paternity of Cassie and Diana, which we did. It was then important for our daughters' musical careers to be funded so that they can both make the most of their amazing talents."

Michael Napier, the family's solicitor, who took on the case just before he was elected president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said the settlement had "liberated" the girls' careers.

"They are two immensely talented musicians who now have the funds to pursue those talents," he said.

Mr Napier added: "This case involved many legal complexities over a number of jurisdictions." He said the settlement was for an undisclosed sum.

The final settlement follows a ruling in the High Court in 2000 that acknowledged DNA evidence to support the girls' paternity claim.

After that decision Cassie Bayly said: "This was not just about money. I am filled with joy and happiness and feel so proud now that it has been acknowledged who I am. Japanese society found it very difficult to accept who I was. I felt it was important to go through the courts for my father.

"My sister was not born when he died, but I still have memories of him ­ now everyone knows who we are.

"Yes, we are illegitimate. But I remember the great love between our parents ­ the perfect love between them."