A family of hoteliers at loggerheads over a suitcase of photos have racked up £60,000 in legal costs in a fight for the treasured archive.
Judith Andersson fell out with her late brothers Tim and John Ward after the death of their mother Frieda, as they disagreed about the fate of her property.
In the latest battle, Mrs Andersson and Tim’s widow Diane Ward are arguing over a purple suitcase containing family photos and papers accrued prior to Frieda’s death in Richmond in 1993.
The sisters-in-law are part-owners of the five-star American Colony hotel in Jerusalem, where Lawrence of Arabia, Winston Churchill and Bob Dylan all stayed. Frieda’s grandparents Horatio Gates Spafford and Anna Spafford, from Chicago, set up a Christian community in Jerusalem in 1881 and its residence became the hotel in the Fifties.
Central London county court heard that Tim Ward held on to the suitcase after his mother died, aged 77, and had it until he died in 2020. Mrs Andersson believes the case should pass to her but Mrs Ward has refused to hand it over.
“It was specifically anticipated that the last one of us remaining alive would hold the archive,” said Mrs Andersson.
Her barrister, Oliver Ingham, said it is an “invaluable repository of her family history” and not a “trivial” matter, despite it having “no monetary value”.
Mrs Ward, 77, who lives near Northampton, denies there was an agreement over the photos and argues the siblings “would have had to have made decisions about the division of those items”, said her barrister, Elissa Da Costa-Waldman.
“This is why Frieda did not complete a memorandum of wishes [relating to the archive], preferring her children to choose those items for themselves.”
She said Tim Ward chose the suitcase to keep when his mother’s possessions were divided up.
At an earlier hearing a judge described the dispute as “completely mad”.
Judge Mark Raeside has now found it was “implausible” that Mrs Andersson would have agreed her brother could keep the case to himself. He made a declaration that the photos and papers had been held on trust by Tim Ward for all three siblings and that there was an agreement the archive would not be split up.
The questions of who gets to keep the suitcase and who pays the legal costs will be decided later this month.