A DEVOTED son who gave up eight years of his life to care for his ailing mother has fought off a claim by his sister and brother that he was an “alcoholic tyrant” who crushed her free will.
A High Court judge upheld Frank Hinch’s right to inherit his mother Abbie’s North East home and worldly goods – and described him as an honest witness and dutiful son.
Judge John Behrens said there was nothing suspicious about her decision to make him her sole heir.
Mrs Hinch, of Middleton Street, Amble, Northumberland, had fought breast cancer for more than 20 years before her death, aged 76, in 2007.
Although described as “sharp as a tack” mentally, she suffered from increasing pain in her final years, and was also stricken by arthritis.
Mr Hinch, 41, moved in to care for her for the last eight years of her life, and his mother wrote in her diary the year before she died: “He’s given up his freedom to look after me and I am so very grateful and feel guilty.”
However, Mr Hinch’s sister, Victoria Darling, 44, and half-brother, Stephen Paynter, 59, challenged their mother’s 2004 will in which she left everything to him, claiming she did not “know and approve” of its contents before she signed it.
They described Mr Hinch as “an alcoholic and tyrannical character who exerted a lot of influence over Abbie, and was in a dominating position in her life.”
However, Judge Behrens said there was nothing in the diaries religiously kept by Mrs Hinch to support those accusations.
On the contrary, there was evidence that it was she who called the tune in the relationship, and that “she gave the orders and Frank obeyed them”.
He said he had been favourably impressed by Mr Hinch, and found it “somewhat surprising” that his sister and half-brother had persisted in making such serious allegations against him.
Last night, speaking from the terraced house in Amble where he lived with his late mother, Mr Hinch said he did not want to say much as he believed the case has not yet been concluded.
He said: “I think the judge was a very sensible and just person and has restored my faith in the system.
“I just want to put the whole thing behind me now, because nobody really wins in these sorts of cases.”
Judge Behrens said, far from being tyrannical towards his mother, there was nothing about Mr Hinch’s character or behaviour to arouse the suspicion of the court. He had complied with his mother’s last wish by giving her jewellery to Victoria.
The judge acknowledged that Mrs Hinch loved all her children, and that Victoria and Stephen maintained close contact with her after they moved south. Neither of them were aware they had been written out of her will until after her death, but the judge said Mrs Hinch had stayed mentally alert until the year she died.
Although Mr Hinch, who has suffered from depression in the past, occasionally drank too much, he never did so at home and the judge concluded: “There is no evidence that he was tyrannical or that he exercised any improper influence over his mother.”