Helen Roocroft, aged 42, got a settlement of £162,000 when she split up from her lesbian partner Carol Ann Ainscow after 2 years in 2010. But after Carol died it was revealed that she was probably far richer than she admitted. She had hidden her millions and now Helen has gone back to court to try to get a bigger settlement.
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5 JULY 2016 • 10:09PM
The former partner of a dead property millionaire credited with transforming Manchester’s gay village could be in line for a larger share of her fortune in the first case of its kind involving a civil partnership split.
Helen Roocroft, 42, claims that Carol Ann Ainscow misled her about her wealth when they split up in 2010, leading to her accepting a “modest” six-figure settlement instead of a larger share of her multi-million pound assets.
Ms Ainscow, who was once estimated in the Sunday Times Rich listas having a £30 million fortune, said she had been left with only assets of only £750,000 by the time the couple dissolved their civil partnership.
But accounts seen by the Court of Appeal suggest Ms Ainscow, who died from a brain tumour in September 2013, was actually worth around seven times that figure.
Ms Roocroft wants the settlement reconsidered in light of a landmark Supreme Court judgment last year that two wives could seek larger payouts from their former husbands because they had not fully disclosed the value of their assets.
She is awaiting a decision from the Court of Appeal but during a hearing on Tuesday the most senior of the three judges hearing the case told lawyers that “on the face of it” she had an “extremely strong case”.
But Richard Todd QC, representing the beneficiaries of Ms Ainscow’s estate, said that her case amounted to “wrongly calling a friend a liar and a fraudster”.
“Her plea is not really one of injustice, but rather one of misguided indignation,” he argued.
“On her is a considerable evidential burden: an allegation of material non-disclosure is extraordinarily serious.
“It has many of the elements of fraud and is potentially very injurious of the reputation of the accused, especially in these days of open justice.”
The court heard Ms Roocroft and Ms Ainscow were involved in a long relationship after first getting together in 1991 and entering into a civil partnership in 2008.
During that time, Ms Ainscow was instrumental in transforming Manchester’s Canal Street into a thriving gay village.
She opened up Manto, one of the city’s first openly gay bars, before branching out into property development across Manchester and other northern cities.
They enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle, living in a large house with a swimming pool and spa.
Ms Roocroft underwent several courses of IVF fertility treatment as they desperately tried to have a baby, but were unsuccessful.
They separated in 2009 when Ms Roocroft left the family home and the civil partnership was dissolved in August 2010.
Ms Roocroft had applied for financial relief and maintenance from her former partner and eventually agreed £162,000 in instalments to ensure a “clean break”.
She argues that it was only later that she realised how much she had been worth.
Her barrister, Sally Harrison QC, argued that company accounts seen by Ms Roocroft were evidence that her former partner had failed to make proper disclosure of her assets.
“There is sufficient evidence to suggest Ms Ainscow misrepresented – to Ms Roocroft and the court to a significant degree – her assets and income at the time of the original order,” Miss Harrison said.
“The provision of false information by Ms Ainscow in this regard is sufficient to invalidate both Ms Roocroft’s agreement to the terms proposed and the court’s approval of the consent application.”
The Appeal Court judges have now reserved their decision and will give their ruling at a later date.