A failed actress branded a ‘greedy liar’ by her mum in a £3million inheritance feud, has settled her differences with her family in a secret deal – after the bitter row racked up £800,000 in lawyers’ bills.
Tamara Lucas was cut off from her share of her parents’ 26-acre Grade-II listed £3m home when her mother Mel handed the keys to Tamara’s brother, Alex Gatward, in 2018, insisting it was a ‘gift from mother to son’.
The 47-year-old claimed she was promised she would eventually have a share of the family home and pursued an acting career on the basis that she would one day be rich.
But her acting career did not take off – her CV includes voiceovers for bolognese sauce and mobile phone contracts.
It sparked a ‘bitterly acrimonious’ family row over the property, with each side accusing the other of being ‘liars’ and ‘fantasists’ and running up legal costs topping £800,000.
However, the case has now been settled on the eve of a two-week High Court trial in a secret deal between Tamara and her siblings, Alex, 45, and Laura Gatward, 39.
Tamara Lucas, left, has settled a ‘bitterly acrimonious’ row with her family over her share of the family’s 26-acre Grade-II listed Berkshire pile. Her mother handed the keys of Sandleford Place, near Newbury, to her younger brother Alex Gatward, right
Now worth around £3m, the estate comprises a nine-bedroom, seven-bathroom house with five reception rooms, 19 acres of paddock and pasture, and seven acres of ornamental gardens which open to visitors several times a year through the National Garden Scheme
The settlement was revealed in a court order signed off by Judge John Linwood, which describes the terms of the agreement between the siblings as ‘confidential.’
At a previous hearing in the case, matriarch Ms Gatward said she was ‘fed up’ with her daughter’s ‘greed, intransigence,’ and sense of entitlement.
She criticised her for ‘imagining that some kind of family wealth exists like some magical god from heaven has come down like Santa Claus and bestowed wealth on my family.’
Judge Milwyn Jarman QC earlier urged the family to settle their differences without running up more costs, with Tamara already having run up lawyers’ bills of about £300,000 and Alex £500,000.
At a previous hearing Matriarch Thelma ‘Mel’ Gatward said she was ‘fed up’ with her daughter’s ‘greed, intransigence,’ and sense of entitlement
‘The court has great experience of these sorts of family disputes, where it is said that promises were made about property and family assets,’ the judge told the warring siblings.
‘Mediation is the way forward for these sorts of disputes. This dispute is crying out for a settlement between the parties. Very often, they can agree matters which the court cannot order.
‘Very often in such disputes everyone is left with a sense of dissatisfaction.
‘So, I would encourage the parties, however bitter they feel towards one another now, to try and put that aside to the extent that they can work out for themselves the best way forward, and that usually involves give and take on all sides.’
The Gatward family made its money when the siblings’ father Alan Gatward turned their grandfather’s paper company into a thriving international wallpaper supplier which turned over up to £28m a year before he sold up in the 1980s.
The house which would become the family home, Sandleford Place, near Newbury, was bought through an offshore company controlled by his wife Thelma, who is known as Mel, and they moved there after the sale of the business.
Ms Lucas pursued her dream of becoming an actress but despite appearing on TV and stage (pictured), but was not a great success. In court, she said she only pursued the career as was promised she would have a share of her parents’ £3m home and believed she would one day be rich
Now worth between £2.65m and £3m, the estate comprises a nine-bedroom, seven-bathroom house with five reception rooms, 19 acres of paddock and pasture, and seven acres of ornamental gardens, which Mrs Gatward opens to visitors several times a year through the National Garden Scheme.
Tamara claims that it was always the family’s intention that the house, which was until recently in her horticulturalist mum’s sole name, would eventually be handed to the three siblings in equal shares.
With that comfort, she says she chose not to pursue a law career after she left university, instead focusing on trying to become an actress, attending Mountview, one of the UK’s leading drama schools.
Tamara’s acting credits include the 2005 film, ‘Singing Stones’, directed by Kim Bour and appearing as a clubber in a 2000 commercial for VK Vodka Kick.
But according to court papers filed ahead of the planned trial of the claim, the married mother-of-one was ‘unsuccessful’ in her career choice, although she did appear on stage and TV.
Mrs Gatward, centre, criticised her daughter at a previous hearing for ‘imagining that some kind of family wealth exists like some magical god from heaven has come down like Santa Claus and bestowed wealth on my family’
Despite discussions about giving the house to the three siblings, in 2018 Mrs Gatward handed the keys to her son, Alex, insisting that it was a ‘gift’ from mother to son
She has in later years forged a new path in compliance and regulatory law.
Despite discussions about giving the house to the three siblings, in 2018 Mrs Gatward handed the keys to her son, Alex, a national account manager for a tech company, insisting that it was a ‘gift’ from mother to son.
But the move sparked the family row, with Tamara suing both Alex and Laura, claiming she was entitled to a one-third share of the property and accusing them of conspiring together to ‘cut her out’ of her inheritance.
She claimed she relied on assurances that she would inherit part of a ‘considerable family wealth’ in making her career choices, and would otherwise now be working for a ‘top City, US, international or at least regional law firm’.
Her barrister, James Ballance, said the dispute had been ‘bitterly acrimonious’, with both sides accusing the other of ‘lying or being fantasists about everything.’
Tamara had been branded a ‘Walter Mitty character’ who is ‘prone to fantasy and day dreaming,’ while a witness in the case had accused her of always being ‘different from the rest’ and suggested she might be autistic.
Alex Gatward, a national account manager for a tech company, was made owner and manager of the nine-bed house and grounds of the family home by his mother, which sparked the bitter row
Addressing Judge Jarman via a video link from her home, Mel Gatward said Tamara had convinced herself that the family is sitting on a historic fortune passed down from previous generations.
But she insisted no such fortune existed and that her husband Alan, 89, had built their wealth through his hard work growing his father’s paper business – which started selling blackout blinds during the Second World War – after his death.
But Constance McDonnell QC, for Alex and Laura, said Tamara had never told her parents of her aspiration to be a lawyer and her mum did not find out about her hopes for a law career until 2011.
Her parents had tried to instil in all of their children a ‘sense of financial responsibility’ and Mel had tried to dissuade Tamara from pursuing her acting dream because of the risk of poor pay.
Tamara had already received ‘very generous financial provision’ from her parents, who bought her a flat when she was a student and helped her with further property purchases afterwards, she added.
Climbing the housing ladder, she now owns properties worth about £2m, from which she receives a rental income.
‘Mr and Mrs Gatward considered the claimant to be determined to be an actress regardless of the financial consequences, but didn’t encourage her to pursue an acting career,’ said Mrs McDonnell.
She said Tamara’s career in acting was ‘not a success’ and it had been ‘financially irresponsible’ of her to continue to pursue her dream for about ten years.
The truth was that her mum had considered handing the house to all three children, but simply decided against it, said the QC.
‘The main reason for this decision was that it had become clear to Mrs Gatward that the claimant’s troublesome nature would make co-ownership by the siblings unworkable,’ she said.
Alex lived in the house for eight years up to 2012, whereas Tamara only lived there for 14 months after the birth of her son and intermittently after 2016, but was kicked out because her mum found living with her ‘intolerable,’ the QC added.
Tamara had ‘effectively invited herself’ to stay, Mrs McDonnell claimed, but her mum found her ‘intolerably messy’ and the ‘domestic chaos’ which ensued was ‘profoundly irritating’ to her.
The dispute was settled in a so-called ‘Tomlin order,’ a type of court order which allows parties to agree secret terms on which the case will be ended.