Property where Susan Shaw was murdered at centre of legal tussle

2009-03-03 00:00

The remote country retreat at Lake Lyndhurst where Hilton Shaw (57) is alleged to have shot and killed his wife, Susan, on June 3, 2007 is the subject of a legal tussle between the businessman who until now has funded Shaw’s defence and one of Shaw’s sons, Nicholas, the sole director of Highfell Pty Ltd, which owns the property. The shareholders of Highfell are the Gareth Shaw Trust and Nicholas Shaw Trust, named for Shaw’s two sons.

The case came before Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Graham Lopes on February 18 and was adjourned indefinitely pending the filing of further affidavits.

Nicholas Shaw applied for an interdict restraining Strath McBarron Wood of Durban from attempting to transfer, sell, encumber or “otherwise alienate” the Lake Lyndhurst property and from threatening the Shaw family with arrest for trespassing. The interdict would demand that he restore possession of the property to them.

In a replying affidavit, Wood said he paid not only Shaw’s legal fees, but “even for his liquor and cigarettes”. He denied that he tried to deprive the Shaws of possession of the property and undertook not to invoke power of attorney in his favour to take transfer of it. He also said there was no imminent sale pending. However, he added that Highfell could expect to have summons served on it for repayment of his loan and an order declaring the property “executable”.

In an affidavit, Nicholas Shaw said it became clear his father’s defence would be extremely expensive and that he and his brother had resolved they would use the property to raise funds. A friend said Wood was prepared to help and an agreement was reached. He said Wood assured them he had “massive amounts of money” and could wait a substantial time while they figured out how to repay the loan.

It was agreed that a mortgage bond would be registered in favour of Wood over the 21,8-ha farm and would serve as security. Wood would advance R2 million to Highfell and that a payment plan would be decided once the trial was over.

Nicholas Shaw said he signed power of attorney and the surety mortgage bond on October 11, 2007. He said Wood forwarded money to attorneys and posted his father’s bail (of R100 000).

But he alleged that before the trial last November Wood became “impossible to reach” and was not available to pay the legal fees.

His father was able to negotiate his bail receipt, and when halfway through the case counsel refused to proceed without further payment of R100 000, it took the intervention of friends before Wood “relented” and forwarded the money. Since the case was postponed to June 1 no money had been paid out by Wood.

Nicholas Shaw alleges that Wood has not accounted for how much money was forwarded and said no more than R400 000 has been paid out at the request of Highfell.

He had “no idea” how much extra costs had been calculated in terms of the agreement nor had Highfell received notice or request to pay. Despite this, he said, it came to his attention that Wood was in the process of selling the property and had begun transferring it into his own name.

He also sent repairmen to the property.

Nicholas Shaw said that on February 8, his father received an SMS message warning that if there was any attempt by him or his family to stop repairs continuing, the police would arrest them for trespassing.

He believed he had a right to prevent the property being transferred because Wood had not fulfilled his obligations.

In his replying affidavit, Wood said Hilton Shaw was employed by a company of which he is a director, Chemical Specialities Ltd, after he was declared insolvent in 2000. He said Shaw’s employment was terminated “under a cloud” and that he was initially reluctant to fund Shaw given his “checkered history”.

He claims he was “persuaded” by Nicholas Shaw to provide a loan to fund Shaw’s legal expenses and give him monthly allowance to “live in the style to which he had become accustomed”.

However, it was conditional on it being a secured loan.

Wood said it was agreed the money would be repaid within 12 months. Hilton Shaw assured him the property would fetch about R4 million and the family would be able to repay him.

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