A son cleared of allegations that he cheated his elderly mother out of their family home last night told how the dispute had shattered their once-loving relationship.
The pair have not spoken since legal documents dropped through Felix Hughes?s letterbox in Sutton Coldfield 18 months ago informing him that his mother, Pauline, was taking him to court.
She claimed he had reneged on agreements made after she sold him the property at what was regarded as a knock-down price, but the High Court in London yesterday ruled in favour of her son.
Felix, a sales director, who is now facing a #60,000 legal bill because of the case, said he could not understand why she had brought the case to court.
?I still love her and forgive her of everything but it?s like, you had such a wonderful childhood ? for it all to come to this and not to understand why. It?s like mourning someone who has died.?
Mr Hughes said his mother had ?completely dismissed? him in court and the likelihood they would speak again was, at the moment, remote.
?Unless something from her side really changes, I don?t know whether it would ever be possible,? he added. ?But I hope that we can work things out.?
Mrs Hughes, now 70, divorced when he and his elder brother Henry were young, and brought them up single-handedly at Glenderry, in Windsor, Berks.
A former air stewardess for British Airways, Mrs Hughes had bought the four-bedroom house with her parents in 1964. A court order made at her divorce in 1978 meant the property was placed in trust to herself for life, passing to Felix on her death.
? Basically my mother worked very hard and our childhood was extremely happy,? said Felix.
?As a present on graduation I took her round all the national parks of America. I was really trying to look after her. We just had a nice relationship.?
His mother had taken a mortgage out on the property which she was struggling to pay. In 1997, to alleviate the money problem and sidestep inheritance tax, Felix purchased her life interest in the house for #60,000 and gave a pledge she could live there rent free for life.
After the deal was struck, he said, they had both lived there harmoniously.
But two years in, it started to turn sour.
?In 1998 I rekindled my relationship with Claire, who had been my girlfriend since 1992,? said Felix, aged 30. ?She used to come every other weekend and whenever they interacted my mother and her were fine. It was only when I announced I was about to marry her that it changed.
?Then, all hell broke loose. Claire is mixed race and my mother would say things like, ?she will pollute the blood line? - very offensive stuff about someone you love. It was anything to stop us marrying. By 2001 Claire would not step foot in the house.
?The situation deteriorated so much my brother stepped in to mediate.?
They decided on a radical solution. A contract was drawn up whereby Mrs Hughes agreed to keep house and create a positive atmosphere in the home in return for #600 per month.
?If it took that for her to be pleasant, then I would pay it,? said Felix.
A total of seven payments were made before it became clear the deal was not working.
Felix then agreed to pay his mother more than #50,000 to enable her to buy a house in Didcott, Oxfordshire and gave her his car, a Mercedes.
?I hoped that with no financial ties we could start rebuilding our relationship again,? he said.
On December 5, 2002 he married Claire. Relations with his mother seemed better ? until he received notice that she was suing him.
The High Court heard claims from Mrs Hughes that she had been put under undue pressure by Felix to hand over her rights to the house ? now worth about #600,000 ? and she had been promised a life of luxury which failed to materialise.
But the judge Sir Francis Ferris ruled: ?The fact she did not obtain what she wanted does not mean that Felix took advantage of her.
?On the contrary it appears to me that Felix was not ungenerous.?