Warring Step-Siblings Ask Judge To Decide Who Died First

Two step-sisters are asking a High Court Judge to decide which of their parents died first in order to ascertain who pockets the £300,000 inheritance.

John Scarle aged 79 and his wife Ann aged 69 died of hypothermia at their home in Essex in October 2016.

This has resulted in Anna Winter (Mr Scarle) and Deborah Cutler (Mrs Scarle) daughters from previous marriages locking horns in this unusual case, which is the first of it’s kind since the 1950s.

The case asks the High Court to look at the Commorientes Rule. The Rule was introduced in 1926 and was used mainly after World War Two when couples or families died in the same incident, such as the Blitz bombings.

If a postmortem can not determine who died first, the Judge will use the Rule which assumes the eldest person died first.

The last known sighting of Mr Scarle was on the 3rd or 4th October, days before his and his wife’s bodies were discovered on the 11th.

Based on the Commorientes Rule, it seems apparent that Mrs Cutler will inherit the fortune.

James Weale, Barrister to Mrs Cutler, told Judge Phillip Kramer:

“The events which took place between the 3rd-4th October and the 11th October 2016 are unlikely ever to be known.

“The most that one can do is speculate as to what might have happened.

“None of the experts were able to express any views as to even the approximate date – let alone time – of death of either John or Ann.”

Mrs Scarle suffered a stroke in 1998 with Mr Scarle acting as her main carer. This premise is the defence that Mrs Winter is using to suggest her step-mother was the first to pass.

Amrik Wahiwala, Barrister for Mrs Winter, said the evidence showed that, ‘on the balance of probabilities’, it was Mrs Scarle who died first.

“The state of her body when police found the couple suggested that she had been dead the longest.”

The Judge has reserved his ruling on the dispute until a later date.


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