It was “nonsense” to say that a widow accused of involvement in the death of her businessman husband was engaged in legal proceedings “for the money”, the High Court has heard.
Ukrainian Ganna Ziuzina, 38, has asked for a ruling that she did not murder Barry Pring, who died in a hit-and-run in Kiev on their first wedding anniversary in February 2008.
Mr Pring’s family believe the 47-year-old IT consultant’s death was deliberate and premeditated and that Ms Ziuzina, who has changed her name by deed poll to Julianna Moore, was implicated, said Deputy Master Lloyd on Tuesday.
If that belief was proved to be correct, the forfeiture rule, which precludes a person who has unlawfully killed another from benefiting in consequence, would “unquestionably” apply, he added.
The judge, who is only concerned with case management, said that it was time “for the brake to come off” the determination of the forfeiture issue so it could move forward.
“To do otherwise would simply be to prolong the delay in finally resolving the issue without, in my judgment, securing any real benefit to the parties or to the administration of justice.”
Any hearing is unlikely before autumn 2018.
Ms Ziuzina’s counsel, John McLinden QC, has claimed she was under the shadow of an unfair and relentless campaign against her.
“She wants me to say publicly that the family are completely wrong in their belief and sight has been lost that she too has been gravely affected by this tragedy,” he said.
Ms Ziuzina, who lives in Marbella and was not in court in London, wanted the forfeiture issue dealt with as soon as possible while the family wanted it to remain on hold until after a fresh inquest.
The verdict of the first inquest, that of unlawful killing, was quashed for procedural irregularity.
The judge said the family’s position was that they “simply want justice for Barry”, that their efforts had not been irrational, unfair or lawful and, if Ms Ziuzina thought otherwise, it was open to her to bring a defamation action.
Mr McLinden said there had been “gross misrepresentation” of Ms Ziuzina’s position.
Mr Pring died intestate and to prevent her receiving the share of the estate to which she was entitled, the family invoked the forfeiture rule, saying she had murdered the deceased, he added.
“In order to defend the murder allegation, she was forced to engage with the forfeiture rule which had been raised against her.
“If she had not, she would have been labelled a murderer.
“To suggest she is in this for the money, as opposed to defending the murder allegation against her, is a nonsense.”
Mr Pring’s estate is now worth about £250,000.