Legal battle over Norfolk-based composer’s estate

A legal battle has begun in the High Court after the children of Norfolk-based composer Sir Malcolm Arnold challenged his decision to leave the majority of his estate to his carer.

The musician, who lived in Attleborough for the final 19 years of his life, left his house, manuscripts and a half share of royalties to his companion Anthony Day when he passed away in 2006.

However, his children, Katherine, 60 and Robert, 57, are challenging gifts their father made to Mr Day during his lifetime, claiming he was subjected to 'undue influence'.

But a High Court judge was this week told that the Oscar winning composer knew exactly what he was doing when he left the bulk of his fortune to the carer.

The musician, who wrote the Oscar-winning score to the classic film the Bridge on the River Kwai, was an alcoholic living in a Northampton pub when former hairdresser, Mr Day, stepped in to save him from himself, the court heard.

And after years in the musical wilderness, Sir Malcolm lived on for 22 more years with Mr Day as his 'dear friend and companion', achieving one of the most productive periods in his career and winning a knighthood in 1993, said Mr Day's barrister, Tom Dumont.

When Sir Malcolm died aged 84 in 2006 he left Mr Day his house, valuable manuscripts and a half share in the annual royalties from his work, Judge Charles Purle QC was told.

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Mr Dumont told the court Sir Malcolm was one of the 20th Century's foremost British composers but, by 1984, had 'hit rock bottom'. Suffering from manic depression and alcoholism, he had written no music for years. His finances were then in a 'disastrous' state and, when he was 'beaten up' at the pub, Mr Day, who lived next door to a distant relative of Sir Malcolm's, was recruited to look after him.

Katherine and Robert, who lived on the Isle of Skye, could not care for him themselves and there were fears the composer would have to spend the rest of his days in a nursing home.

Sir Malcolm and Mr Day became 'a team' and developed 'a shared life together'. They moved in together - although they were never lovers. In a will he signed in 1986, Sir Malcolm described Mr Day as the man who 'gave me back my life and work when no one cared' and was granted power of attorney over the composer's affairs in 2001.

Constance McDonnell, representing Robert and Katherine, said that, by the time of his death, Sir Malcolm's estate was largely made up of �736,000 cash and royalties, which produced an income of up to �100,000 a year. Under his will, half went to Mr Day and a quarter each to Robert and Katherine.

The barrister said the current High Court hearing concerns Mr Day's claim that he is due more than �90,000 in holiday pay for the years he worked for the composer. Also in dispute are gifts totalling �48,000 made to Mr Day by Sir Malcolm during his lifetime which his children argue should be 'set aside'.

A baby grand piano owned by Sir Malcolm was donated to Attleborough High School two years ago by Mr Day. The hearing continues.

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