In a ringing warning to families that apparently trustworthy carers for sick relatives can be anything but, a ’dictatorial’ woman who ripped off a celebrated auctioneer who made his name orchestrating the sale of the Duchess of Windsor’s jewellery is facing utter ruin after a judge ordered her to pay him back £1.2 million.
Kumari Murphy took advantage of ex-Army officer and former boss of Sotheby’s Geneva branch, Nicholas Rayner, after his glittering career at the auction block -which reached its pinnacle with the sale of Edward VIII’s widow’s jewels in 1987 – was cut short by a devastating stroke.
Listening in to telephone calls, isolating him from his family and monitoring every aspect of his life, the ‘emotional bully’ inveigled large sums in cash from her vulnerable charge – even persuading him to pay tens of thousands of pounds in school fees for a daughter she never had.
Mrs Murphy claimed she had been a ‘wonderful’ carer for Mr Rayner for more than 12 years before she was unceremoniously sacked. However, a judge found that she had cheated him to the tune of almost £780,000 – as well as using his private phone line to make £160,000-worth of personal calls. The total that she was ordered to repay Mr Rayner, with interest, came to more than £1.2 million.
Mrs Murphy tried to overturn the judge’s decision at the Court of Appeal but was told that her challenge had no reasonable prospect of success. Paying tribute to the judge’s careful analysis of the evidence, the Court found no evidence that he had been biased or prejudiced against her and refused to grant her permission for a full appeal.
Mr Rayner had met Mrs Murphy shortly after he had a severe stroke in 1994. She insisted that he had made her ‘various promises to try to induce her to stay with him and look after him’ and that he ‘owed his life’ to her. She also claimed that he had promised to leave her his £2.3 million Knightsbridge home on his death.
However, Mr Rayner’s family began to have suspicions after he was hospitalised by a further stroke in 2008. His relatives formed that view that Mrs Murphy had been ‘seriously misappropriating Mr Rayner’s money on a considerable scale’ and she swiftly found herself out of a job and evicted from her charge’s home.