The owner of London’s Sherlock Holmes Museum is embroiled in a High Court battle with his younger brother over the £1 million estate the latter has called home for 25 years.
John Aidiniantz and his siblings have racked up more than £2.5m in costs and court orders in a decade-long feud over profits from the museum at 221B Baker Street.
The family have appeared in court more than 100 times over the museum, which was the brainchild of Mr Aidiniantz, 66, and which has attracted tourists from around the globe to see its ‘gas-lit world of London’s iconic detective and his Victorian surroundings’.
The feud erupted in 2012 when the relationship between John and the rest of his family ‘broke down in a flurry of bad feelings and cross-recriminations’, the court heard.
Previous disputes have centered on who should benefit from millions of pounds in income from the museum – which opened in 1989 – and gift shop, with assets frozen on both sides.
The feud has now reignited as Mr Aidiniantz and his company Rollerteam Ltd battle his brother Stephen Riley, 59, over their late mother’s former £1 million home in Battersea, south London.
Sir. Aidiniantz claims he has no right to live there, but his siblings, Mr Riley and Linda, 60, claim he cannot be forced out because the property was promised to him as a ‘home for life’ when it was bought in Linda’s name in 1997.
John Aidiniantz (pictured left) is currently the sole director of Rollerteam Ltd, which owns the museum, although other family members have been involved in its running in the past. His brother Stephen (pictured right) told the court that his family members had repeatedly promised him before the row that he would always have a home on Parkgate Road
The property on Parkgate Road in Battersea, south London, was bought in sister Linda’s name 25 years ago and was intended to be a home for their late mother Grace and vulnerable younger brother Stephen
Sir. Aidiniantz is currently the sole director of the company that owns it, Rollerteam Ltd, although other family members have previously been involved in its operations.
Siblings John, Linda and Mr Riley and Jenny Decoteau worked together at the famous museum for years, but for the past decade have been locked in a bitter feud over money, property and the care of their late mother.
The property on Parkgate Road in south London was intended to be a home for their late mother Grace Aidiniantz and vulnerable younger brother Mr. Riley.
However, ever since 2012, the family has been involved in numerous legal cases, arguing for over £1.8 million in income from the museum, the ownership and occupancy of various properties and the care of their late mother.
The feud has been described by judges over the years as ‘toxic’, ‘deplorable’ and ‘sad’ with ‘bitterness and contempt’ evident between family members.
The court previously heard that the family met at the house in 2013 in an attempt to settle their differences by signing a consent order and a deed of trust. The agreement resulted in John being appointed sole owner of the museum company.
The museum was established in 1989 close to Marylebone Station and has proved very successful ever since, being described as ‘a gold mine’ in court
He promised Linda and Miss Decoteau, 62, they would receive £1million each while the Battersea property was put into a trust for the benefit of his company, with Grace and Stephen still living there.
In the latest development, Rollerteam and Mr Aidiniantz took Linda and Mr Riley to court once again, claiming that Stephen has no right to continue living in the home, which was due to be handed over to Mr Aidiniantz’s company with “vacant possession”.
Linda, who as trustee would be in charge of the handover, is not against it in principle, but argues that she cannot kick Stephen out of the property because he had been promised years ago that it was his ‘home for life’.
Stephen told the court that his brother and other family members had repeatedly promised him before the row that he would always have a home on Parkgate Road.
Cross-examining Mr Riley in the witness box, Stephanie Varron, for Rollerteam and Mr Aidiniantz, claimed that since the 2013 deal he had known he might have to move out.
“The agreement was that from April 2013 you no longer had the right to live on Parkgate Road and that Linda would provide your accommodation in the future,” she told him.
“You could stay as long as your mother lived there, but she moved on for years.”
He replied: ‘There was no agreement that I would only stay at Parkgate Road until my mother died – it would be ridiculous for me to agree to that.
“I was not the black sheep of the family. Jenny and Linda had gotten a million. I didn’t get a million because I was told I would be “all right for life”.’
Linda’s lawyer, Cheryl Jones, told the court that under the terms of the agreement, Mr Aidiniantz’s company had to reimburse her for mortgage payments and other payments on the property.
But she had not received the money she is owed, and the only payments received were ordered by judges.
It is claimed she would face “financial disaster” if forced to sell the house at a low price as she is responsible for the mortgage.
Miss Jones told the court that Linda would not be doing her duty as a trustee if she kicked Stephen out, due to the fact that she believes he has a right to stay.
“It’s quite clear that what was at the forefront of her mind was a concern for Stephen’s position,” she said.
‘She believed and continues to believe that Stephen has a right to live there. That has been her focus.
‘She has sought to fix this. She’s tired. She does not oppose a sale and has never done so in this case. She fully accepts that Stephen’s position will be decided by this court.
“There is a very unpleasant undertone in these cases of vindictiveness, a desire to punish and a desire to gain an advantage.”
The siblings have been embroiled in a bitter court feud for years (Pictured: Jenny Decoteau, left, and Linda Riley, right)
Barrister Mark Dencer, representing Mr Riley, argued that his older brother Mr Aidiniantz had known all along that he had a right to stay on the property because of the 2013 trust, which would have required “very clear wording”. if it should go back on its promise and demand that he be thrown out.
“What John got was a goldmine,” he said. “It would be surprising if the deal was that Linda gets a million, Jenny gets a million, and Stephen not only gets nothing, but actually loses the one thing he has, which is his home.”
The parties will have one more attempt to transfer the home, with Stephen still living in it, before Deputy Bowles decides whether he has the right to stay or not.
A decision on whether Mr Riley has the right to stay will be made at a later date.
The long-running legal battle has resulted in payment orders from various members of the family totaling at least £2 million.
A court of protection battle over Grace’s care and finances before she died ran up £270,000 in legal bills alone, while another case in 2015 ended in legal costs of more than £250,000 on just one side of the row.
In 2015, the judge, Mr Justice Peter Jackson, refused the family anonymity in the Court of Protection, pointing out that it was in the public interest for people to know how much they had spent on their fight.
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