Fragile: Daphne McKinley’s battle with her former handyman has hit her health
There is much to envy in the glamorous world of Daphne McKinley.
A wealthy model-turned-businesswoman and an heiress to boot, she boasts a jet-set lifestyle and a property portfolio that includes luxury homes in Britain, Ireland and the South of France.
Yet for all her wealth, this has been a truly miserable Christmas for the 60-year-old – and there is little prospect of a happy New Year.
Unless, that is, she can finally escape the tentacles of a six-year legal battle that has brought her to the edge of a breakdown.
Her troubles began when her former handyman Jason Patrick, once laughingly described as ‘Lady Chatterley’s lover’, went to court demanding a huge chunk of Daphne’s £10 million fortune.
The high-profile case was seen by many as bizarre and audacious and Patrick was dismissed by the judge as a ‘fantasist’.
But with the news that Patrick has now been allowed to appeal, there seems no end to Daphne’s ordeal.
She is now racked by illness and to make matters worse her lawyers have banned her from speaking until the case is concluded, whenever that might be.
Yet those around her are determined that the truth as they see it should be known.
One of her closest friends has given a candid and at times disturbing account of the turmoil behind the court hearings – the truth, as she sees it, about the relationship between Daphne and her handyman and its destructive aftermath.
The story she tells is one of greed and revenge. If she is to be believed, it exposes Patrick, 44, as a fantasist and a liar hell-bent on destroying his former employer. Despite a court judgement supporting much of what she has to say, Patrick denies it all.
‘Fantasist’: Jason Patrick who was hired in 2003 as Daphne’s handyman claimed he was engaged to his divorced employer and that they had lived together as ‘man and wife’
It should certainly concern anyone cohabiting, and even those who believe they are taking part in no more than a romantic dalliance.
Gabriella Gadoni, a communications executive for a sports media giant, has known Daphne for 35 years. Talking from her home in Milan, Gabriella, 55, says Daphne is shocked and perplexed by the decision to allow Patrick to take his claim to the Court of Appeal.
‘Daphne is a good, decent woman. It’s astonishing that the courts have allowed this,’ she says. ‘Daphne has told me that she is devastated. It has ruined her health. She believes that Jason is doing this quite deliberately because he wants to ruin her life.
‘I don’t know how it has been possible. It’s ludicrous. All those stupid quotes from Jason in court about how they were in a loving relationship.
‘They were never together. Quite frankly, he never meant anything to her except a bit of fun. He filled a void. Jason is a fantasist. I have no respect for him. He has a serious problem with drinking and Daphne told me he was physically abusive towards her.’
The most recent court judgment supports the claim that he was violent – although he strongly denies it.
Gabriella says: ‘I believe Jason is only doing this for the money and that he planned this from the beginning. I wish that man would just disappear from the face of the earth.’
Daphne has always enjoyed the good life as the daughter of a wealthy Irish stud owner and the ex-wife of Guy Edwards, the 1970s F1 driver turned millionaire entrepreneur. She is also a successful property developer.
Patrick, a former RAF serviceman, was hired as her handy-man in 2003, but he quickly became her lover, perhaps to fill the void when her marriage of 14 years fell apart.
But what she says started as a bit of innocent fun has resulted in a quite calamitous battle between them.
Daphne with former husband and racing driver Guy Edwards and their son Sean
Basing his claim on ‘constructive trust’ law, Patrick argued the pair had been a loving couple who had lived together as ‘man and wife’ and planned to marry. He also argued they had been 50/50 partners in Daphne’s successful property business.
In Gabriella’s view the relationship amounted to little more than a string of text messages, emails and Valentine’s Day cards.
After all, in the Central London County Court, a judge not only agreed with Daphne that Patrick was a ‘fantasist’ but said he was ‘an unreliable and unconvincing witness’ who was ‘prone to obfuscate and evade and lie’ and who made ‘unfounded accusations against’ Daphne. But the Court of Appeal might decide otherwise.
Daphne first met Jason Powdrill, as he was before he changed his name by deed poll, in 2003 when her housekeeper employed him as a groundsman at Fayland House, the family’s 50-acre home in Buckinghamshire.
Daphne was going through an acrimonious divorce with Guy Edwards, who was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for pulling F1 legend Nikki Lauda out of his burning car in 1976.
Daphne and Guy, who met in 1980 before marrying in 1986 and having two children, were battling over his £18.7 million fortune.
Patrick’s role, as Gabriella understands it, was to be a handyman, but also to provide security for Daphne and her late son Sean, then a budding racing driver.
Patrick says he initially saw himself as an estate manager whose role was to look after the house and grounds and later became a project manager and Daphne’s business partner.
Gabriella adds: ‘Daphne didn’t really take much notice of Jason in the beginning other than to notice that he was fit, positive and always wanted to be doing things.
‘But she was going through the divorce and was very low. She’d fly in to England from her place in the South of France for the weekend to find the fires lit, food in the fridge and a glass of wine thrust into her hand.
‘Jason would say to her, “Anything else Ma’am!” Of course, it turned into a fling. It was like something out of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
‘We talk about everything and had a good laugh about it. In the beginning, Jason was funny and made her laugh, but then it all changed. I saw through him straight away. He was after money.’
In February 2004, a judge awarded Daphne more than half of Guy’s fortune. She received a £5.25 million lump sum and assets including Fayland House and a property in Monaco, making a total value of £9.4 million.
According to court documents, Patrick accompanied Daphne on frequent trips abroad, which was ‘sometimes as a friend, sometimes as companion, sometimes as lover, sometimes as security’.
Daphne took him to the Cannes Film Festival and to F1 races. He had use of a credit card, albeit with a limit. Daphne also paid more than £10,000 for helicopter flying lessons and he was given a ‘very large amount of gifts’.
But the ‘fling’ seems to have had a darker side. Court documents state that Gabriella first witnessed Jason verbally abusing Daphne during a visit to Fayland House in 2004/2005.
In the fast lane: Racing driver Guy Edwards poses with a glamorous model
‘I remember watching television with Daphne’s daughter, Jade,’ she recalls today. ‘I heard Jason shouting and screaming at Daphne in the kitchen. He was drunk.’
According to court documents, Daphne later told Gabriella that Patrick only behaved like that when drunk and it was alleged in court that he admitted he had hit her on more than one occasion. Patrick denies any drink problem.
In August 2005 on a trip to Daphne’s house in Ireland, Gabriella noticed a big bruise on Daphne’s arm. ‘She broke down and admitted to me that he’d hit her so hard in the past that she had fallen on the floor.
She didn’t call the police. She didn’t want to believe it. When something like that happens to you and you’re not used to it, you get scared – even someone as strong as Daphne.
I said to her, “Get rid of him; it’s killing you.” She promised me she would, but she felt ashamed. She was so fragile that she couldn’t stand up for herself. And when she did, he took her to court.’
By 2008 the physical relationship fizzled out, says Gabriella. But despite the abuse recorded in the judgment, Daphne kept Patrick in her life by allowing him to rent her daughter’s flat in Chelsea.
Things turned truly nasty when Daphne gave Patrick notice to vacate the property in 2010. When he refused, she took him to court. Patrick issued a counter-claim arguing he and Daphne had cohabited at the flat and he was entitled to stay.
He also cited the law of ‘constructive trust’, which enables people to sue an ex-partner for a share of their wealth even though they were never married.
I have never met and I hope never to meet again anyone like Jason Patrick. It’s sad to see a man reduced to that. He should concentrate on getting a job and getting on with his life rather than being a b*****d to women.
Gabriella Gadoni, Communications Executive
He initially argued he was entitled to £7 million, which he saw as his share of the profits on three of Daphne’s properties, including Fayland House, after promises she had made.
Patrick’s barrister cited Valentine’s Day cards, texts and evidence of Daphne referring to Patrick as her ‘partner’ as proof that their ‘strong and loving relationship’ had continued until 2010.
Gabriella says: ‘Very few people know about this law. The fact is that any old Joe Bloggs you have a fling with or go out with for a year or two can say you were engaged and you promised to set up home together.’
In October 2013, Daphne’s world fell apart when son Sean died aged 26 after the car he was in crashed on the racing track.
Gabriella says: ‘Jason took her to court one week after the death of her son and tried to get a full trial within 12 weeks of him dying.
The judge allowed another 12 weeks so the trial took place less than six months after his death when she was not psychologically fit. Daphne went to a chapel beside the court each morning before court and prayed Sean was listening. That kept her going.’
In the county court, Patrick claimed he and Daphne had lived together as ‘man and wife’ from 2003 to 2010, were engaged to be married, that she had given him repeated promises that he would have a beneficial interest in three properties and that he had played a key part in creating her property portfolio. Daphne denied it all.
Judge Nigel Gerald rejected Patrick’s claim, saying there was no ‘credible evidence that he had done work for which he has not been paid’. Gabriella says: ‘I was so relieved that finally he was out of her life. But I was mistaken.’
In December, Lord Justice Kitchin granted Patrick permission to appeal, saying it was arguable the judge in the original case failed to properly consider some material.
Gabriella says: ‘Daphne was in bits when she told me and I was speechless. I could not believe a judge had given him leave to appeal. This is a loving relationship because she wrote a Valentine’s Day card? Come on. Jason obviously wants to destroy her. He likes the good life without having to work for it.’
A date for the appeal hearing has yet to be set. According to Gabriella, the case has cost Daphne around £350,000 so far.
She must now psych herself up for yet another round. But Gabriella fears, even if her friend does win, that she will never get over how she has been treated. ‘She certainly won’t ever get over the fact that he put her through it within six months of her son dying,’ she says.
‘I have never met and I hope never to meet again anyone like Jason Patrick. It’s sad to see a man reduced to that. He should concentrate on getting a job and getting on with his life rather than being a b*****d to women.’