Family makes desperate attempt to stop man cleared of murdering his heiress wife from getting her £4.4m fortune

Wednesday, April 17, 2024 – The family of a wealthy heiress who drowned in a swimming pool has launched a desperate bid to stop her husband from getting her £4.4 million fortune.

Donald McPherson, 50, had denied being responsible for the murder of Paula Leeson, 47 in 2017 and a jury was ordered by a judge to find him not guilty at his 2021 trial, as there was ‘insufficient evidence for a safe conviction’.

But Leeson’s family say they want a judge to rule that McPherson killed her, so the 50-year-old forfeits any legal entitlement to the late wife’s will and other assets worth £4.4 million, Manchester Civil Court of Justice heard.

McPherson took out seven life insurance policies before the death of his wife and would gain £3.5 million from the policies if she died, his murder trial in 2021 heard.

He claimed he was sleeping when his late wife drowned in the pool at a village in Denmark where they were staying on June 6, 2017.

McPherson began transferring large sums of money from his late wife’s accounts the day after, and a week later joined a group, Widowed and Young – an app to help those who lost partners to connect with others.

In a last-ditch attempt, Leeson’s family has brought a case against him in the civil courts, with her father, brother, and son attending the hearing.

McPherson had previously told the judge he would attend the hearing but was not present and the case went ahead without him. He is believed to be living in several countries in the South Pacific, including French Polynesia

The court was told McPherson has been convicted of 32 criminal offences of dishonesty or fraud in New Zealand where the 50-year-old was born.

In Germany, he was jailed for his involvement in an £11.8 million bank fraud.

The family’s lawyer, Lesley Anderson KC said that Ms Leeson must have been unconscious before she got in the water.

Ms Leeson was 5ft 5 inches tall and allegedly drowned in the pool that was under 4ft deep, even though she could swim and was otherwise healthy.

‘Essentially our case is that Paula must have been unconscious when she went into the water, otherwise her natural reaction would be to stand up to save herself.

‘Therefore, she must have gone into the water unconscious. We do say it probably was a choke hold or a neck hold.’

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