A jilted lover who caught her millionaire ex in bed with another woman has won her court fight over a lavish £2.5m mansion they shared.
Dr Chris Rowland, 65, and business executive Sharon Blades, 63, clashed in court over who owns the “large and elegant country house” which he bought for £1.6m in March 2009 – Tadmarton House, near Banbury.
The “very much in love” couple planned to use the nine-bed “Italianate villa” as a weekend and country retreat at a time when finance wizard Dr Rowland was raking in salaries and bonuses from the City.
But Ms Blades was heartbroken a few months later when she discovered he was having an affair and, after he continued to see both women, said she was “ripped apart” after later finding him in bed with her rival, Emmanuelle Duyck.
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Their split led to a battle between the former couple at the High Court in London earlier this year, with Dr Rowland claiming sole ownership of the house where Ms Blades thought they would retire together.
But claiming half herself, Ms Blades said Dr Rowland had told her he “looked forward to growing old with her”, claimed her QC, Thomas Roe, and she herself told the court: “We were going to retire there.”
Judge William Hansen has now ruled that Ms Blades has an equal share of the mansion, leaving her ex to pick up lawyers’ bills totalling more than £200,000 for the week-long case.
He said Dr Rowland would “regret his generosity,” having contributed the entire purchase price for the house but put it in the ex-couple’s joint names.
The court heard Dr Rowland and Ms Blades, who works at a senior level in the semiconductor industry, started their relationship in 2006 and decided to buy a country house to use as a weekend and holiday retreat.
They were both charmed by the sprawling Tadmarton House, set among 24 acres in Oxfordshire, and planned to grow elephant grass in the adjoining fields as a side-line.
But in November 2009, Ms Blades found out her lover had taken up with another woman, Ms Duyck, explained her barrister, leaving her wrecked emotionally and marking the beginning of the end for their relationship.
Dr Rowland acknowledged he had carried on seeing both of them for some months and that he was “not proud of that fact”.
“But I was emotionally attached to both women and each of them wanted me to choose between them, and I had real trouble making that choice,” he told the court.
Dr Rowland had taken his ex to court, asking Judge Hansen to rule that the house belongs to him alone, and to award him £371,000 in back rent for the time he was excluded from the house.
Ms Blades fought his claim on grounds that the house was in both their names and she always believed she had an equal stake in the property, also highlighting a June 2011 email from her ex which read: ‘I’ve no intention of trying to take it away from you – it’s at least as much yours as mine’.”
Ms Blades accepted not having contributed to the purchase price but said she had spent lavish amounts on the house in later years, and told the court: “I gave him emotional support and I helped financially where I could.”
After nearly a week in court, Judge Hansen ruled against Dr Rowland on the key issue of ownership, ruling that Tadmarton House is held jointly by him and Ms Blades.
The judge went on to award Dr Rowland £59,958 in back rent from Ms Blades because she “effectively” barred her ex and his new partner from the villa between November 2009 and November 2015.
The judge ordered Dr Rowland to pay 90 per cent of Ms Blades’ court costs, which her lawyer Simon Lillington estimated at around £180,000, on top of his own.