‘Del Boy’ fortune is split in court

Library image.
Library image.

A market trading couple whose Del Boy and Rodney relationship really did make them millionaires have ended up battling in the courts over their fortune.

Unlike Peckham’s finest, Michael Harris and Linda Capehorn were a success, transforming a market stall into a frozen food business turning over £1.8million-a-year.

Michael Harris arriving at Court of Appeal for hearing of his case against ex-partner Linda Capehorn. Photo by Paul Keogh.

Michael Harris arriving at Court of Appeal for hearing of his case against ex-partner Linda Capehorn. Photo by Paul Keogh.

They did so well they were able to kit out their vehicles with £70,000 worth of Only Fools and Horses themed number plates - DEL 80Y and BOY 51E.

Beginning on markets, Mr Harris was ‘dominant’ and made all the decisions, while Miss Capehorn helped load and unload the van and served customers.

But the relationship soured when Miss Capehorn, 55 - who was to accuse the 68-year-old of being a ‘serial womaniser’ - left and took their son with her in 2001.

And they ended up in court when Mr Harris sacked her in 2012 and made a claim to a half-share in her two properties, including her childhood home near Bedford.

Linda Capehorn outside Court of Appeal during hearing of her case against ex-partner Michael Harris. Photo by Paul Keogh.

Linda Capehorn outside Court of Appeal during hearing of her case against ex-partner Michael Harris. Photo by Paul Keogh.

Now, in a hearing at the Court of Appeal, Miss Capehorn has won, after top judges rejected Mr Harris’ claim to the properties - which are worth about £900,000.

She will retain ownership of £645,000 Sunnyside Farm, in Westoning, and the £250,000 house where she currently lives in Beaumont Road, Flitwick.

He will own the business, said to be worth £415,000, and pay her £750-a-week to stay at Sunnyside.

That property, where Miss Capehorn grew up, is also the headquarters of the business - and where its Trotter-style yellow three-wheel van is parked.

“On the findings of fact, the position is simple,” said Lord Justice Sales.

“Miss Capehorn is the sole legal and beneficial interest owner of Sunnyside and Beaumont Road - and Mr Harris has no valid claim to an interest in either.”

The court heard the couple met in 1982 when Miss Capehorn was a waitress in Dunstable and Mr Harris was working in a frozen food business.

She soon began working in the firm. He played the Del Boy role, identifying punters and doing the selling, while she was his Rodney, helping with the stock and serving.

When Mr Harris was made bankrupt in 1991, she began her own sole trader business, LMC Foods, but employed him as manager.

She purchased Sunnyside Farm from her parents in 1993 and the business was moved there, where cold storage facilities were later added.

Mr Harris was discharged from bankruptcy in 1994, but the business remained in Miss Capehorn’s name.

Their stormy on-off relationship finally ended in 2001 when she left him and moved away with their son.

Her barrister, Benedict Sefi, told the court she always intended that her ex would not walk away with nothing from the relationship.

To that end, in 2007 she decided to transfer the business to a company he owned in return for payment of £750-a-week, he said.

However, Mr Harris claimed that, in other discussions, they had also agreed that, although they were in her name, he was entitled to a share of the two properties.

Through her barrister, Miss Capehorn insisted that no such agreement had ever been reached.

“There was no agreement that there should be any division of beneficial interest, whether in relation to Sunnyside or Beaumont Road or the company shares,” Mr Sefi told the court.

“It was always understood that he should have something, but nothing specific.

“She acknowledged that he should not go away with nothing.”

A judge at Central London County Court originally ruled that Mr Harris was entitled to a 25 per cent share of Sunnyside Farm, but that was overturned by the appeal judges.

Lord Justice Sales said Mr Harris and his business would be entitled to stay at Sunnyside, so long as he kept paying £750-a-week to his ex.

Sitting with Sir Brian Leveson and Lady Justice Sharp, he ordered that £62,300, owed to Miss Capehorn in arrears, be paid to her.