North East Wales

'Geography error' sparks legal fight over scientist's £2m fortune

Michael Crowley-Milling Image copyright Champion News

An error in geography by a scientist has ended with a charity winning a legal battle for half his £2m fortune.

Denbighshire-born Michael Crowley-Milling helped invent the world's first computer touch screen and died in 2012.

The 95-year-old's will left his wealth "within the UK" to The Royal Society - but almost half the cash was in Jersey and Isle of Man accounts.

The High Court ruled he had confused the British Isles and the UK.

The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, whilst part of the British Isles, are not part of the United Kingdom.

Mr Crowley-Milling's family laid claim to his offshore £1m, when the mistake in the will was discovered.

'Fallen out'

They argued that such a brilliant man must have known what he was doing when he had the will drafted and had clearly wanted the cash to go to them.

It was said he made that move because he had "fallen out" with The Royal Society in his Autumn years, over the charity's stance on climate change.

Lawyers for The Royal Society insisted that he must have wanted it to have to have the £1m and had made a simple geographical error.

"Lawyers may understand perfectly well the technical meaning of the term 'UK'," Mr Justice Nugee said.

"But there is no evidence that laymen - even highly intelligent laymen - would have grasped the difference between the UK, Great Britain and the British Isles."

He added: "I am entirely satisfied that Mr Crowley-Milling did intend to include the offshore accounts in his will."

Mr Crowley-Milling played key roles in developing particle acceleration and the touch screen technology that paved the way for smart phones and tablets.

Born in St Asaph, he later divided his time between homes in Yorkshire and Switzerland.

But his fortune was mostly made up of the £2m he made from selling his vintage Alfa Romeo sports car.