Australia

Colleen McCullough: The Thorn Birds author 'not coerced' over will

Colleen McCullough Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Colleen McCullough was one of Australia's best-selling novelists

The widower of Australian author Colleen McCullough has been granted control of her multi-million dollar estate after a bitter court dispute.

McCullough, who died in 2015, was best known for her 1977 international best-selling novel The Thorn Birds.

On Friday, a court in Sydney ruled that she had intended to leave her estate to her husband, Ric Robinson, and not a US university.

The dispute had centred on two competing wills.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court of New South Wales found that Mr Robinson had not coerced his wife into signing a new will in the last months of her life.

What was the case about?

McCullough's friend and will executor, Selwa Anthony, had argued that the author's true intentions were contained in a will signed in July 2014.

In that document, the author bequeathed her estate - worth an estimated A$2.1m (£1.2m; $1.5m) - to the University of Oklahoma.

McCullough, a former neuroscientist, was once a board member at the university.

Mr Robinson argued that another will, signed in October 2014, left him as the beneficiary.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Colleen McCullough and her husband Ric Robinson in 2000

During the trial in May, the court heard that McCullough had removed her husband from the first will after discovering he had a mistress. The couple briefly separated in June 2014.

Ms Anthony alleged that the author, suffering from poor health, had been coerced into signing the second will by Mr Robinson.

But Mr Robinson denied ever pressuring McCullough, his wife of more than 30 years, and said she had approved of his affair.

What did the court find?

Justice Nigel Rein ruled that in creating the new will in October, McCullough intended to leave her estate to her husband.

He found that Ms Anthony "had not established that Mr Robinson had coerced Dr McCullough into signing those documents".

Lawyers for Mr Robinson said he was pleased that "his and Colleen's reputations have been restored".

McCullough wrote 25 novels. Her most famous, The Thorn Birds, sold more than 30 million copies and became a hit television drama.

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