A woman who devoted herself to the care of a widow and Holocaust survivor as her health declined has convinced the High Court that the old lady promised to reward her for her kindness with the gift of her £160,000 flat.

The woman had given the pensioner much gratuitous assistance after they became firm friends, helping her to keep her flat clean and tidy and looking after her following stints in hospital. The old lady, who had escaped the Nazis, believed that she had no surviving relatives, her sister having died in a concentration camp.

The widow’s total estate was worth around £1.3 million. She had made no will and, following her death aged 89, the woman had moved into her flat. However, a so-called ‘heir hunter’ subsequently tracked down two of the pensioner’s cousins and launched proceedings against the woman on behalf the estate.

Accusing the woman of being a trespasser, he sought her removal from the property and also claimed £50,000 from her in respect of almost five years in which she had lived in the flat rent free. In dismissing the heir hunter’s financial claim, however, the Court found that the widow had indeed promised to give her flat to her friend.

The value of the care that the woman had given to the widow was assessed at £70,000 and she was thus awarded £20,000 from the estate after taking into account the value of her rent-free occupation. On that basis, the woman was given six months to move out of the flat so that it could be returned to the estate.