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Daily Mail

British astronomers are locked in struggle over £400,000 fortune of stargazer who found a comet


British stargazers are locked in a weird courtroom struggle over the £400,000 fortune of a celebrated astronomer who left every part to his ‘greatest mate’ in his will – however did not say who that was.

Novice astronomer Roy Panther discovered nationwide fame in 1980 when he found a comet with a home-made telescope from his suburban semi.

The invention earned him a point out within the document books and he additionally featured on long-running BBC astronomy present ‘The Sky at Night time’ when he was interviewed by Sir Patrick Moore.

Mr Panther, who died in 2016, had deliberate to depart nearly all his worldly items to the British Astronomical Association (BAA), however a bitter courtroom row has since erupted after the invention of a brand new will written on his deathbed.

The hand-written doc merely guarantees every part to ‘my greatest mate’ – and now lifelong pal and fellow star-gazer Alan Gibbs is preventing in courtroom to show he’s the ‘mate’ and so the rightful inheritor.

Astronomer Roy Panther (pictured) discovered nationwide fame in 1980 when he found a comet with a home-made telescope from his house

He made his discovery on Christmas Day in 1980 when he spotted the faint signs of what would become 'Comet Panther' (pictured) from his home in Walgrave, Northants

He made his discovery on Christmas Day in 1980 when he noticed the faint indicators of what would change into ‘Comet Panther’ (pictured) from his house in Walgrave, Northants

Mr Panther's former suburban semi (pictured) where he spotted the comet with a home-made telescope

Mr Panther’s former suburban semi (pictured) the place he noticed the comet with a home-made telescope

Nevertheless, the case – to be fought subsequent 12 months – is being contested by the BAA, which says merely stating ‘my greatest mate’ isn’t sufficient to make a sound will and that Mr Panther was too frail and sick on the time to totally perceive what he was doing anyway.

Mr Panther, who was 90 when he died in hospital in October 2016, was an enthusiastic newbie astronomer, who had created an observatory utilizing home-built tools at his Northamptonshire house.

He made his superb discovery on Christmas Day in 1980 when he noticed the faint indicators of what would change into ‘Comet Panther’ from his house in Walgrave, Northants.

He was conducting a ‘systematic search’ of the night time sky when he noticed the brand new comet within the far north, inside within the constellation of Draco.

It was his first success after over 600 hours of looking and he later mentioned in a tv interview that it will imply his identify wouldn’t be ‘forgotten to posterity.’

In 1986, he made a will, leaving nearly all of his fortune, together with his house in Previous Highway, Walgrave, to the BAA, of which he was a long-standing member.

Two mates obtained small money sums, whereas one other, Colin Eaton, was named executor of the need and was left £10,000 and Mr Panther’s optical and meteorological charts and tools.

Mr Panther's friend Colin Eaton (pictured) was named executor of the will and was left £10,000, optical and meteorological charts and equipment.

Mr Panther’s pal Colin Eaton (pictured) was named executor of the need and was left £10,000, optical and meteorological charts and tools.

However Mr Gibbs, additionally from Northampton, now claims that whereas in Northampton Basic Hospital earlier than his dying, Mr Panther had dictated a brand new will, leaving every part to him.

Dated September 11, 2016, the need, which Mr Gibbs says he transcribed on the instruction of his outdated pal, states that ‘if I die’ his property would go to ‘my greatest mate,’ which Mr Gibbs says can solely seek advice from him.

‘Mr Gibbs and the deceased had been lifelong mates, having identified one another for round 77 years,’ says his barrister, Chris Bryden, in paperwork filed at Central London County Courtroom forward of subsequent 12 months’s trial.

‘They shared a eager curiosity in astronomy and collectively established an observatory. The deceased bought the premises and Mr Gibbs offered tools for this observatory.

‘It’s admitted and averred that the 2016 will doesn’t seek advice from Mr Gibbs by identify however slightly to ‘greatest mate’. Nevertheless the compelling inference is that the deceased by this phrase was referring to Mr Gibbs.

‘The deceased dictated the phrases of the 2016 will to Mr Gibbs. It’s subsequently pure that he used a colloquial phrase, slightly than figuring out him by identify.

‘The bizarre and pure which means of the phrase ‘greatest mate’ and the intention of the deceased was clearly to seek advice from Mr Gibbs.’

However the BAA denies that the 2016 doc was duly executed as a result of it didn’t truly identify the beneficiary.

They’re additionally elevating questions over the way it was witnessed, in addition to insisting Mr Panther was very frail and weak on the time and didn’t absolutely perceive what he was doing.

Sir Patrick Moore (pictured), who interviewed Mr Panther, recording the 650th 'The Sky at Night' for BBC television at his home in Selsey, West Sussex

Sir Patrick Moore (pictured), who interviewed Mr Panther, recording the 650th ‘The Sky at Night time’ for BBC tv at his house in Selsey, West Sussex

Earlier than the need was written, the BBA say, he had suffered a fall at house and been hospitalised and was mentioned by medical workers to be ‘discovering it obscure’ communications.

He additionally had dementia, say the BBA, and there had additionally been considerations about his welfare as he had been leaving his entrance door unlocked, permitting individuals to come back and go uninvited.

Though beforehand an ‘articulate’ man, he had been described as ‘very confused’ in hospital, the place his solely customer was Mr Gibbs.

‘The deceased was extraordinarily weak from 30 August 2016 till he handed away,’ says the BAA’s barrister Mukhtiar Singh.

‘On the time of creating the handwritten word, the deceased lacked capability and didn’t perceive the character and impact of it.

‘The deceased had severe communication difficulties as a result of his listening to and/or he was unable to make choices for himself as a result of his cognitive impairment.’

However Mr Bryden says that’s solely a part of the story, since different medical notes counsel that Mr Panther’s situation had improved whereas in hospital.

He was mentioned to be ‘brilliant and chatty’ and speaking in sentences days earlier than the need was made and ‘brilliant and communicative’ on the day it was written.

‘The deceased himself dictated the phrases of the 2016 will and was conscious of the character and extent of his property and clearly expressed that he wished for Mr Gibbs to obtain the identical,’ Mr Bryden added.

The battle over the 2016 will is about to be heard throughout a three-day trial at Central London County Courtroom subsequent 12 months, however reached courtroom final week for a brief planning listening to coping with the proof to be heard.

Decide Alan Johns KC granted an utility for medical proof to be given on the trial by medical doctors referring to Mr Panther’s capability to make a will on the time he was in hospital.

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