Trinny Woodall is pursued for €340k debts left behind by her dead ex-husband
Published 13/11/2016 | 13:20
Trinny Woodall is being pursued through the courts for debts of almost £300k (€340k) left behind by her dead ex-husband.
The former What Not to Wear presenter is facing a "nightmare" battle after the trustee in Johnny Elichaoff's bankruptcy has claimed that she should have been paying her husband maintenance after their marriage ended.
The couple, who had a daughter together, had agreed a divorce settlement in 2009 which stated Mr Elichaoff should pay the fashion adviser £24k (€27k) a year in maintenance as well as repaying £1.4m (€1.6m) that she had lent to him over their ten-year marriage.
However, it later emerged that Mr Elichaoff had been declared bankrupt shortly before the divorce was finalised, prompting a judge to invalidate the original settlement earlier this year.
Now creditors owed almost £300k (€340k) by his estate claim that, as the wealthier party, Ms Woodall should have been ordered to make payments to her former partner, and have taken their case to the High Court in a bid to force her to settle his debts.
Mr Elichaoff, who became addicted to painkillers after suffering serious injuries in a road traffic accident, took his own life in 2014 having never paid Ms Woodall any of the money agreed in the original settlement.
The former drummer, who later managed Tears for Fears, was believed to have been depressed following a series of failed oil investments.
The trustee in Mr Elichaoff's bankruptcy, Ian Robert, now wants to "step into his shoes" to pursue Ms Woodall through the courts to try and force her to pay his £285k (€330k) debts, plus legal bills.
A High Court registrar initially threw out the case, but the ruling is now being appealed.
A spokesman for Ms Woodall, who is in a relationship with millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi, said: "This is a nightmare for an innocent spouse who received nothing on divorce, yet years later is sued by a trustee in bankruptcy, asserting an unheard-of claim to spousal rights of her deceased ex-husband."
Her barrister, Caroline Hely Hutchinson, said the trustee had no standing in law to bring a "personal claim" on behalf of Mr Elichaoff, arguing that any such right ended when he died.
She said that the trustee's claim was "factually outrageous" and targeted "a single mother who received no property from her husband either during the marriage or afterwards, and who has alone provided for their child."
She told the High Court: "My client had a five-year-old daughter and she was entirely responsible for the pastoral and financial care of that daughter.
"The husband was a drug addict and these debts have been accrued post-separation. As it is, that man never made a further contribution to his wife and never repaid the £1.4m."
The court heard Ms Woodall, who now gives regular fashion advice on ITV's This Morning, and Mr Elichaoff married in 1999 and divorced in 2009 on grounds of two years' separation.
A bankruptcy petition was presented in March 2009 for non-payment of rent and Mr Elichaoff was officially made bankrupt on July 7 of that year. Nine days later, a court approved their divorce settlement, under which he was to pay £24,000-a-year each to his daughter and wife.
For the trustee, barrister James Pickering told Judge Robin Dicker QC that instead of being ordered to pay maintenance in the divorce settlement, Mr Elichaoff should have been awarded a six-figure sum from his former wife.
Describing his case as "innovative", he said: "At the time, the bankrupt was relatively poor and had little or no assets or income.
"Miss Woodall, on the other hand, was relatively wealthy and had capital resources approaching £1.5m and a six-figure annual income."
Evidence at the time suggested Miss Woodall was on a £350,000-a-year salary, while Mr Elichaoff earned only £30,000 a year, he added.
He said that the issue of whether Mr Elichaoff's entitlement to support from his ex-wife was "property" that passed on to his trustee at the time of the bankruptcy could now be settled, adding: "It would be wholly bizarre if such a valuable right did not pass to a bankrupt's trustee."
Mrs Hely Hutchinson argued that the trustee had failed to recognise that Ms Woodall herself was owed £1.4m by her former husband.
She also said there had not been an example in 200 years of divorce law in which a trustee in bankruptcy had taken on a deceased spouse's case.
At the inquest into Mr Elichaoff's death last year, a police officer who had driven him to a mental health unit two weeks before he died said that he had been told by the businessman that he was depressed because he had lost "a lot" of money "through some terrible investments in oil."
Judge Dicker reserved judgment on the case until a later date.