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Widow takes stepson to court over claims she was 'thrown out of home like a dog'

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 06/12/2018 Tristan Kirk
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A wealthy property investor’s widow is locked in a court fight with her stepson over claims she was thrown out of her home “like a dog”.

Diane De Marzo, 57, says she lent £150,000 to Sonny Ball, 33, to help him find a home after the death of his father Michael, with the plan that she would also live in the property.

She claims Mr Ball and his wife Leahann, 33, forced her to leave the £450,000 three-bedroom home in Abbey Wood and they are now refusing to return the money she gave them.

The couple say Mrs De Marzo had to leave as she was “obsessed” with her husband’s death, and that the £150,000 was a gift that was part of Mr Ball’s inheritance from his father. Michael Ball died in a road accident in 2013.

“She was obsessed with how Michael Ball had died, claiming it was murder or suicide. She talked about the circumstances of his death all the time,” said their barrister Lina Mattsson. “Sonny was finding it very difficult to cope with the tension. The situation was becoming unbearable and, on 23 May, 2015, they asked Mrs De Marzo to leave.”

Mrs De Marzo told Central London county court she has been “scammed” by Mr Ball, who she helped to raise. “He said I was like his mum and he threw me out like a dog,” she said. “In my eyes, he was my boy. His dad always believed he would do right by his family.”

Her husband left behind a property portfolio in southern Spain as well as a flat in Kent. Mrs De Marzo told Judge Simon Monty QC the £150,000 she gave to Mr Ball could not have been a gift as she wanted to share the money between all of her late husband’s five children.

“Sonny can’t just have £150,000 all to himself,” she said. “I need to look after all the children.” She insisted Mr Ball and his partner draw up wills to ensure the £150,000 went back to her if they died first, after the property purchase.

Her barrister, Piers Hill, said the plan was for Mrs De Marzo to live at the property with the couple. She paid the broadband bill for a year and funded a driveway extension so her car could fit.

But Ms Mattsson said Mrs De Marzo only began claiming that her stepson had “stolen her money” after she was asked to leave. “She turned Sonny’s younger sisters against him,” said the barrister. “She emailed Sonny and Leahann an accident report with horrible photos of Sonny’s dead father.”

Leahann Ball added in her evidence: “If she had wanted the property to be jointly owned, then that’s what it would have been. She wanted to see Sonny settled; it was what his dad wanted. By giving him the £150,000, she didn’t have to worry about him any more.” Judge Monty will rule on the case at a later date.

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