Family of heiress who drowned on holiday win court battle in bid to block multi-million payout to husband

·2-min read
Paula Leeson, 47,  died in a swimming pool at a villa in a remote village in Denmark. (PA/Getty)
Paula Leeson, 47, died in a swimming pool at a villa in Denmark. (PA/Getty)

The family of an heiress who drowned on holiday have won a court battle to pursue a civil claim against her husband for unlawful killing and block a £3m insurance payout.

Paula Leeson, 47, from Sale, Greater Manchester, died in a swimming pool at a villa in Denmark on 6 June 2017, while on holiday with her husband Donald McPherson.

He was charged with her murder in 2020, but a trial at Manchester Crown Court collapsed when the judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to reach a verdict.

McPherson stood to gain £3.3m in insurance payouts as a result of her death, but Leeson's family are pursuing a civil claim of unlawful killing against him.

Read more: Man who 'murdered wife to inherit her millions showed no emotion at funeral'

Exterior of the Royal Courts of Justice in London, commonly called the Law Courts
His Honour Judge Pearce, sitting as a Judge of the High Court, dismissed McPherson's application. (Getty)

McPherson tried to have this claim thrown out, but the High Court has ruled the case can go ahead, a decision her family says takes them "one step closer to securing justice".

His Honour Judge Pearce, sitting as a Judge of the High Court, dismissed McPherson's application to strike out the claim.

The court also ordered Greater Manchester Police to disclose documents likely to support the family's claim.

McPherson, who has since moved to New Zealand, was acquitted of murder after judge Mr Justice Goose directed the jury to return a not guilty verdict.

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Paula was the daughter of Willy Leeson, a successful businessman who ran his own civil engineering firm in Greater Manchester.

Alison Rocca, partner at Glaisyers ETL, said: “The Leeson family are pleased that Donald McPherson's efforts to delay and frustrate the claim over the last six months have been overcome.

"His recent move to New Zealand will not allow him to escape the consequences of his actions.

“The family are now one step closer toward securing justice for the untimely death of their beloved daughter and ensuring Donald McPherson does not benefit from his acts.”

The next stage of the claim is a further directions hearing, likely to be in March.

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