Michael Clarke’s side of the story as told to John Smith.
NO matter whether you are a national daily newspaper or in our case a weekly, six-edition English language paper, the freedom of press comes with obligations which need to be recognised.
Here at the Euro Weekly News, we published an article two weeks ago about an Englishman and his mother, Michael and Ann Clarke, where we gave some details of what we understood to be their story and asked readers to keep an eye open for them.
Within a few days of the publication of the article, we were contacted by Michael himself, who asked that he be given the opportunity to present his side of the case as he believed that he was being placed in an unfavourable light, and in his opinion he had been wronged by both his family and the process of English law.
This is where our responsibility to present the other side of the story comes in, and I met both Michael and his mother Ann (who unfortunately is currently in hospital in Spain), to hear exactly what he had to say and after spending several hours in his company, I do agree that his position should be made clear.
According to Michael, when the accident occurred in 1995, Ann spent a year in hospital and when she came out, she moved to a care home which she didn’t like so it was agreed between the family that she would stay in her own house. It was also agreed that she would pass it to her daughter who would take over the mortgage and in return would make a payment to her mother (which she allegedly failed to make) and look after her, and that Michael would move in as well.
In a relatively short period of time, Michael decided to move out as he had been offered the tenancy of a pub, but within about 10 weeks his sister advised she couldn’t cope with Ann and she would have to go into a home. Neither Ann nor Michael wanted this and although the pub wasn’t really suitable for her needs, she moved in with him and he looked after her on an unpaid basis from 1996 until 2001.
During that time he left the pub and ran a student lodging house and rented a bungalow for himself and his mother. His sister moved in after a marital dispute and agreed that if he moved to Tenerife, she would look after Ann.
After a few weeks, Ann travelled to Tenerife on holiday and asked that she be allowed to stay with Michael to which he agreed and they stayed on the Island for two years. This was all prior to any settlement and without any cash, except for the mother’s disability allowance on which they lived.
1995 was the year when Ann Clarke’s accident occurred
There was a problem with a credit card which I cannot go into detail about, but for a period of time the benefits allowance was suspended whilst an investigation took place and this caused significant financial stress on the pair, although it was eventually resolved and back payments were given to them.
At the same time, in the lawsuit there was a change of solicitor and the new solicitor suggested that the matter be settled out of court to which they reluctantly agreed, and a payment of £775,000 was made to the mother, with Michael acting officially on her behalf.
At the time of the settlement, Ann and Michael employed two clinical specialists to establish whether she was able to make her own decisions to which they declared she was. Despite this however the whole matter was sent to the Court of Protection and a solicitor was appointed to look after her affairs and manage her funds.
In 2001 they moved to Blackpool. According to Michael, and I have not seen documentary evidence of this, (although I don’t doubt that this is his absolute belief), the solicitor was supposed to charge around £2,000 annually to manage this matter, but in the first year released just £10,400 to Ann, whilst charging £26,377 for his services, with a further £14,000 charged the second year.
This carried on for two years before Michael found this out, and after they a made a formal complaint their allowance was increased. Michael set up a club by 2003, which was successful. All was well until the recession in 2008, when the club suffered setbacks and they decided to immigrate to Spain.
At that time, in 2008, they had been trying to sell the property in Blackpool, without success as the recession had set in and Michael has been accused of acting improperly by his sister which he completely denied. Whilst living in Spain, Ann tried to exchange her UK property for a Spanish villa, which Michael has accused the deputy solicitor of prevaricating resulting in the loss of two properties.
In addition, because so much money has been held in sterling rather than a euro account which they had requested, there was a significant exchange rate loss. In short, they allege that the Court of Protection had overcharged Ann an estimated £150,000, and facilitated an exchange rate loss by not providing a euro account of £100,000, meaning Ann was out of pocket by a total of £250,000.
From 2009 to 2013 Michael had written to all known complaint bodies to try and draw attention to this, but all to no avail. The advice received was to serve on the solicitors a Commercial Lien that basically is a statement of truth sworn on oath before a notary.
He insists he would return to the UK to have the whole matter aired in front of a court provided there is a jury which will make the decision with regards to his guilt, and he advised me he has been given an undertaking by the court, (which has no right of extradition from Spain) that if he returns to the UK to apologise, and if his mother returns and surrenders her passport then ‘all will be forgiven’.
That begs the question of why Ann should give up her passport, what happens about the alleged losses, does Michael have a ‘record’ and will he be chased for court fees?
It is up to each and every one of our EWN readers to make their own conclusion on this situation, but as the writer of both stories I do believe that neither the local press nor the general public should play judge and jury in this matter.
What is crucial to remember is the whole point of the initial story was to try to ensure the protection and welfare of Ann Clarke, who I have now seen for myself and do believe without question she is more than happy to be here in Spain with her loving son Michael.
What do you, our readers think? Is this a case of a fugitive on the run or simply a loving, doting son doing the best he can for his mother?