Sarah Magill prosecuted a farming Will fraud valued at £1.1m. The case began in 2016; she was first instructed in 2020. The case was prosecuted at Preston Crown Court over the course of two trials, the first in 2021 and the second in 2023. The defendant Janice Johnson committed five counts of fraud in an attempt to dishonestly inherit the estate of a deceased farmer from whom she had grazed land over a period of 19 years. After he passed away, she learned that he had died without a Will. Mrs Johnson then met his relatives, would-be beneficiaries who had been traced by an estate tracing company when they visited the farm. She immediately set about contriving fabricated letters purportedly written by the deceased leaving everything to herself.
When those didn’t work, she introduced a fabricated handwritten Will with the names of two long-deceased witnesses on it; one being her own father. Using solicitors, she lodged the falsified Will with the Probate Registry.
The documents contained a number of chronological errors and improbabilities leading to those involved in the estate to become suspicious and call the police. During the currency of the first trial the defendant provided further documents to the prosecution and police, a letter and another forged document purportedly signed by the deceased in a bid to exculpate herself.
The case was lengthy, complex, and involved the coherent presentation of a narrative case in order to ensure the jury understood how the case had come to exist.
Sarah was instructed by Vicki Agullo of the Crown Prosecution Service North West and the case was investigated by DS James Graham of Cumbria CID. The defendant was convicted by the jury on all counts unanimously and received a sentence of four years immediate custody.
For more information on Sarah Magill please contact her Clerk Andy McGuinness.