$4.4m estate of scientist who helped free Arthur Allan Thomas subject of legal battle
The children of a crusading forensic scientist famed for helping to free Arthur Allan Thomas have gone to court over his $4.4 million estate.
Dr Jim Sprott died in Auckland in 2014, aged 89.
He was most widely known for his role in the 1970s in overturning Thomas' conviction for the murders of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe. Sprott worked alongside journalist Pat Booth on the case.
He also achieved notoriety for his controversial theory on the cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – he claimed it was caused by toxic gases emanating from baby's mattresses – and for railing against the Labour government's anti-nuclear policy.
Sprott is survived by his three children. His wife, Marion, died in 2008.
His children's spat over his will saw his daughter, Lindsay Hoeberechts, take the case to the High Court at Auckland in a bid to remove her brother Adrian Sprott as the executor.
A judgment released on Wednesday showed Hoeberechts had alleged her brother had not sold their father's Combes Rd, Remuera property, valued in March at $4.4 million, within a reasonable timeframe.
Sprott stated in his will he wanted the property sold and the proceeds divided equally between his three children.
Hoeberechts' lawyer also alleged that Adrian and sister Alison Sprott had sided together, shown "hostility" towards Hoeberechts, and failed to provide her with historic paintings by Alfred Sharpe and Aston Greathead in accordance with their parents' wishes.
She also alleged a family Mercedes had not been sold within a reasonable timeframe.
Hoeberechts wanted her brother and a family friend removed as executors of the will, and an independent executor appointed.
But Justice Peter Woodhouse did not grant her wish, saying in his opinion there was no evidence Adrian Sprott had acted in bad faith, or with hostility.
In fact, there was evidence of steps he had taken to increase the value of the Remuera property, including removing a large oak tree and seeking consent for a subdivision.
The Mercedes had been kept in running order by Adrian and transferred into his name, and Justice Woodhouse expected this would be accounted for when dividing up the assets.
He did find delays in sending the Sharpe painting to Hoeberechts, who lived in Canada, were "unsatisfactory", and said any issues with exporting the painting should have been resolved long ago.
However, the painting had since been delivered and "improper conduct" had not been established, he said in the decision.
Adrian Sprott was kept on as an executor. A family friend was removed, and an independent solicitor appointed as the other executor.
"The principle task for the executors is to get Combes Rd on the market and proceed with the sale in an appropriate way," Justice Woodhouse said.
Sprott spent years seeking justice for Thomas, who was twice convicted for the Crewe murders before being given a royal pardon in 1979.
Sprott obtained about 26,000 cartridge cases and examined most of them himself to establish there was no match between them and the bullets used in the Crewe murders.
A royal commission later found police had planted a cartridge case in the Crewes' garden.
Thomas, who spent nine years in prison, was awarded $1 million in compensation.