Heir to Gilbey gin empire accused of attacking his mother

The aristocrat heir to a world-famous gin company attacked his 95-year-old mother while staying with her at her Sussex home, a court heard today.

Sir Walter Gavin Gilbey, heir to the Gilbey gin empire SUS-180902-144244001
Sir Walter Gavin Gilbey, heir to the Gilbey gin empire SUS-180902-144244001

Sir Walter Gavin Gilbey, 68, ‘violently pulled’ Lady Elizabeth Gilbey from a chair after an argument broke out in her living room, causing significant bruising to her chest, it is alleged.

Horsham Magistrates’ Court heard he also snapped her walking stick into ‘several pieces’ during the attack at her countryside home in Pulborough on August 26.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

Sir Walter, who uses his middle name Gavin, was reported to police five days later and denied the attack but answered ‘no comment’ to questions in interview.

Prosecutor Amanda Burrows told the court he had been staying with his mother in the days before the alleged assault.

She said: “Essentially the allegation is on August 26 2017 Lady Gilbey was at her home address and the defendant had been staying with her for a few days.

“There was nobody else present as her housekeeper was away at the time. Lady Gilbey says the defendant came into the living room.

“The pair became involved in an argument during which Lady Gilbey said her son approached her in what she perceived to be a threatening manner.

“She described placing her wooden walking cane in front to prevent the defendant coming closer.

“The defendant snatched the cane from her and broke it into several pieces.”

The prosecutor added: “She says he then grabbed her by the arms and violently pulled her from the chair, forcing her to the floor with such force her hearing aid fell from her ear.

“She remained on the floor for a short period of time before picking herself up and walking to a neighbour’s house.”

The court heard she then spoke to her neighbours, who are not giving evidence in the trial, about the alleged attack but police were not called until five days later.

Miss Burrows said: “The police were not contacted but the neighbour went to speak to the defendant.

“Lady Gilbey’s housekeeper assisted Lady Gilbey with contacting the police on September 1 to report the matter and an investigation commenced.”

The court was shown a photo of a large blackened bruise on Lady Gilbey’s chest which was taken by her daughter after the alleged attack.

The prosecutor said: “She suffered significant bruising to her left breast and chest area during the fall.”

Lady Gilbey was checked over by her doctor on September 5, Miss Burrows said.

She added: “In interview the defendant, who was legally represented, gave a prepared written statement and refused to answer any further questions.

“He failed to account for how his mother’s cane was broken.”

The prepared statement to police said: “I didn’t assault my mother in any way whatsoever on this occasion or any other occasion.

“I accept I have taken her walking stick away from her as she was in the process of assaulting me.

“I didn’t pull my mother from her chair I didn’t cause any bruising or injury to my mother.”

Sir Walter maintains his mother lied about him attacking after several arguments about her driving despite suffering from glaucoma, the court heard.

He feared his mother was ‘a risk to herself and other road users’ because she frequently used a car despite the eye condition.

His solicitor claimed that is why Lady Gilbey made a ‘false allegation’ about the attack. But Lady Gilbey’s GP told the court her injuries were ‘in keeping’ with the alleged attack.

Representing Sir Walter, solicitor John Blandford said: “The defence case is that Lady Gilbey was driving on a regular basis although she had glaucoma.

“The defendant was very concerned about her driving with glaucoma, with a risk to herself and other road users.

“On at least two occasions he took her car keys off her, which led to arguments and threats by Lady Gilbey.

“That, the defence says, is the reason, among others, why she has made a false allegation he assaulted her.”

Dr Timothy Fooks, Lady Gilbey’s GP since 2005, said he was visited by her and her daughter, Camilla Frederick, on September 5 about the alleged injuries.

Giving evidence, he told the court: “I was informed that ten days prior to her attendance at my clinic she had been in an altercation with her son at her own home.

“During that event she told me she had been pulled forward in such a way she fell onto her chest and that’s how the bruise was caused.”

A photo shown to the court of the bruise was taken several days before the visit to Dr Fooks, the court heard.

But he said: “The injury I was shown was a significant bruise which would have been in keeping with what I was informed had occurred.”

Mr Blandford asked the doctor whether the bruise could have been caused on a date after the alleged assault took place.

He said: “It could have been caused on August 26 or it could have been caused after?”

Dr Fooks said: “Yes, that’s correct.”

The solicitor added: “Therefore leaving aside her account from a medical point of view, that bruising could have been caused any time between August 26 and 18 hours before you saw her?”

Dr Fooks said: “From the photo shown to the court there had been quite a substantial bruise at that time, which had changed over a few days.

“I think it would have occurred much more than 18 hours after I actually saw it.”

Grey-haired Sir Walter, the fourth Baronet of the Gilbey baronetcy, appeared in the dock wearing a grey suit, blue shirt, patterned tie and glasses.

The trial continues.