Jasvinder Sanghera, the women’s rights campaigner who accused Lord Lester of promising her a peerage in return for sex, falsely claimed to be the daughter of an elderly friend whose estate she had inherited, according to the coroner who heard the inquest into her death.
Retired health worker Marianne Gentle, who suffered from depression, had left instructions that her blood relatives should not be informed she was dead, and they were not told of her funeral.
She made her last will leaving Sanghera £353,000 when she was already seriously ill, four months before she died aged 76 on October 5, 2015.
Jasvinder Sanghera who has declined to comment, has justified her claim by saying Gentle was a ‘dear friend’ who ‘referred to me as her daughter’. Retired health worker Marianne Gentle made her last will leaving Sanghera £353,000 when she was already seriously ill
Afterwards, according to Professor Paul Marks, the senior coroner for Hull and the East Riding, Sanghera paid him a visit, urging him to conduct an inquest claiming there were questions to be answered over her medical care, saying she was Gentle’s adopted daughter.
She made no mention of her real biological family. The adoption claim, he later said in court, displayed ‘some economy of the truth’.
The coroner eventually decided that Sanghera did regard herself as ‘tantamount’ to Gentle’s daughter.
However, they were not actually related at all. Sanghera had known Gentle for about six years and was 50 when she died from complications after an operation.
In English law, adoption as an adult is impossible. Having signed the will leaving Sanghera all but £15,000 of her estate, Gentle also appointed her executor, and gave her control over her affairs.
It is understood that Sanghera, who has declined to comment, has justified her claim by saying Gentle was a ‘dear friend’ who ‘referred to me as her daughter’.
Marianne Gentle at a family celebration with a nephew. The coroner eventually decided that Sanghera did regard herself as ‘tantamount’ to Gentle’s daughter. However, they were not actually related at all
Last year she claimed former Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester tried to grope her when she stayed at his home in 2008, and after promising a peerage in return for sex threatened ‘consequences’ if she refused.
He denied this. An inquiry found in her favour, though neither were cross-examined. Lester still protests his innocence, but resigned on health grounds.
Sanghera’s actions towards Gentle’s real relatives have left them deeply distressed.
Gentle’s daughter ‘Jo’, who has asked us not to publish her real name, said: ‘Learning of her death months later was unbelievably painful. Sanghera treated us with a total lack of compassion. How can someone go to see a coroner to ask for an inquest and not even mention the deceased had a family?’
She added: ‘My mum was an elderly, vulnerable adult, and her mental health problems were the reason why she refused to see me, although I tried many times. Even so, we all did our best to support her in very difficult circumstances.’
The MoS has seen Gentle’s medical records, which confirm she suffered depression and anxiety for more than 25 years.
Documents show that one aspect of her illness was a tendency to pick fights with family members, sometimes making false allegations they were trying to steal her money.
The papers also reveal Jo kept in touch with the mental health professionals who treated her.
Gentle’s sister Jennifer, 79, told the MoS: ‘When I saw Jasvinder was making these claims about Lord Lester, it brought it all back. I want to say to them, “Stop putting her on television! How can you not tell a woman’s sister and daughter that she has died?” ’
Summing up at the end of the inquest, Prof Marks said that Gentle ‘became fixated with death and her own funeral arrangements. She had a strong, independent personality which caused her on occasions to fall out with and relinquish contact with both family and friends.’
On the day after Marianne died, Sanghera signed a typed statement, saying: ‘I am the daughter of Marianne Sylvia Gentle.’ Later she inserted a handwritten addition: ‘Note not biological daughter I am also next of kin and executor.’
According to the coroner, Sanghera then went to see him, again saying she was Gentle’s daughter and next of kin. Court documents show he clearly believed she was adopted.
Last year she claimed former Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester tried to grope her when she stayed at his home in 2008, and after promising a peerage in return for sex threatened ‘consequences’ if she refused. He denied this
In March 2016, Prof Marks held a preliminary hearing, at which Sanghera referred to Gentle as ‘my mother’ without qualification. Prof Marks described Sanghera and her daughter Natasha as ‘the family’.
At this stage, Jo had only just discovered her mother was dead and had no idea there would be an inquest. When she learnt one was pending, she contacted Prof Marks, who ordered her to appear with her birth certificate to prove that Gentle was her mother.
He told her in a letter: ‘Jasvinder Sanghera has claimed that she was an adopted daughter of your mother.’
After Jo provided proof, Sanghera wrote a new legal statement saying: ‘Our relationship was such that Marianne referred to me as her daughter and our closeness was such that I regarded her as my mother.’
Later, at the inquest hearing, she insisted: ‘At no point have I ever implicated or intermitted [sic] that I am the adopted daughter.’ After she said this, Prof Marks said she had previously displayed ‘some economy of the truth’.
In fact, Sanghera first met Gentle in 2009, when she moved to the same North Yorkshire village – which friends of Sanghera have asked us not to name, saying she is at risk from vigilantes owing to her work supporting victims of forced marriage.
By then, Jennifer and Jo had not seen Gentle for several years. Their letters to her were returned torn up, and she refused to talk to them by phone.
By the time of the inquest in February 2017, Sanghera had received her legacy.
Gentle’s family asked her to give them family heirlooms and photos, but she refused. In an email to Gentle’s niece, Sanghera wrote: ‘I will not be handing anything on to you or anyone else. This is because she clearly instructed me not to.’