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Ex-wife of German tycoon, Kenyan woman, niece in fight over Sh100m inheritance

The legal battle between two Kenyans, a woman and her niece, over the Sh100 million wealth left behind by a German tycoon Joseph Leitmann, has taken a new angle after it emerged that he had another woman in his life.

Fresh evidence presented before a Nakuru High Court indicates that Mr Leitmann was married to a white woman Jessie Spooner, before he got involved in a relationship with the two relatives, who have been battling each other for two decades over the estate worth Sh 100 million.

Ms Susan Nyambura, 74 and her niece Lucy Wanjiku, 53 have been tearing each other apart in court, to prove their marriage to the tycoon.

While Ms Nyambura claimed to have been married to the tycoon in the 1960s under Kikuyu customary marriage before her niece snatched him and threw her out of her matrimonial home, Wanjiku has maintained that she is the legal wife to the tycoon, insisting that her aunt was just a house help.

However, the court during the submissions on Friday, heard that Leitmann had married Ms Spooner a US citizen in 1957 before he was involved with Ms Nyambura and Ms Wanjiku.

Appearing before Justice Hillary Chemitei, Lawyer Muchiri Gathecha revealed that Leitmann was married to Ms Spooner for seven years before they separated in 1964.

He presented a marriage certificate to prove the marriage between Mr Leitmann who was 31 years and Ms Spooner who was 37 years which was conducted in Nairobi.

According to the lawyer Leitmann had children with Ms Spooner before they separated.

“The children Leitmann had with Ms Spooner are in the US and they also are entitled to their father’s estate,” said lawyer Gatheca.

The claims were supported by witnesses including Nyambura’s relative Gideon Mwangi who in a written statement, said Mr Leitmann had a ‘mzungu’ wife before he married Ms Nyambura.

Ms Nyambura also confessed to knowing the marriage Between Mr Leitmannn and Ms Spooner but maintained that he married him after their separation.

In her testimony before court on July 29, 2022, Ms Nyambura accused Ms Wanjiku of betraying her when she snatched Mr Leitmann from her.

She told the court that she took Wanjiku in while she was a minor, raised her, paid her school fees only for Wanjiku to betray her (Nyambura) when she was an adult.

“My niece had an affair with my late husband even after I took her in my house and raised her as my own,” said Nyambura.

She said due to the affair, Leitmann divorced her, married Wanjiku, and had two children with her.

Ms Wanjiku on the other hand denied the claims and produced a marriage certificate to prove her marriage to Mr Leitmann who was 69 years on June 30, 1995. She was 28 years old then.

She told the court that Ms Spooner is deceased and in the succession case she filed in 2001, she included her children as beneficiaries.

Mr Leitmann died on August 3, 2001 without a Will while aged 75 years.

He left behind a number of properties scattered around the country including a residential home at Lanet, rental houses, a 5,178-acre land in Subukia, hotel, motor vehicles, boreholes and machinery business and 2000 shares in Ukingoni Farm Limited.

All his properties which were valued in 2001 stood at Sh100 million.

Ms Wanjiku who petitioned for letters of administration claims in her documents that she is the only legal wife to the tycoon and that Ms Nyambura, her aunt, was just a house help.

She also wants to block her aunt from inheriting a share of the estate.

AMs Wanjiku told the court that her aunt had no right to claim for a share of the property since she was paid her salary for her contribution as a house help.

“The grant and letter of administration issued to me were not only genuine and gazetted on December 14, 2001, but also that nobody came to dispute it for more than 17 years,” stated Ms Wanjiku in court papers.

She also denied having an illicit affair with Mr Leitmann arguing that their relationship was based on love which led to marriage.

Ms Nyambura on the other hand wants the court to revoke the grant of letters of administration awarded to Wanjiku on July 26, 2011.

She claims to be a beneficiary and also wants the court to stop her niece from evicting her.

The court will give its ruling on October 12.

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