A solicitor’s secretary who faked her husband’s will to cut his daughters out of their share of his £1 million estate has been jailed for 21 months – despite falling pregnant at the age of 47.
Dawn Smith turned the lives of her two adult stepdaughters upside-down by making them believe their father, the Darlington businessman Harvey Smith, did not want to provide for them when he died aged 61 from pneumonia.
His heart-broken family could not believe how Smith then visited Turkey – understood to see a waiter she has since married – on an almost monthly basis, Teesside Crown Court heard.
Judge John Walford told Smith, of Carmel Road North, Darlington, a suspended sentence was not suitable.
“If I had only you and your unborn child to consider, I might have been able to consider that option, but in my judgement to do anything other than pass an immediate custodial sentence would be an affront to your step-daughters who you so cruelly deceived by your actions.”
Smith admitted drawing up the false will before his death, forging his signature and those of witnesses. She falsely swore an oath that the document was legal.
Judge Walford sentenced her to 21 months, saying: “I am conscious this will be your first custodial sentence and I cannot ignore the fact that you are pregnant but there will be a sentence of some length to mark the seriousness of this offending.”
Earlier in the sentencing exercise, he questioned the timing of her falling pregnant. It was understood she was 18 weeks pregant, dating back to her last visit to Turkey, a source said.
The judge said: “There must be a suspicion, to put it no higher, that she has deliberately become pregnant in order to gain an advantage in the sentencing process.”
Caroline Goodwin, defending, told him: “It came as a complete and utter shock to her.”
Miss Goodwin said the pregnancy was also a surprise to her partner.
The court heard how Mr Smith’s family found it very hard to accept that his widow had remarried so soon after his death.