Gunman ties up £48m divorce wife and steals £300,000 jewels...
10th March 2007
John Charman: The former family home where the raid took place: Beverly Charman.
The woman awarded a record £48million divorce payout has been tied up and robbed of jewellery worth £300,000 in an armed raid on her home.
Beverley Charman, 54, the former wife of Lloyd's insurance tycoon John Charman, was confronted at her £3million house on Friday evening by a balaclava-clad man brandishing a gun.
The intruder broke into the house at around 9.30pm. He forced Mrs Charman to open the safe and hand over her jewels before tying her up and escaping with his haul.
She was discovered and released 20 minutes later when one of her sons returned home.
Friends said she was not physically harmed during the robbery, but remains in a state of severe shock.
Later, insurance assessors were at the house on the outskirts of Sevenoaks, Kent. The property is situated in a gated private road and stands in private grounds which include a tennis court.
There were no obvious signs of a break-in and neighbours in the street - one of the most expensive in the South-East - said they knew nothing about the robbery.
The Charmans, who have two grown-up sons, split in 2003 after a 27-year marriage. Mrs Charman was awarded the £48million payout - including the former family home where the attack took place - in Britain's largest-ever contested divorce settlement last year.
Mr Charman, who was worth £131million before the case, is challenging her demand in the Court of Appeal, having described it as 'grotesque and unfair'.
She has turned down as insufficient his offer of a £20million payment, which would secure an income of at least £500,000 a year for the rest of her life.
The attack took place just days after Mrs Charman appeared in the High Court in the latest round of their increasingly acrimonious legal battle.
One theory being investigated by detectives is that media coverage of the case attracted the attention of criminals.
Mr Charman, 54, whose firm Axis has offices across the globe - leading him to be dubbed the 'king of the insurance market' - says the settlement should reflect the disproportionate role he played in building up their fortune 'from nothing'.
He claims he is being penalised by the court for remaining in an unhappy marriage for the sake of their children. He now has a new girlfriend and shuttles between homes in Bermuda and the US as a tax exile.
'At no time has my ex-wife indicated why my offer of £20million would not satisfy her personal needs,' he said.
'We lived together for 27 years. I knew what her normal spending would be. I bought her parents a house. I paid for all their medical care.
'I decided to remain married for an additional 15 years out of responsibility to my sons, long after any relationship had died.'
On Wednesday last week, Mrs Charman accused her former husband of following 'one law for the rich and one law for the poor', and said her marriage should be regarded as a 'partnership of equals', given that she gave up paid employment after the birth of their first child and concentrated on being a 'homemaker'.
Mr Charman has a reputation as one of the most feared figures in the Lloyd's insurance market.
One competitor claimed that he was so intimidating that people 'half expect the theme from the Godfather to greet him as he arrives in his office'.
He has a spartan image, refusing to indulge in long business lunches and banning employees from entertaining clients in company time.
In 2002 he settled out of court with a woman who claimed that he barred her from a meeting after saying: 'We are discussing something - we decided when you were having babies.'
A spokesman for Kent Police said: 'We are investigating a burglary that occurred on Friday. There have been no arrests and inquiries continue. We have a duty of care to the victim, and are not saying anything more at this time.
'If anyone has any information, or is offered jewellery under suspicious circumstances, we urge them to contact the police or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.'
A young woman who answered the door at the house said: 'We have no comment to make.' Asked if Mrs Charman might feel well enough to give an interview later, she said: 'No.'