The price of betrayal? Half the manor my lover bought: After Sharon caught her partner in bed with another woman, he took her to court over the £2.5m mansion HE paid for but only SHE used. Now, a judge has ruled in her favour. So whose side are you on?
Business manager Sharon Blades will never forget the agonising moment she realised her five-year relationship with millionaire financial analyst, Dr Chris Rowland, was finally over.
Rushing to his London penthouse with flu remedies — after he’d told her he was ill with a cold — she was fully expecting to find him tucked up alone in bed. What she didn’t expect was to find someone snuggled up next to him.
‘I was absolutely devastated and when Chris saw me, he was horrified, repeating: “I’m so sorry,”’ says Sharon, who’d driven from Buckinghamshire, quietly letting herself in with the key he’d given her.
‘I’m normally very placid, but when I saw the other woman — sat up in bed looking pretty smug — something in me just snapped.’
What happened next remains a blur of tears and raw emotion, as bedclothes flew in the altercation that ensued. After a couple of hours, the three-way ranting, raving, upset and recriminations finally petered out.
Dr Chris Rowland and Sharon Blades had a row which resulted in complaints being made to the police. It was a humiliating end to Sharon’s relationship with the man she hoped to grow old with in the £1.6 million Oxfordshire mansion (pictured) they’d bought with a view to retiring there together
Dr Rowland’s new partner went home, while Sharon — unable to drive having had a couple of glasses of wine — slept in the spare room. She drove home the following morning, feeling her world had been ‘ripped apart’.
The next day a complaint was made to police by Dr Rowland’s new partner. Both he and Sharon were separately invited to help with their enquiries.
‘I was later cautioned, even though I was the only one injured and ended up with a black eye,’ she says. ‘Apparently I was to blame for starting the altercation by ripping off the bedclothes.’
It was a humiliating end to Sharon’s relationship with the man she hoped to grow old with in the £1.6 million Oxfordshire mansion they’d bought with a view to retiring there together.
Indeed, Sharon, 63, would not be talking now about that embarrassing episode had the story of this extraordinary love triangle not emerged last week in the High Court battle over that jointly owned property, purchased in 2009.
The court case may have been about house ownership, not broken relationships, but this all came out during the trial — which also heard that, after the 2011 altercation, Dr Rowland accepted a restraining order forbidding contact with either woman for four weeks.
Dr Rowland took Sharon to court after she refused in 2018 the sale of Tadmarton House, a stunning nine-bedroom property set in 24 acres of land near Banbury in the Cotswolds.
He applied for sole ownership, arguing he’d paid the full cash price for the Italianate villa, which he’d told the court he always made clear he intended to bequeath to his adult daughter from a previous marriage. Ms Blades denied any such discussion had taken place.
Furthermore, he asked the court for £371,000 in occupation rent from Ms Blades after he claimed she banned him from visiting the mansion with his new partner, named in court as management executive Emmanuelle Duyck.
Dr Rowland took Sharon (pictured) to court after she refused in 2018 the sale of Tadmarton House, a stunning nine-bedroom property set in 24 acres of land near Banbury in the Cotswolds
While admitting ‘he wasn’t proud’ of his behaviour during the break-up from Ms Blades, Dr Rowland argued she had no right to half of the property he had paid for.
But last week, Judge William Hansen ruled in favour of Sharon, after hearing evidence Dr Rowland had been advised by their conveyancing solicitor — both verbally and in writing — of the implications of purchasing the house jointly.
Told they could change their minds right up to the day of completion, both were made aware of other options; to either buy as joint tenants or tenants in common — specifying in a deed of trust what percentage of the property each owned.
Conceding it was a ‘harsh’ ruling, the judge said Dr Rowland would no doubt ‘regret his earlier generosity’. Effectively it meant that Dr Rowland, who has a PhD in Economics, had gifted half the property to Sharon and couldn’t now take it back.
He awarded Dr Rowland just £59,958 in occupation rent, covering the period between November 2009 and October 2015, after ruling the mansion was not a main residence, but a weekend retreat.
Ms Blades’ argued that, post-2012, there was no ban on bringing romantic partners to Tadmarton and she’d ‘moved on’ while Dr Rowland claimed he avoided visiting because ‘he feared a scene or something worse’.
So, today, Sharon Blades should be celebrating. Only she sounds far from victorious. Sad, even, that their ‘forever’ home turned out to be anything but.
She may have cut up or deleted every treasured photograph of Dr Rowland in her efforts to forget him, but there was a time she would have sacrificed every penny for his love.
‘The past four years have been hugely stressful. If I’d lost, I would have been left homeless and near enough bankrupt,’ she says, speaking of the ordeal for the first time.
‘I would have had to sell my own £550,000 property just to pay Chris the back rent and his legal fees. I’m sure he feels very disappointed, but he has multiple properties, so losing is not going to leave him homeless.
Yes, Chris was very generous, but I only accepted that gift of joint ownership in the expectation that we would never split up. He promised me we’d grow old together. You can’t overturn something which is legally binding 12 years later, just because you’ve changed your mind.
‘Over the years I’d spent a small fortune furnishing the place, paying bills and maintaining it, because this was where we were going to spend the rest of our lives together.’
Sharon was a 46-year-old divorcee with no children when she was introduced to Dr Rowland, then aged 49, in 2006. He was a university chum of a sibling of hers, and they met at a New Year’s party in Yorkshire.
‘Chris was lovely; just very kind, grounded, thoughtful and funny. You wouldn’t have guessed he was wealthy at all, because he wasn’t flash, but it wasn’t his money I was attracted to,’ says Sharon, herself a successful executive manager in the semi-conductor industry earning upwards of £75,000.
‘He was just a regular, sincere, caring guy who worked very hard and loved his sport, going to restaurants, bars, concerts and jazz clubs and we hit it off.’
From the start Dr Rowland — who was separated from his wife when he first met Sharon — made it clear he never wanted to marry again. Both valued their independence, travelling widely through their work.
They kept finances separate and though Sharon spent most of her time at his London apartment, they never formally moved in together. Dr Rowland also owned another property in Surrey.
So she was delighted when, after three happy years, Dr Rowland started talking about buying a weekend retreat together; a place to call their own and one day retire to.
Last week, Judge William Hansen ruled in favour of Sharon, after hearing evidence Dr Rowland (pictured) had been advised by their conveyancing solicitor — both verbally and in writing — of the implications of purchasing the house jointly
‘Tadmarton House was beautiful with absolutely stunning views and we both fell in love with it,’ says Sharon, who was also thrilled when Dr Rowland bought her a diamond ring for her 50th birthday.
‘Chris kept saying this was the place where we’d grow old together and it made no difference to me if the house was in his name or joint names, but it couldn’t have been clearer what we were signing.
‘It was explained verbally and in writing. I can’t see how a man of his intelligence and standing could have interpreted it any differently.
‘It was incredibly generous of Chris, but I didn’t question it because I was besotted with him and he said he was in love with me. I just felt incredibly happy. Who wouldn’t be?’
But just months after completing on the sale, Sharon went down to the kitchen one morning to make coffee and heard a text message bleep on Dr Rowland’s mobile which was lying on the table.
‘I was absolutely shocked when I saw a very explicit message which made it clear to me that Chris might be seeing another woman,’ recalls Sharon of that day in late 2009.
‘I was beside myself, completely devastated. I went upstairs and said, “I think you’ve got something to tell me” and Chris kept saying, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry”.’
Dr Rowland told the court this episode caused the end of his relationship in late 2009. But Sharon insists it didn’t end until February 2011 when she arrived at his penthouse flat to find him in bed with her love rival — whom he’d apparently met through work in July 2009.
The court heard that until the 2011 showdown, there were times the relationship was ‘partially rekindled.’ In 2010, the pair engaged in couples’ therapy. There was also a ‘brief rapprochement’ in 2014 and 2015.
‘I should have ended it the minute I found out, but I told myself it was just a fling and once he’d got it out of his system, he’d come back to me,’ says Sharon.
‘I forgave Chris because I loved him and our break-up was a long, drawn-out process of 15 months with him trying to decide if he wanted to be with me or her.’
She adds: ‘I don’t know what was going on his head, but I think he genuinely struggled because we were both pulling at him and he said he was torn because he loved us both.
‘Many times he told me, “I don’t want to be with her, but she won’t leave me alone”, but I suspect he was probably saying the same thing to her about me.
‘The whole situation must have been very tough for her, too. Here she was, believing she was with a new partner, with me in the background refusing to let him go.
‘At one point I even suggested to Chris that we share him. I said he could spend the week with her and the weekends with me, but he didn’t want to do that.
‘Looking back, I can’t believe I said that, but I loved him. I was desperate, trying anything.’
Devastated, Sharon was prescribed antidepressants and spent a year in therapy to try and get over the break-up — secretly hoping Dr Rowland might still change his mind.
‘Chris was welcome to use Tadmarton House whenever he wanted; he jointly owned it after all, but I told him I couldn’t bear the thought of him bringing his new partner to what was meant to have been our home,’ says Sharon, who the court heard spent more than £100,000 over the years on the property.
‘After a year, I’d felt I’d recovered enough to move on and by 2012 he could have brought whoever he wanted with him, but he hardly ever came here even though I sent e-mails saying, “This is your house too, please use it.”
‘After we split up we stayed in contact because of the house and Chris agreed to pay for structural repairs (of which there were very few) and some of the utility bills, but I paid an equal amount and bought most of the furniture, and I don’t think he appreciated what a mammoth task looking after the property was,’ she says.
There was always something going wrong, with leaks or blocked drains, or trees falling down. It would take me an entire weekend to clean the house, and two or three weekends to clean all the downstairs windows.’
Now, though, Tadmarton House — believed to be worth around £2.5 million — must be sold by court order and the proceeds split between them. Everything linking Sharon to the man she once adored will finally be severed.
‘It’s a beautiful place, so I’ll be sad to see it go, but I’m grateful for the time I spent there. Hopefully I’ll be able to buy another property — not as grand — but you have to move on,’ she says.
Dr Rowland, 66, now retired and believed to be in Australia, was invited to comment through his barrister but has yet to respond. Ms Duyck, from whom the court heard he split in 2015, declined to comment.
‘Part of me is still in love with Chris, or at least the Chris I remember when we first met,’ says Sharon, adding: ‘But whatever love he had for me disappeared years ago.’
As they prepare to put their ‘forever’ home on the market, she is proud to have emerged older, wiser, stronger and, yes, richer.
‘Perhaps Chris thought allowing me to use Tadmarton House for 12 years was compensation enough for all the heartache,’ says Sharon, who credits barristers Simon Lillington and Thomas Roe QC with her success.
‘He thought he was right, but actually the law was on my side, and I knew it.
‘By defending myself, I risked losing everything. Now I just want to put him and all this behind me.’
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