Horse-owning Marchioness of Moratalla is 'murdered' at her estate in France in feud over £1billion family fortune

  • The Marchioness passed away at her manor in Bayonne, France, earlier this week
  • Her eldest son Forester Labrouche has alleged that she was murdered
  • His adopted brother German de la Cruz has angrily denied the allegations
  • It comes after years of bitter legal battles between the brothers over her fortune
  • Prosecutors opened investigation to determine how the Marchioness, 87, died?

An elderly aristocrat was murdered in her home by an unidentified villain, her eldest son has claimed.

The Marchioness of Moratalla passed away aged 87 at her manor in Bayonne, southwest France, earlier this week.

The Anglo-Spanish noblewoman, whose full name is Soledad Cabeza de Vaca y Leighton, was a horse-racing icon who ran one of the world's most revered stables.

But within days of her death her son Forester Labrouche, 65, filed a criminal lawsuit alleging that his mother was killed, although he has not specified how or why.

Her other son, German de la Cruz, 38, who was adopted by the London-born Marchioness in Colombia in 1987, has denied his brother's claims.

The Marchioness of Moratalla pictured centre with her two sons German de la Cruz, left, and Forester Labrouche

The Marchioness of Moratalla pictured centre with her two sons German de la Cruz, left, and Forester Labrouche

He says his mother, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, died peacefully of old age 'surrounded by her close family and faithful employees'.

The row comes after years of bitter legal battles between the brothers over the Marchioness's family fortune, estimated to be worth around £1billion.

In one court last summer Mr Labrouche alleged that Mr de la Cruz had 'kidnapped' their mother in an attempt to exploit her frail mental condition to gain her wealth - an allegation his brother denied.

In August this year the elder son successfully had a court order that had given his sibling power of attorney over his mother's finances quashed.

And in another hearing last month Mr Labrouche claimed Mr de la Cruz had been given a €12m (£10.6m) donation 'in conditions that are quite vague' as he argued that the Marchioness should be made a ward of court.

Mr de La Cruz's lawyers have claimed that Mr Labrouche is only motivated by his mother's money and that the Marchioness has always been closer to her younger son.?

A postbox outside the Marchioness's manor house in Bayonne where she passed away earlier this week

A postbox outside the Marchioness's manor house in Bayonne where she passed away earlier this week

According to The Times, Mr Labrouche, who was not present when his mother passed away, has claimed his younger brother stopped him from seeing his mother during her final years.

One of the elder brother's lawyers, Richar Malka, said: 'She died without seeing her son or granddaughter again. Every time we asked for news, we were told that everything was fine.'

Fran?ois Fourcade, another of his lawyers, said that his client has blamed 'himself for not saving the marchioness'.?

Mr Labrouche has not said how or why he believes his mother was murdered in his lawsuit, which has seen the launch of a formal investigation to determine exactly how she died.

The Marchioness inherited her fortune from her mother, Olga Leighton, who acquired it after her first husband, a founder of what is now HSBC finance, committed suicide.

Mrs Leighton married into the Spanish aristocracy and left her money to her only daughter.

The Marchioness grew up to marry a horse breeder and developed a stable that produced winners at some of the world's top races.

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