I thought it was wife's family cash, lawyer tells 'theft' jury

A SOLICITOR accused of funding a lavish lifestyle from the theft of £1.4m from a law firm where he was a senior partner told a jury yesterday he genuinely believed it was his wife's private money that helped to finance their way of life.

Simon Morgan said from the "word go" when Ann, who later became his wife, had started work at Milners solicitors in Leeds he understood "there was wealth somewhere" in her family.

He told Leeds Crown Court she would wear Chanel suits, pearls, "all very elegant".

The prosecution claims that Ann Young-Morgan never had private wealth and used her position as office manager at Milners to steal from office and client accounts, funding their holidays abroad, meals at expensive restaurants and private flights.

Morgan said when the allegations came to light his wife told him the relatives involved "had cut her off" but he still believed she had had such an income.

He told his counsel, Simon Myerson QC, his wife had also made money from property sales and he was drawing 10,000 a month from the business which also contributed to paying for their lifestyle.

Although two of her sisters worked at the legal firm as cleaners he did not read anything into that. "I just thought it was Ann helping them out."

Morgan, 50 of Main Street, Bilbrough, near York denies six charges of theft between January 2002 and July 2004.

His wife Ann, 55, is not present in court. She has been found to be under disability and unfit to stand trial for psychiatric reasons and the jury has been told they must decide if she did the same acts charged with her husband.

They married in February 1998 and he told the jury he still loved her and they were still together.

"What has happened didn't change my feelings about her. I didn't stop loving her because we got into this mess because she created this mess,"

He said she was a good wife and mother. "This did not change the way I felt about her despite friends saying I better leave her or I'd be accused of colluding with her."

The prosecution claim Morgan lied when he told two partners at the firm that trips to London and New York were to get his wife treatment for a rare form of cancer including blood transfusions, because she never had the leukaemia claimed.

Morgan told the jury he was never present when a doctor had said that was what she was suffering from but he believed she was genuinely ill.

He said long before he began a relationship with her she had spoken to him about her health.

"She came into my office one day holding her back. I asked her what was the matter and she said she had a problem with it.

"She continued to do that over the next few visits then told me she thought it was a resurgence of the leukaemia she had sometime before."

"Did you believe her?" asked Mr Myerson.

"Yes I did," he said.

"Did it ever cross your mind she might lie?" Mr Myerson asked.

"No," said the defendant "but it wasn't just what she said to me". He said it was also what he saw.

Mr Myerson said: "You understand it is being said that it is not true that she had leukaemia and, as her husband, you must have known?"

Morgan said he understood that but as far as he was concerned his wife Ann was ill. "She often looked very washed out, very poorly. She had a lot of bruising under her eyes."

There were occasions he dropped her at hospital and he had met her after she came out. "Are you suggesting she just filled time there until meeting me again?" he asked.

The trial continues.