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Heir Hunters track down the families of people who died without leaving a will.
They hand over thousands of pounds to long-lost relatives who had no idea they were due a windfall.
Could they be knocking at your door?
On today's programme - the heat is on when the Heir Hunters tackle an estate
worth a whopping sum of £1 million, but they're not the only ones on the case.
She had a phone call at 7.30 this morning. Didn't say who they were.
So she's given them the daughter's details.
And the mysterious case of a Polish princess and her unclaimed fortune.
Craven Street. It's a very, very grand address.
So if she owned that address, this estate could be worth a lot of money.
Plus, with thousands of pounds sitting unclaimed in the Treasury vaults,
could you be a beneficiary?
Unbelievably, over two-thirds of people in the UK die each year without leaving a will.
If no heirs come forward, their money goes straight into the Treasury's coffers.
In 2008 alone, a massive £18 million went unclaimed.
That's when the probate research companies step in
and compete with each other to find and sign up long-lost relatives, hoping to gain a commission.
-Hello. Sheila Kingsland?
Fraser & Fraser have been tracing beneficiaries for over 30 years.
In that time, the company has successfully reclaimed a massive £100 million for heirs.
But solving these cases can use up many hours of manpower and resources.
The work we have to do, whether a case is worth £5 or £5,000 or £5 million, is exactly the same.
With small cases, we don't want to throw resources at it because we won't have the return.
This is because the Heir Hunters work on commission
and a large estate can make a big difference to their overheads.
It's 7am at Frasers' central London office.
Partner Neil Fraser is going through the list of unclaimed estates just issued by the Treasury.
He's come across a case that looks promising.
We're just gonna start looking at Armer. It's a Ronald Armer.
I can see his property has recently been sold and that's been sold for £1 million.
I expect to get a lot of competition.
By a lot, I mean possibly four, maybe five firms looking at it, all very cut-throat.
So... We haven't really got much time to waste.
Bachelor Ronald Jackson Armer died alone in March 2008 in Lancaster.
Born in 1945, Ronald was a young man in the '60s.
Like many of his contemporaries, he embraced the spirit of the times,
pursuing an alternative lifestyle and eastern philosophies.
Local publican Alex Carswell remembers him as an original free spirit.
He used to go to the Far East and Thailand and Hong Kong and these places
long before anybody else went on package tours, long before anybody else went there.
In his later years, he settled into a frugal and quiet lifestyle
in this cottage in the affluent village of Ambleside,
and over time, he began to withdraw into himself.
Although everybody knew him in the village, he was always on his own. He was a loner to a large degree.
There was just Ronnie. He would come in, he would have his drink,
join in the conversation, put his input in,
but never actually with anybody as such, you know what I mean?
He had a fall about 18 months before he died
and he seemed to go down quickly from then.
Little things. He would come in sometimes and maybe he hadn't washed and different things like that.
A few little things like that, but it's sad because it happens to a lot of people, not just Ronnie.
You get to a stage in life, if you've been on your own, and he couldn't do the travelling he used to do,
where you maybe get to think, "What's the point?" And he just sort of drifted down that route.
Ronald passed away at the age of 64.
Although he was a well-known character in the local community,
the authorities were unable to find any close relations, which is why his name is on the Treasury list.
Because the estates are published without the values,
the Heir Hunters must make an educated guess as to their worth.
Ronald's home in Ambleside is in the heart of the Lake District.
This resort has been popular since Victorian times.
In the mid-Victorian era, the Industrial Revolution had wreaked a terrible toll on the towns.
Factories belched filthy smoke into the sky and the cities had become crowded and stressful places.
Wealthy Victorians searched for a more idyllic environment to escape to
where they could find nature at its most pure.
They flocked to the Lake District which until then had been a remote outpost.
The powerful industrialists built fabulous holiday homes on the shores of the lakes
and ever since then, the area has been a magnet to wealthy visitors and retirees.
Today, property prices in the region are amongst the highest in the UK.
With such a potentially valuable case to work, the race is on.
-Can you update them with the Richard Manley business?
-Yeah, I just have.
If the Heir Hunters are to trace Ronald's heirs before the competition,
case manager Tony Pledger must work fast.
-Can we see if the grandmother remarried?
He mobilises the team of researchers.
Using the birth, death and marriage records they have on file,
the team have already identified Ronald's father as Thomas William Armer
who was born in Kendal in 1925.
But they're having difficulty isolating who he was married to.
Tell them to re-check that marriage. That one.
-Debbie's done it.
-Comes up just as Elizabeth. Elizabeth Stabler.
Yeah, but what does it say under him?
-You checked his entry, didn't you, Armer?
-It was just Stabler.
How many Armers are there? Can you do the printout for the Armer bit?
Tracing heirs using the records they have on file can take time.
Sometimes the best way to find out information is to speak to people who knew the deceased.
Tony has got hold of the number of an ex-neighbour of Ronald's.
Sorry to wake you. I was hoping you might tell me something about Mr Armer.
Did you know any member of his family or...?
Oh, I see.
It seems that Tony is not the first to have been in touch.
Well, no, I appreciate that. OK, thanks. Bye.
This could be a big setback.
Not only does the neighbour refuse to talk, but even though it is only 7.40 in the morning,
a competitor has already been in contact.
On the plus side, whilst Tony has been on the phone, the team have made a valuable breakthrough.
They believe they have identified all of Ronald's family tree using existing records
and it's a small family.
What we're saying is that the mother...is Elizabeth. Right?
The dad dies in 1928, right?
-Thomas William Armer...
-Same address, OK?
-Yeah. Died 15th of December.
No brothers and sisters on this side.
Looks like he could well be an only child, so the only chance we're gonna get is on that side.
The team have confirmed there are no heirs on the father's side of the tree.
Ronald had only one sibling, a little sister called Melody,
who sadly passed away at the age of four.
So the focus has shifted to Ronald's mother, Elizabeth Stabler.
It seems she has two siblings -
a sister, Margaret Stabler, who died a spinster in 1952,
and a brother, Tom Stabler, who was married to a woman called Jean in 1949.
Tom and Jean would be Ronald's uncle and aunt.
We want phone numbers of these people up in the area, if there's anybody around there.
Tom Stabler's wife Jean lives in Whitehaven, just 44 miles from Ambleside.
As a young woman, she spent a lot of time with her sister-in-law Elizabeth
and would have known her nephew Ronald well.
As Jean is a relative through marriage, she is not entitled to inherit,
but if she and Tom had any children, they would be heirs.
The researchers have tracked down a number for Tony to call.
This lady is in her 80s and may not know her nephew Ronald is dead,
so Tony will need to break the news gently.
Good morning. Is that Mrs Stabler?
Now, we've been researching into the family of the late Ronald Armer
who passed away in 2008.
Tony is hoping Jean Stabler can confirm their findings so far.
Did your husband have any other brothers and sisters?
He was the eldest. He was the eldest and he just had the two sisters.
It seems the Frasers team have the correct family tree,
but do Jean and Tom have any children?
Ah, good. So this is obviously by your husband. Sorry to say this.
They've hit the jackpot.
Jean and Tom have a daughter Alyson, an only child living in Sheffield.
After just an hour, the Heir Hunters now have their first and only heir.
But the news is a mixed blessing.
With only one heir, the stakes are now incredibly high.
We don't think we've got any other aunts or uncles on the paternal side. She could be the sole beneficiary.
If that's true, she's entitled to a million pounds,
or the best part of it if our calculations have been right,
so it's looking like she's the only beneficiary.
We know we're the second people to make this enquiry and we need to get someone to Sheffield quickly.
Frasers employ a team of travelling Heir Hunters.
Highly qualified researchers, they play a vital role in gathering intelligence.
Every Thursday, they are poised to travel the length and breadth of Britain in search of heirs.
Neil will need two travellers on this case - one to go to Sheffield to sign the heir
and another to go to the Lake District to speak to Jean Stabler.
Jean Stabler lives in Whitehaven and Manchester-based Dave Mansell is on his way to talk to her.
There's hardly anything on this road
and if the sun would shine, it would be like heaven.
This is what the London people don't see.
They don't get this. They haven't got our beautiful countryside we've got in the Lake District.
And Neil is now on the line to Birmingham-based Paul Matthews.
Hi, mate. Neil. Can you make your way to Sheffield post-haste?
-I think we've got a million-pound beneficiary.
-I'll speak to you soon.
-Cheers, Neil. Bye.
Somebody's got some good news coming today.
Absolutely. What a result!
I wish it was me. I'd retire.
With the commission on a million pounds at stake,
it's vital that the travellers meet face to face with the family,
especially as the competition are hot on their heels.
Frasers weren't the first firm to contact Jean, Alyson's mother.
She had a phone call at half past seven this morning...
who didn't say who they were.
So she's given them the daughter's details.
Now the office team can only sit back and wait for the travellers to contact Jean and daughter Alyson.
It's a nail-biting time and with only one heir, they only have one chance at the commission.
It's a million pounds. It's gonna have a lot of competition, so we're working on it more urgently.
To solve it makes no difference.
The thrill of what we do is finding the beneficiary, whether that's for £5 or £1 million.
But with everyone in the office holding their breath,
Dave Mansell phones in.
-Right, we've just left Mrs Stabler now.
-The deceased lived in a rented house.
Before that, the family lived in a rented cottage. They've never owned a property. He worked on the buses.
Could it be that the Armer estate is a case of all that glitters is not gold?
Royalty is not something you come across every day in the heir hunting business, but in 2008,
a name cropped up on the Treasury's list of unclaimed estates
which took research director Gareth Langford on a fascinating ride
that spanned a continent and a family's fortune.
The case of Olga Dembinska, or Princess Dembinska.
I've got the death certificate here. We know that she died on the 28th of September, 1986, in hospital.
And on the death certificate it says she died as Countess Olga Natalie Von Dane Dembinska.
Princess Olga Von Dembinska died alone in hospital at the age of 74.
Her death certificate was witnessed by a hospital employee.
That was over 20 years ago and Olga's life was to prove something of a riddle.
There wasn't even a photograph left of her.
Most importantly, as the value of the estate was not included on the Treasury list,
the Heir Hunters didn't know its worth, but it did look promising,
not least because of her last registered address.
Craven Street. It's very central London. It's a very grand address.
So if she owned that address, this estate could be worth an awful lot of money.
The actual property itself is going to be amazing because of the location where it is.
It's a very, very prestigious area.
Every good heir hunter knows that property constitutes most of the value of a person's fortune.
Olga's flat in Craven Street is just around the corner from the Houses of Parliament
and close to the heart of London's West End.
Properties on this street range from £500,000 for a two-bedroom flat
to £9 million for a townhouse at today's prices.
On the face of it, this estate looked very valuable indeed.
The name Dembinska is Polish and it's the feminine version of Dembinski.
It's a name that should also have been easy to work,
but things weren't so straightforward.
The first problem we had was a birth certificate for Olga. We didn't have one.
So that meant we didn't know her parents' names. We didn't know her father's name or her mother's name.
Without that basic information, it's very difficult for us to move on.
This was such a blow because the first rule of heir hunting is to work up a family tree.
The team use the information from birth and death certificates to find parents and children.
They can then use this as a map to trace each generation until they find an heir.
But with no certificates, Gareth had to try other avenues of research.
We started looking to see what we could dig up about the Dembinskas.
Now, unusually, from our point of view, this meant that we got to know them a little bit better
because we found personal accounts of the family.
Normally, we would just have a birth and death certificate.
Now we were getting what people thought of them when they met them and what they said to them.
So we're getting a much better picture of what Olga was like.
The first reference they found to the Dembinski family was by a Canadian academic.
John Frederick Heard was a celebrated Canadian astronomer.
His detailed and humorous account of the time he spent with the Dembinskis
was a rich source of information for the Heir Hunters.
John Frederick Heard's account of the family is very interesting
because we only had the deceased's name. We didn't know she had any brothers and sisters.
He knew the family so well because he lodged with them
when they were living in this impressive house in Chiswick in the 1930s.
So the first thing that this told us is that she had a brother and a sister. That was very useful.
It also told us that her father had recently died and she was living with her mother.
Through this, the team could confirm a family tree.
Olga Dembinska had a sister Madelaine and a brother Eric.
Her mother was born in Yorkshire with the exotic name Carmen de Tesca Bates.
Her father was EVS Von Dembinski.
The family were impressively titled.
One of the early things that he's talking about the family,
"They took the Royal Highness bit very seriously
"and expected their friends to use Princess and Prince as forms of address."
Surely, with the royal title, Olga Dembinska's lineage would be easy to trace.
Dr Richard Butterwick is a lecturer in Eastern European Studies.
The Polish nobility was by far the largest nobility in Europe down to the 18th century.
In fact, older estimates would have put it at something like 10% of the population as a whole.
And because they were so numerous, there was immense disparity of wealth between them.
The vast majority of Polish nobles were extremely poor.
Dembinska is the female version of Dembinski.
And the name Dembinski is one of the more commonly encountered names of Polish nobles over many centuries.
But there were many different Dembinski families. They weren't necessarily related to each other.
In the late 1700s, Poland was partitioned between Russia, Prussia and Austria.
After an unsuccessful uprising against Russia in 1831,
thousands of Poles escaped to France where they established a thriving emigre community.
The exodus continued for another 50 years.
The Dembinski family were living in France,
but in 1914, the looming threat of war spurred them on to move to the UK
and they settled in the large house they bought in Chiswick.
The family certainly seemed rich in property.
Ten years after the father died, the family bought land and a couple of cottages in Suffolk.
Local resident Davina Garner met the Dembinskis when they moved to the village of Long Melford.
Just known as the Prince and Princess. That was their name - Von Dembinski.
That's a name you don't forget.
She is visiting the cottages where they used to live.
-Do you know the name "Von Dembinski"?
-Yes, it does ring a bell.
-It does ring a bell.
It was definitely... That was the person that actually purchased quite a huge chunk of North End.
-When we bought the property, we obtained all the deeds documentation.
And when I see that name of royal connection, I was really chuffed
that we had bought a property
with some sort of very interesting history about it.
And the evidence of wealth just kept building
when, with more information from the Treasury, Gareth found out something
that would appear tantalising to any heir hunter.
The new information from the Treasury solicitor was interesting.
They basically indicated that there were new assets.
Now, from our point of view, we don't know if this is a small amount of money or a large amount.
The signs were all very positive, but how large would the fortune Olga left behind turn out to be?
For every case that is solved, thousands stubbornly remain a mystery.
Currently, over 3,000 names drawn from across the country
are on the Treasury's unsolved case list.
Their assets will be kept for up to 30 years in the hope that eventually someone will remember
and come forward to claim their inheritance.
With estates valued at anything from £5,000 to millions,
the rightful heirs are out there somewhere.
Dorothy Rose Brewer died in Eastbourne, East Sussex, on 30th August, 2006.
Was Dorothy a friend or neighbour of yours?
Could you even be related to her and entitled to her legacy?
James Arthur Nash passed away on 10th January, 2004, in Tooting, South London.
So far, every attempt to find his rightful heir has failed.
If no relatives can be found, his money will go to the government, but could it be meant for you?
With thousands of estates lying unclaimed every year,
your information could help millions of pounds reach its rightful heirs.
In London, the Fraser and Fraser team are working the case of Ronald Armer, who died in Ambleside,
leaving assets they believe are worth a massive £1 million.
So far they've made good progress and found an heir.
There's nobody on the father's side. Probably one person on the mother's side. She'd be the only heir.
She lives in Sheffield. Hopefully, we'll see her later today.
But travelling Heir Hunter Dave Mansell is beginning to have doubts about the worth of the estate.
They've never owned a property. He worked on the buses.
It looks like the sole heir to Ronald Armer's estate is his maternal cousin Alyson Stabler,
but this information ups the ante further. Whether it's worth £5,000 or £1 million,
if they don't sign Alyson, they lose their chance of commission.
There's only going to be one heir. It's possibly a substantial sum.
And so, obviously, we would like to come to an arrangement with the heir.
Tony's pinning his hopes on travelling Heir Hunter Paul Matthews.
He's arrived in Sheffield. The heir is at work. Paul hopes to talk to her husband.
Her husband will be at home. We're hoping he does manage to track her down and she does call us
and I get to go and see her. Obviously, it's a decent-sized estate.
And we'd certainly like something out of it.
Meanwhile, Dave Mansell has arrived in Ambleside.
He's hoping to speak to Ronald's neighbours to find out once and for all
if his estate could be worth £1 million.
With none of the neighbours in, Dave visits the cafe next door.
And he's found out something that could really help the case.
We've come to do an inquiry at the deceased's last known address.
There's nobody in any of the properties adjacent to it, so I inquired at the nearest cafe.
And the girl in there was an Armer, so we're about to go to her house and meet her mother,
to check if she knew a Ronald Armer lived at this address.
We'll see if there's any connection between the deceased and her family.
Armer is a common name in the area.
The woman Dave's going to see is too distantly related to be Ronald's heir,
but she might have valuable information about him.
-Did you know Ronald well?
-Did he have any money?
-I'm told he worked on the buses.
-He had enough to go to the pub
and he lived very quietly and frugally. He didn't spend... He wasn't a big spender.
Right. There was no rumours about him having a lot of dosh, then?
That conversation has backed up what Ronald's aunt has said.
It looks more and more likely he didn't have a lot of cash.
120 miles away in Sheffield, Paul has pipped the competing Heir Hunters to the post.
-He's the first to see Malcolm Fender, husband of Ronald's heir.
-We think it's a substantial estate.
There was a property involved that was sold for a lot of money. We'd like to claim for your wife.
-My wife is very surprised at that. She thought he didn't own his house.
-Was he renting it?
All we know is that the property where he was before has been sold.
And it sold for this huge amount.
Malcolm is not an heir and cannot sign on his wife's behalf,
but he's phoned her at work to tell her about Fraser's.
There's a leaflet about Fraser's.
She did express a preference that she would probably go with you.
That's good news! The trip up the M1 hasn't been wasted, hopefully. All for 10p!
I hope it is a decent-sized estate, obviously. We'd get a nice wedge out of it.
It's a great result. It's looking like the absent Alyson may sign to Fraser's,
but the picture of Ronald's finances is not so hot. From what people are saying, he was not a millionaire.
Back in London, Neil realises he's made a terrible mistake.
It's worth 5K.
Looks like I didn't read the property page this morning correctly.
I've read an entry for the sale
which was linked to that property, but it looks like someone bought the whole block, shops and everything.
So we're dealing with a little tiny flat connected to that.
It's not worth any money at all. So... A bit of a mistake by me misreading it this morning.
It's a huge disappointment, especially as the team have put such hard work into it,
but the devil is in the detail and mistakes can happen.
£5,000 is the minimum value of unclaimed estates advertised by the Treasury.
It's clear now that Ronald never owned his modest terrace.
The sale that Neil had found was, in fact, for the entire block of houses,
-but Tony is philosophical.
-You never know where it'll go until you get there.
It's best not to go making assumptions or public statements too early.
In the end, Alyson did sign to Fraser's. Although she'd lost touch with her cousin,
she had fond memories of him.
He gave me my first records when I got my first record player.
So I remember that about him.
He quite liked music. As an adult, I didn't really know him,
but I guess he was quite... solitary.
He never married. His parents died in the '80s.
And we just basically lost touch.
I suppose that's what happens. He was a very quiet sort of...
individual, kept himself to himself.
Alyson was surprised when Fraser's told her Ronald had an estate of potentially £1 million.
It does get your mind going and you think, "Perhaps I always had it wrong.
"Perhaps I'm going to get £900,000. Wouldn't that be lovely?"
Ronald's case had taken on a life of its own
and suddenly everyone was chasing the mirage of a £1 million fortune.
My mum actually texted me - she's quite good for 82 -
to say, "Ring. I have news."
She said that four probate companies had phoned her that morning.
The first one rang at 7.30, which was a bit of a shock for her.
And, yes, four companies got in touch.
And what would Ronald Armer have thought of all these Heir Hunters believing he was a millionaire?
He would have stood here laughing because...
I don't think Ronnie ever, in his lifetime, would ever envisage having that kind of money.
I don't think there would be much left if Ronnie got his hands on it! In a nice way, you know.
Until the case is fully worked, Alyson won't know how much the estate is worth,
but she has thought about how to use the money.
If it had been a large amount, I'd have felt quite confused.
But if it's a small amount, Ronald liked going on holidays.
He went on holidays before going on package holidays was popular.
So I think I'll go on holiday and think of him.
Ronald Armer's story just goes to show that not everything is as it seems.
This was to prove the case when the Heir Hunters looked into the estate of Princess Olga von Dembinski,
who died in 1986 leaving an unspecified sum.
Initially, the investigation suggested she was property-rich in Westminster and Suffolk,
but as Gareth continued the investigation, he began to realise her life was something of an enigma.
We looked at it on the basis that she lived at a nice address in Westminster.
So we tried to look at whether she owned the property
and we spoke to neighbours, but nobody really knew her. She died in 1986.
Olga was the youngest of three children. She had a sister Madelaine and a brother Eric.
All three carried the title of Prince and Princess.
Davina Garner was a little girl when she met Olga's siblings, Princess Madelaine and Prince Eric,
when they moved into the village of Long Melford.
I always sort of surmised that they were Russian.
I vaguely remember somebody saying something about they had been wealthy but they were just ordinary people.
And I think she had a black car. That's all I can remember then.
In 1941, Olga was in London, but her sister Madelaine, brother Eric and their mother, Carmen,
had moved on. It was the height of the Blitz and Long Melford in Suffolk was a safer place to be.
Davina remembers they quickly became part of the community.
I think Eric was a gentleman. He was a perfect gentleman.
He did have beautiful skin!
He would doff his hat and that sort of thing, yeah.
But while her family enjoyed a quiet life in the country, Olga was on a mission.
In 1946 she went to France
where she went through a lengthy court battle to claim the rights to ancestral land in Poland.
According to them, it was a Polish family of great antiquity.
And they claimed direct lineage from King Canute.
And apparently until the death of Prince von Dembinski,
they'd been merely a Count and Countess,
but a relative died and they got the Prince's title.
Olga's great-great-grandfather was Ernst von Dembinski.
Dr Richard Butterwick has his obituary.
What this says is that a representative of the Dembinski family had done well in Prussia.
He had adopted the "von" prefix to his name,
which would qualify him as a German noble as well as a Polish noble.
And he'd become the governor of a circle in Prussia for a period of about 13 years.
And he'd been decorated. He was an officer in the Prussian army.
He found himself very well in the new realities, but when it comes to his son,
we find him serving in the cavalry of the German Legion of the British Army during the Crimean War.
And then afterwards settling in Britain.
In 1854, with the Crimean War in full swing, the British were desperately short of troops.
So they formed a British Foreign Legion and a large contingent volunteered from Germanic states.
After the war, these young men could not return home as they'd sworn allegiance to another country.
Many were shipped off to South Africa. Some, like Olga's grandfather, Ernst Charles,
stayed in the UK.
Could it be that at that time he had to renounce his rights to an inheritance in Prussian Poland?
In any case, Olga's attempt to claim her inheritance failed.
And after years of court battles to claim her inheritance, Olga was declared bankrupt in 1953.
At roughly the same time, her mother passed away
and Olga's siblings moved out of the family cottage.
Was the cottage sold to pay Olga's legal fees? We may never know.
But suddenly Madelaine and Eric were in reduced circumstances
and Madelaine hit upon a novel way of finding accommodation - she moved into a local railway cottage.
In lieu of rent, her job was to open the gate for the daily trains.
A princess on the railway caused quite a stir and she was filmed for a Pathe newsreel.
For the past three years, the Princess is on duty from 6am until the last train after 9pm
six days a week.
Neighbour Dick Barbour remembers the Princess at work.
This is the old railway crossing. The lines used to run across the road here.
The Princess had to come out of her house there to open the gates...
across here to stop the traffic on the road to let the trains through.
Madelaine became something of a local legend. Dick kept his donkey in a field close by.
I walked down here one evening, as I very often did, and saw her out in the road
closing or opening the gates and I said, "Good evening," to her.
I could see she wasn't her normal self.
I said, "Are you all right?" She said, "No, you're in my bad books."
I said, "Oh? How come?" She said, "Not you, but the donkey."
I said, "How come the donkey's in the bad books?"
She said, "I generally set my alarm early in the morning to get the early goods train
"so it doesn't knock the gates down like it's done in the past.
"I thought I'd overslept because I heard this peculiar noise, which I thought was the train.
"I shot down in my pyjamas and opened the gates and no train came."
She said, "I thought that's peculiar. Then your donkey hee-hawed
"and I realised that's what got me out of bed, not the train!" She wasn't very amused.
They were certainly characters.
In Chiswick, a long time before their recent money troubles, they had unusual ways to earn pin money.
Quite eccentric. The mother of the deceased is described as a seer.
Apparently that's how she earned a bit of money. Quite interesting.
Not something you'd expect a princess to be.
Her sister as well. They were working as tourist guides to earn some money.
It sounds like they were real characters. I want to have met them. An interesting bunch, I think.
In 1966, Olga's sister Madelaine passed away and her brother Eric no longer had a reason to stay here.
After that, Davina heard from Eric from time to time.
This is to Mrs Davina Garner. From von Dembinski. A Christmas card.
And a letter saying that he bought this Christmas card for the verse on the inside
"to please your young daughters". "The last four cards have been posted today, Christmas Day.
"The rest will have to have New Year Christmas cards.
"I have spent the last three years in London. I am still trying to move to Bath in Somerset.
"With love from Eric."
In the early '80s, Eric passed away and Olga lived on for another six years in a flat in Craven Street.
For the Heir Hunters, this case had been full of tantalising details.
Did the family have some assets tucked away somewhere?
What had happened to the money from the various properties?
But the investigation came to an abrupt halt when the team made a surprising discovery.
Well, essentially, we think it's a dead case.
We've got a grant from the High Court of Justice saying there's no family or heirs.
No grandparents, no uncles, no cousins, no nephews, no nieces.
So from our point of view, it's a dead case. No heirs.
So that's it, really, for us. It's case closed.
Neither Olga, Madelaine or Eric had married, nor had they had any children.
After such a rich and varied family history, this branch of the family tree died with Olga
in a London hospital. It was now clear that her estate would go to the Treasury.
So how large was the Dembinski fortune? We may never know.
Even if Olga had owned her London property, when she died she was penniless.
The slings and arrows of modern history may have taken their toll on their assets.
It was a real challenge to hold on to your status and your wealth in the 19th and early 20th centuries
with the chance of falling on the wrong side of the regime.
So if a noble family made it through the First World War
into independent Poland in the 1920s and 1930s,
and was still in possession of most of its wealth, it was doing extremely well.
When the team started on this case, they may have seen pound signs,
but in the end it was the family's story that left an impact on partner Neil Fraser.
We all thought we were dealing with the case of a lifetime.
We probably have dealt with the case of a lifetime.
I don't think we'll ever again research into a countess with possible royal Polish links.
It's not all about the money, but sometimes the most interesting bit is the social side.
If we learned anything, not all countesses are rich.
If you would like advice about building a family tree or making a will, go to bbc.co.uk
Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd - 2009
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