Woods/Grindbergs Heir Hunters


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Woods/Grindbergs

The team investigates the case of Grace Woods, who died leaving an estate worth £150,000. They are stunned to learn that Grace was Britain's first bona fide supermodel.


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Welcome to Heir Hunters, where we search for living family of people who've died

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without leaving a will, hoping to unite them with a fortune.

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Today the heir hunters are looking into

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a spectacular six figure state.

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We've actually heard the value of this estate is three-times

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what might top hope was really.

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Teams across the country will be hunting for relatives who

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have no idea they are in line for a windfall.

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Could they be knocking at your door?

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Coming up on today's programme...

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Wow, that's amazing!

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The heir hunters uncover the case of Britain's

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first international supermodel.

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It appears that the deceased was indeed a really famous model in her day.

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Who graced the catwalk in the 1940s.

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And the team unravels the story of a wartime exile

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whose life was secret, even to his family.

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I think it was so traumatic for him, that's why he was a loner

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and didn't divulge very much to anybody.

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And I meet up with the heir hunters to see

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if a complex case is any closer to closure.

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So how do you feel now? Do you feel...

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Very emotional. Just couldn't believe it.

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Plus, how you could be entitled to unclaimed estates

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where beneficiaries still need to be found.

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Could you be in line for an unexpected windfall?

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Every year in the UK an estimated 300,000 people

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die without leaving a will. If no relatives are found,

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then any money that's left behind will go to the government.

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And last year they made £14 million from unclaimed estates.

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But there are over 30 specialist firms competing

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to stop this happening.

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They are called heir hunters, and they make it their business to track

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down missing relatives and help them claim their rightful inheritance.

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I bring about a change

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so that the rightful assets

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go to the rightful family members and not to the state.

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In our first case today, the heir hunter's tackle the case

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of a woman with a glamorous past who left a valuable legacy.

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But did she have any living relatives?

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It's Thursday morning

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and the Treasury list was released just hours ago.

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It shows the names of people who've died without leaving a will.

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And staff at Fraser and Fraser, Britain's largest heir hunting

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firm, are scouring the entries.

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Today it's unusually lengthy.

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25, 13th June.

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The team is trying to make an early breakthrough to get an edge

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on the competition.

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We've got one here aged 101, the deceased,

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and got possible near kin on it.

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Partner, Neil, has got the lead on one name.

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So one of the cases we are going to start today is this

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Grace Charlotte Woods, her maiden name is Cook,

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and neither Woods nor Cook are good names.

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It's going to be tricky, but Grace Charlotte is certainly a good combination.

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We found a marriage in Hampstead.

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The husband dies, it looks like he was born in 1908.

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We haven't really been able to get a good date for her birth

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because it's too recent to get her death.

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The heir hunters need to discover a date

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and place of birth for Grace to build a family tree.

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Which may lead them to heirs.

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There is a birth in 1908,

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which makes husband and wife a very similar age.

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Marriage in Hampstead and the birth is in Bethnal Green.

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So that all looks quite good, so we will run with that

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and hopefully get it confirmed up at some later time.

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They've found a marriage for a Grace Cook and Lester Woods in 1939.

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According to Lester's death certificate, he was born in 1908.

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So there's a fair chance that the Grace Woods

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who was also born in 1908 is the same one.

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It looks like she had quite a few brothers and sisters,

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I'm just putting them on the tree.

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If the birth's right, Grace's family was from Bethnal Green

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and she was the youngest of seven siblings.

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But although the team have a good lead,

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they don't yet know if it's a case worth pursuing.

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Estates on the Treasury list can range from a jackpot of many

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millions to as little as £5,000.

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As they tend to work on a commission basis,

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deciding which to follow is a risky business.

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As far as value goes on this,

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it's pretty hard to tell.

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I haven't got a great address.

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It's the Oxford bit we are trying to concentrate on.

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It's hard to ascertain what sort of value we are going to look at.

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The value is important. It dictates how much manpower and resources

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the team should throw at a case.

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Get this wrong and they could easily lose money.

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Grace Woods died

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on 23rd December, 2009 in Oxford.

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She lived alone in her flat for over 20 years,

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having originally moved to the city with her husband, Lester, who sadly died in 1986.

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I can't remember whether she invited me to her flat

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or I just took it upon myself to visit her.

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I discovered that she was very isolated there.

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Grace was plagued by ill-health for most of her life,

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and became increasingly reclusive in her later years.

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She gradually became more and more housebound.

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I didn't realise then that she was well over 70.

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It must have been very difficult to let everything go

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and gradually become alone

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and have all these health problems to cope with by herself.

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Back in London, the heir hunters are trying to work out

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the value of Grace Woods' estate.

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They are keen to know if she owned her own flat in Oxford.

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And case manager Dave Slee is on the phone to neighbours to

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see what he can find out.

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A Mrs Grace Woods, I wondered if you knew the lady at all.

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She's just touched the 100 mark so...

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No. Did she own her own property?

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No?

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You think it might have been council, rent.

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No, you have been most helpful. Thank you very much indeed, bye bye.

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It's bad news.

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Grace didn't own her own property,

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although it seems that she may have had an interesting career.

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The neighbour had known the deceased for 24 years

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but didn't know much about her really. She might have been a model

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at one time, the deceased, very tall and elegant.

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A bit like my good self! Right, let's pass the information over.

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There's no obvious value to the estate but the research team have made good progress.

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Looking into Grace's siblings,

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they've managed to find a possible niece and nephew.

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I think that they will still be alive, and one of them is themselves

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well in their 80s and they live in Ongar.

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So we've got one of our researchers, David Hadley,

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he's hopefully going to go to Ongar to interview

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this elderly nephew of the elderly deceased.

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The company employs a network of regional heir hunters

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who are on standby every day. Whether the researchers are speaking to neighbours

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or picking up certificates from register offices,

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they leave no stone unturned in the race

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to find and sign up heirs.

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Dave Hadley, who works the Southeast region,

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is sent to sign up the first heir.

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It would appear that we've got a possible nephew

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living in Chipping Ongar, who's 83 years of age,

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and he wants me to go and try and locate him, speak to him,

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and see if we can confirm

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that he is in fact a nephew and a possible heir.

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-'Um... Just a minute.'

-Thank you.

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But back at the office, alarm bells are starting to ring.

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Have they jumped the gun with this case?

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Although we've heard little bits of information,

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about how the deceased used to be a model

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and along those sort of lines, personal information about her,

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no-one mentioned her age.

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Now, if you're talking about a deceased person

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and she's 101 years old,

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the first thing I would expect to come out of someone's mouth

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is she celebrated her 100th birthday last year, or something like that.

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Dave Slee has managed to track down the funeral home in Oxford

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where Grace was cremated.

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Good afternoon. Sorry to trouble you.

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It's a long shot,

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but can they confirm that Grace was 101 when she died?

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OK. Is there any record to show on your records

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her date of birth? Is that something that would be shown on your records?

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Said that she was age 89.

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It's just as they feared.

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The 1908 birth is wrong.

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Well, the crematorium tell me that she was age 89,

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which makes her born, if my maths is right, 1920.

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Have we got a birth in 1920?

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I don't know. You've got a birth in 1908,

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which I don't think is the right one.

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Funeral home are going to come back to me.

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So in theory, according to the...

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That would still make that marriage right. She'd only be 19.

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It means the potential heirs are also wrong,

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and travelling researcher Dave Hadley is pulled off the job.

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Here's a tree that I made earlier that's all wrong.

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-Great.

-Here you are. All that's wrong.

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While the team still thinks Grace's marriage is right,

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and she had no children, they now have to begin a totally new line of research

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for a likely birth in 1920.

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Can you try and find the marriage on the '11 census?

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-Um... And then... And then let me know. All right?

-Yeah.

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Starting from scratch is frustrating

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when they don't even know the value of the estate.

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Did you get it?

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But it's not long before Dave gets a phone call that changes everything.

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Oh, so she was... A top model?

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The phone call is from the bereavement officer

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who handled Grace's affairs. He's been asked by the funeral home

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to see if he can help the heir hunters' enquiries.

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I presume she was going to America, to New York, to model there.

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Suddenly the estate of Grace Woods is looking a lot more interesting.

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Wow, that's amazing!

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It appears that the deceased was a really famous model in her day.

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She was married very young, to a much older man.

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We now know we've got the right family,

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so the original research was all wrong,

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and now we're on the right tracks.

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And it just shows you, sometimes you make these phone calls,

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nine out of ten of them will go nowhere.

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Something like this today has helped us piece together

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the starting of this estate, which I'm really pleased about.

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It's a major breakthrough. Not only is the team back on track,

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they've discovered that Grace Woods was a top model in her day.

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The news has been given to them by the bereavement officer

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at the Oxford hospital where Grace died.

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Philip Sutton had the job of visiting her flat to sort out her belongings.

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It was almost to the end of an hour and a half's search

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through many pieces of paper that I came across two folders,

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and these two folders revealed her early story,

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the story that is most fascinating.

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And in a third folder, tucked at the back of the sideboard,

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was a collection of about 15 or 20 photographs,

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and these revealed a lady

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of great elegance and beauty,

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oh, probably from about

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the age of 15 to early 20s.

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Grace Woods began her modelling career

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at the tender age of 15.

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Her stunning beauty and natural elegance

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soon attracted the attention

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of the Lucie Clayton Modelling School.

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The agency was probably London's top model agency in the 1940s.

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You had to be certain height - over 5'9".

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There was a specific model walk from the 1940s,

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far more straight,

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but to flow at the same time.

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Grace certainly would have had training

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in making sure she didn't use her hands too much

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and her head didn't dip. She would have been told how to maintain

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a very still figure.

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By the 1940s, Grace was a well-known face on the fashion scene,

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and was photographed and filmed at prestigious events.

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The British fashion industry was starting to boom,

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as designers shrugged off the drudgery of war

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in search of exciting new styles,

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and this design revolution required a new breed of model.

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Grace must have had the similar training to me

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at her modelling school.

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She would have learnt how to walk, how to wear the clothes,

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how to promote herself, in other words, really.

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And generally learn all the ins and outs

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of how to behave in front of a camera,

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and as a model. I mean, there was a lot more to it in those days.

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Well, Grace certainly was a beautifully elegant model back in the day.

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I'm here at the Museum of London to find out more about the world she inhabited.

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I've come to meet Beatrice Behlen, fashion curator

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and an expert in post-war fashion.

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-Hello, Beatrice.

-Hi.

-So tell me,

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what happened to the global fashion industry during the war?

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Paris was occupied by the Germans for about four years,

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so they were still producing fashion, but only for people in Paris and France.

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Normally, they would have dominated fashion, leading fashion.

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Now the British and the Americans, they were developing their own styles

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-and they were hoping Paris could be kept down after the war.

-What did people wear at the time?

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I'll show you some things over here.

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I've got three dresses here.

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All three are worn about sort of '44, '45.

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I think they maybe look a little bit like that. But this one, I think, you could definitely wear now.

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So they are different, slightly different.

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This one is a utility dress, and you can see the CC41 sign here.

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-It's made by a company called Bijou.

-Right.

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Utility means it was made out of a fabric

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that was controlled by regulations.

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-So even fashion and material was regulated at the time?

-Yes, it was.

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In wartime Britain, clothes and materials to make them

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were as strictly rationed as food.

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The Government had taken control of all imported cloth,

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and in 1941 brought in utility clothes for the general public.

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They set up a coupon system to ration how many new clothes people could actually buy.

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The utility label meant when consumers used their coupons

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and saw that mark, they'd know the clothes would be well-made,

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hard-wearing and affordable.

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Unfortunately, clothes rationing didn't stop there.

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There were all sorts of austerity regulations.

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They governed how many buttons you could have, how many pleats.

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It makes you think there was one style. That's not true -

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-you can make quite a lot of different styles, despite the regulations.

-Yeah.

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Austerity measures aside, the public found ways around them,

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using what they already had at home.

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This one here is made out of bedding material.

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She could do whatever she liked, so she got a pattern, she made this dress, and she thought,

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"No, I'll not just have four buttons, I'll have whatever - ten, nine, or whatever she has here.

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-She used as many as she could get her hands on.

-It's amazing how bright they are.

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I imagine war clothing, because of regulations, to be dark and drab.

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No, I think the state was quite worried that people would hate it

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so they did their best to have different patterns and things like that.

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It's amazing to see first-hand just how inventive

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and resourceful people were in times of such austerity.

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Putting clothes made of bedding to one side for a moment,

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I want to find out more about how Grace became the superstar she was in her day.

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So, the UK, was that a good place for Grace to be modelling after the war?

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After the war, it would have been. There were still regulations for everyone else,

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but the designers were made exempt from the regulations so they could make beautiful things for export

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so that money would come into the country.

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So, of course, they would have needed models to show these new fashions.

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It sounds as if Grace was in the right place at the right time.

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But what about the clothes she would have been wearing on the catwalks of America and Europe?

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From the silhouette,

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this would have been the kind of thing she would have modelled in 1946.

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This is another utility garment, so what she would have worn for a designer

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would probably have been a bit more luxurious.

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But it would have had these wide shoulders

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-and been quite straight, quite a boxy look.

-Amazing detail on here.

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Yeah, but also, this is a fake.

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Because again, you have to not use that much fabric

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so you don't put in proper pockets, you just have sort of fake pockets.

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-Were the public happy with the new styles?

-The big thing that changed was

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when Dior had his first fashion show on 12th February 1947

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and what he introduced was this new style, which you can see here.

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This is a beautiful suit by Hardy Amies,

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-one of the big designers in London.

-I love it.

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Yeah, I think you could wear this now.

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So this is much more detailed, you have different pockets,

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more of the detail here than on the others.

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You can see how much fabric these pleats would have needed.

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You couldn't have done that under austerity regulations.

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Some people liked it, some people absolutely hated it.

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There were debates in the Commons about this, because it was using a lot of fabric.

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You can't really fight fashion. It was going up that way and there was nothing people could do.

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It appears Grace was walking the catwalks

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during a fashion revolution,

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and subsequently became one of the world's first supermodels.

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Coming up - the team learn that Grace Woods was rich

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as well as famous.

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We've actually heard that the value of this estate

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is three times what my top hope was, really.

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Our next case today proves a real puzzle for the probate researchers,

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as the hunt for missing heirs leads to some of the darkest moments in 20th century history.

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Heir hunters can spend years trying to solve complex cases,

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but sometimes there's a reason why people's lives

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are shrouded in mystery.

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That was the story when one company looked for heirs

0:20:190:20:23

for Leons Grinbergs. His friends and family knew surprisingly little

0:20:230:20:27

of the dramatic events which had shaped his life.

0:20:270:20:30

Leons died in Seaford, West Sussex, in 2009,

0:20:320:20:36

aged 83.

0:20:360:20:38

He was a popular man who Paul Allery had known for over 30 years.

0:20:380:20:43

When I first think of Leo, what I remember is his smile,

0:20:430:20:48

his laugh, a pipe and a pint.

0:20:480:20:51

I've never known him unhappy.

0:20:510:20:54

No. Not in all my life. He's never been unhappy.

0:20:560:20:59

He'd make you laugh.

0:20:590:21:02

Leons died without leaving a will,

0:21:020:21:04

and his £13,000 estate was published on the Bona Vacantia list in 2009.

0:21:040:21:09

Thanks. Cheerio.

0:21:120:21:14

Hector Birchwood, who runs heir-hunting firm Celtic Research

0:21:140:21:17

with his father Peter, began to investigate.

0:21:170:21:21

We started the case when it was first advertised

0:21:210:21:23

with the Treasury solicitor last year.

0:21:230:21:25

We didn't get the death certificate immediately,

0:21:250:21:28

but we had established a number of different facts

0:21:280:21:31

by the time that we had the death certificate.

0:21:310:21:34

We knew that he was married.

0:21:340:21:36

We... Or at least I guessed that perhaps he may have been divorced

0:21:360:21:40

and that there would have been some previous in-law family

0:21:400:21:45

still residing here in the UK,

0:21:450:21:48

and so that then led us down a research avenue

0:21:480:21:51

by which we could possibly maybe find the deceased's family.

0:21:510:21:55

Dawn Marian Moor was married to Leons Grinbergs.

0:21:560:21:59

They met while she was working at Hastings railway station in 1972.

0:21:590:22:04

When I met Leo, I had been separated from my husband

0:22:050:22:10

for a few years,

0:22:100:22:13

and Leo was a great comfort to me.

0:22:130:22:16

He was about 6'2",

0:22:160:22:19

nicely-built,

0:22:190:22:22

very nicely-built.

0:22:220:22:23

Always had a little goatee beard and moustache.

0:22:230:22:26

Used to laugh at his own jokes.

0:22:260:22:30

One of his best points was that he was very good to my children,

0:22:300:22:36

and he was very reliable and loving.

0:22:360:22:40

And handsome!

0:22:420:22:43

At the time, Dawn was living with her 11-year-old son Paul,

0:22:450:22:48

when Leons, or Leo as he was known, moved into the family home.

0:22:480:22:52

I first met Leo when I was 11 years old,

0:22:520:22:55

which would have been about 37 years ago.

0:22:550:22:59

I thought, "What's this stranger doing in my house?"

0:22:590:23:02

But literally within hours, I loved him straight away.

0:23:020:23:05

Lovely man.

0:23:050:23:07

Made me laugh. Made me feel much, much better.

0:23:070:23:10

Dawn and Leo got married in June 1975,

0:23:100:23:14

and they settled into family life with Paul and his elder sisters.

0:23:140:23:19

It was very good, you know, very happy.

0:23:190:23:22

Everybody jogged on fine, you know.

0:23:220:23:26

It was like having Leo and I's family, you know,

0:23:260:23:30

because he was really good with the kids.

0:23:300:23:33

Dawn and Leo decided to get divorced in 1983,

0:23:330:23:37

but the split was amicable.

0:23:370:23:40

Paul always kept in touch with him, and if ever I saw him,

0:23:400:23:44

because he moved to Seaford,

0:23:440:23:47

we used to perhaps go for a drink together.

0:23:470:23:49

No animosity. It was very good. Remained friends for a long time.

0:23:490:23:55

As Dawn and Leo had divorced, she wasn't an heir to his estate.

0:23:550:23:59

Nor was stepson Paul, as he wasn't a blood relative.

0:23:590:24:03

So if Hector was going to find any living relatives,

0:24:030:24:06

he needed to look further into Leo's past.

0:24:060:24:09

But that's where it would get tricky.

0:24:090:24:11

He'd only tell you what he wanted you to know.

0:24:110:24:14

He never elaborated on anything.

0:24:140:24:17

It was as though he'd done it, he'd been there,

0:24:170:24:22

and he wanted a fresh beginning.

0:24:220:24:24

He had his private side, which he wouldn't talk about,

0:24:240:24:28

and we never worried about him, about it.

0:24:280:24:31

If he'd wanted to talk about it, he could,

0:24:310:24:33

but he kept himself to himself in that respect, his private life.

0:24:330:24:38

In order to find heirs to Leo's estate,

0:24:380:24:41

Hector would have to delve into his mysterious past.

0:24:410:24:46

He was quickly able to establish that Leo was from Latvia,

0:24:460:24:49

and that he'd been born in 1926.

0:24:490:24:52

But frustratingly, he couldn't find any other details of his birth.

0:24:520:24:56

Once you go to places in Eastern Europe,

0:24:560:24:59

the former Soviet union, because of historical reasons,

0:24:590:25:04

namely lots of armies conquering back and forth

0:25:040:25:07

and destroying records in churches,

0:25:070:25:09

you begin to see that there's real trouble

0:25:090:25:13

in being able to get any form of record

0:25:130:25:15

to prove that somebody's related to another person.

0:25:150:25:18

And trying to find records in Latvia was especially difficult.

0:25:200:25:24

In 1939, the country was turned upside down

0:25:240:25:28

when Russian troops invaded and seized control.

0:25:280:25:31

Within a one-week period,

0:25:310:25:34

around 15,000 Latvians were given 24 hours' notice

0:25:340:25:39

to collect 100 kilograms of their possessions.

0:25:390:25:41

They weren't allowed to take any more.

0:25:410:25:43

They were then taken to the main railway stations.

0:25:430:25:46

Families were split into men and women and children,

0:25:460:25:49

and they were transported to Siberia.

0:25:490:25:51

13-year-old Leo was lucky to avoid this fate.

0:25:510:25:55

But like the rest of the Latvian population,

0:25:550:25:58

he was now at the mercy of violent Russian oppressors.

0:25:580:26:01

CANNON BOOMS

0:26:010:26:03

Salvation seemed to come two years later

0:26:030:26:07

when German troops arrived in Latvia and forced the Russians out.

0:26:070:26:11

Initially, a lot of the Latvians welcomed them on the street,

0:26:130:26:18

with flowers in some cases,

0:26:180:26:20

because they were seen as at least not being as bad as the Soviets.

0:26:200:26:24

But their relief was short-lived.

0:26:240:26:26

The arrival of the Nazis brought a new threat to many Latvian people,

0:26:260:26:31

and one which would directly affect Leo, who was half-Jewish.

0:26:310:26:34

Very soon the Nazis set up ghettos and concentration camps

0:26:340:26:39

for the Latvian Jews.

0:26:390:26:41

In Latvia, there were around 90,000 to 95,000 Jews,

0:26:410:26:44

about 90%of which died by the end of the war.

0:26:440:26:48

Sarmite Janovskis was a young girl

0:26:480:26:51

living in the Latvian capital city in 1941.

0:26:510:26:56

Jewish ghettos in Riga were terrible. They were rounded up.

0:26:560:26:59

You weren't allowed to give them a piece of bread.

0:26:590:27:02

You did that on the quiet, but not while they were in the road.

0:27:020:27:06

You couldn't do anything, and it must have been awful.

0:27:060:27:10

They had lived there all their lives,

0:27:120:27:15

a peaceful, normal life.

0:27:150:27:17

And I suppose the only place they could run

0:27:170:27:21

was Sweden, but there was no way to get there.

0:27:210:27:24

If they ran to Germany, they would have run into fire.

0:27:240:27:29

The same into Poland or Lithuania,

0:27:290:27:32

Russia, everything. They had nowhere to run,

0:27:320:27:36

and they were very quickly rounded up and shot, and it was terrible.

0:27:360:27:40

As a young Jew, Leo was in imminent danger.

0:27:430:27:47

And his ex-wife Dawn remembers a rare revelation

0:27:470:27:50

about this period in his life.

0:27:500:27:53

Leo one day sort of sat down, and, talking about the past,

0:27:530:27:59

he told me that...um...

0:27:590:28:02

he had to leave Riga

0:28:020:28:04

when he was 15, because...

0:28:040:28:07

the Jewish part of his family - his father was a Jew -

0:28:070:28:11

he feels his parents were murdered anyway,

0:28:110:28:14

and his only escape was to make way to a different country to survive.

0:28:140:28:21

It took him two years to get to Switzerland,

0:28:210:28:24

by sleeping during the day,

0:28:240:28:27

travelling at night,

0:28:270:28:29

surviving on whatever he could...

0:28:290:28:32

um...which made him, today, not leave anything on his plate

0:28:320:28:38

because he'd suffered so much hunger in those days.

0:28:380:28:41

But it took him two years to get to Switzerland.

0:28:410:28:45

The news of Leo's extraordinary wartime journey

0:28:450:28:49

and the loss of his parents explained a lot to Dawn.

0:28:490:28:52

I think it was so traumatic for him

0:28:520:28:54

that each episode of his life he shuts away,

0:28:540:29:01

and doesn't want to relive it.

0:29:010:29:05

And I think that's the secret of his life.

0:29:050:29:08

That's why he was a loner,

0:29:080:29:10

you know, and didn't divulge very much to anybody.

0:29:100:29:16

But was Leo hiding a secret

0:29:160:29:18

that would help the heir hunters find relatives who could inherit his estate?

0:29:180:29:22

They'd been able to establish that after the war ended,

0:29:220:29:25

Leo somehow made his way to a military hospital near Cologne.

0:29:250:29:29

From here, records show Leo was moved

0:29:290:29:33

to a displaced-persons' camp in Western Europe.

0:29:330:29:36

These camps housed 150,000 Latvian refugees,

0:29:360:29:41

who'd fled their country when it fell under the Iron Curtain.

0:29:410:29:45

Hundreds of camps formed in Germany,

0:29:450:29:47

both in the English zone and in the American zone,

0:29:470:29:52

and as soon as the camps opened, we started forming schools

0:29:520:29:56

and choirs and our own social life,

0:29:560:29:58

and life was very, very difficult.

0:29:580:30:01

The Latvians were free to leave the camps,

0:30:010:30:04

but with little prospect of jobs, they survived on rations,

0:30:040:30:08

and in sometimes squalid conditions.

0:30:080:30:11

We were seven in a room,

0:30:110:30:13

with one tap to about 16 families.

0:30:130:30:16

The toilets weren't usable. They were full of...

0:30:160:30:21

faeces and worms.

0:30:210:30:23

Maggots!

0:30:230:30:25

But there were always the woods.

0:30:250:30:28

Yes.

0:30:280:30:29

Yes. It was...

0:30:290:30:31

That part of my life was horrible.

0:30:310:30:35

No-one seems to know what happened to Leo when he left the displaced-persons' camp.

0:30:350:30:40

But his stepson Paul was about to make a dramatic revelation.

0:30:400:30:44

He believed that Leon had an illegitimate daughter.

0:30:440:30:49

Heir hunters solve thousands of cases a year,

0:30:570:31:00

and millions of pounds are paid out to rightful heirs.

0:31:000:31:03

But not every case can be cracked.

0:31:030:31:05

The Treasury has a database of over 2,000 names

0:31:050:31:08

that have baffled the heir hunters and remain unsolved.

0:31:080:31:12

This is known as the Bona Vacantia list.

0:31:120:31:15

Bona Vacantia is Latin for "ownerless goods".

0:31:150:31:18

And we deal with the estates of people

0:31:180:31:20

who die intestate and without known kin.

0:31:200:31:24

And this unclaimed money could belong to you, not the Government,

0:31:240:31:28

but you'll have to show them you're the rightful heir.

0:31:280:31:31

If they write to us enclosing a simple family tree,

0:31:310:31:34

just showing how they're actually related to the deceased person,

0:31:340:31:37

then we can have a look at it, make sure we're talking about the same family,

0:31:370:31:42

before we go off and ask them to supply various certificates

0:31:420:31:46

of birth, death and marriage

0:31:460:31:49

to actually substantiate the claim.

0:31:490:31:51

The estate could be worth as little as a few hundred pounds

0:31:510:31:55

or as much as many millions.

0:31:550:31:57

Today we're focussing on three names from the list.

0:31:570:32:00

Are they relatives of yours?

0:32:000:32:02

Could you be in line for an unexpected windfall?

0:32:020:32:05

Edna Youle died in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, in September 2006.

0:32:050:32:10

The surname Youle is medieval,

0:32:100:32:13

and was traditionally taken by people born on Christmas day.

0:32:130:32:18

Did you know Edna? So far, all efforts to trace her entitled relatives have failed.

0:32:180:32:23

Did you know Robert William Walker-Hesp?

0:32:250:32:28

He died on the 7th of October 2008 in Bideford, Devon.

0:32:280:32:33

Do you recognise Robert's distinctive double-barrelled surname?

0:32:330:32:38

Can you help solve this case?

0:32:380:32:40

Also on our list is John Francis Christopher Fleming,

0:32:420:32:45

who died in Coventry on the 4th of August 2006.

0:32:450:32:49

The name Fleming is commonly associated

0:32:490:32:52

with people from Flanders.

0:32:520:32:55

Was John a friend or neighbour or yours?

0:32:550:32:57

Someone out there must remember him.

0:32:570:32:59

But these estates won't be around for ever.

0:32:590:33:03

It'll stay on the list as long as it's claimable.

0:33:030:33:06

Actually, under the Limitation Act,

0:33:060:33:08

people have 12 years to come forward and claim.

0:33:080:33:12

A reminder of those names again.

0:33:130:33:15

Edna Youle, Robert Walker-Hesp, and John Christopher Fleming.

0:33:150:33:21

So if you're a relative of someone on today's list,

0:33:210:33:23

you could have a fortune coming your way.

0:33:230:33:26

Still to come - the heir hunters know about Grace Woods' fame,

0:33:310:33:35

but what about her fortune?

0:33:350:33:37

Now, though, it's back to the difficult search for heirs

0:33:370:33:40

to the estate of Latvian exile Leons Grinbergs.

0:33:400:33:45

'Later, I've some more news about the case.'

0:33:450:33:48

-So do you have any updates for us?

-Well, I do have some updates.

0:33:480:33:52

But first, it's back to the investigation.

0:33:520:33:55

The heir hunters at Celtic Research

0:33:550:33:58

have been looking into Leon's case.

0:33:580:34:01

He was born in Eastern Europe, and died in West Sussex,

0:34:010:34:04

leaving an estate worth around £13,000.

0:34:040:34:07

But uncovering the tracks of someone who wanted their past left behind was proving very difficult.

0:34:070:34:12

A lot of people who left Latvia they live in the past,

0:34:140:34:20

and they think of what was in Latvia,

0:34:200:34:24

but they can't tell people in England about it

0:34:240:34:28

because they wouldn't understand. It was a different world.

0:34:280:34:31

And the war experiences -

0:34:310:34:34

I mean, they were just so horrendous.

0:34:340:34:37

I think they like to bury them.

0:34:370:34:42

After the Second World War,

0:34:420:34:44

the only evidence of what happened to Leo next

0:34:440:34:46

are photographs which show him living in North America.

0:34:460:34:51

I would think, obviously, in Canada.

0:34:510:34:55

It looks like he's studying for something.

0:34:550:34:58

These are the sort of things I wish he'd told me about.

0:34:580:35:00

What was he, 25, 30?

0:35:000:35:02

What was he doing and why?

0:35:070:35:11

In 1947, Canada adopted emergency measures

0:35:110:35:14

to assist the resettlement of refugees,

0:35:140:35:18

many of whom were from Eastern Europe.

0:35:180:35:20

It's likely Leo was part of this programme.

0:35:200:35:23

After 1945, 150,000 Latvian refugees were unable to return home,

0:35:230:35:28

because Latvia was controlled by the Soviet Union until 1991.

0:35:280:35:31

The majority of the Latvian refugees moved to North America,

0:35:310:35:35

to the United States and to Canada.

0:35:350:35:37

Toronto has one of the largest Latvian communities,

0:35:370:35:41

and is the second-largest Latvian city outside of Latvia.

0:35:410:35:45

But none of these movements were making Hector's task of finding an heir any easier.

0:35:460:35:51

The only tangible record that we have

0:35:520:35:55

is the Merchant Marine record that we have for Leon,

0:35:550:35:59

which states that he was here first in 1953.

0:35:590:36:03

We don't have any records of Leon having resided in Canada,

0:36:030:36:08

or coming back and forth from Canada,

0:36:080:36:10

or having any form of family

0:36:100:36:14

that you could say was related to him in Canada,

0:36:140:36:19

so it's...

0:36:190:36:21

It really has led nowhere.

0:36:210:36:23

So they were left with a black hole in Leo's life.

0:36:230:36:27

For a period of almost ten years,

0:36:270:36:30

the heir hunters had no idea of Leo's whereabouts,

0:36:300:36:33

or what was going on in his personal life.

0:36:330:36:35

And then stepson Paul dropped a bombshell.

0:36:350:36:39

The last tantalising clue that we got from Paul

0:36:390:36:43

is that he believed that Leon had an illegitimate daughter,

0:36:430:36:48

that during his travels to and from Canada

0:36:480:36:52

as a Merchant Marine man,

0:36:520:36:55

he'd fathered a girl.

0:36:550:36:57

Perhaps she resides in Canada, speculatively.

0:36:570:37:01

Shortly after Leo passed away, the council got in touch with me

0:37:010:37:06

and left me all his personal possessions,

0:37:060:37:09

and I was pretty much talking to my mother,

0:37:090:37:13

and we were going through things,

0:37:130:37:15

and she just suddenly says, like, "Oh, he had a daughter in Canada."

0:37:150:37:19

I thought, "What's this?" I didn't know anything about this.

0:37:190:37:24

He paid for her college, I believe.

0:37:240:37:28

He mentioned paying for her college.

0:37:280:37:31

But that's all he said about his daughter.

0:37:310:37:34

I think his past... He didn't want to dwell on it.

0:37:340:37:38

Leo's daughter is likely to be the sole heir to his £13,000 estate.

0:37:380:37:44

But in order to find her, they need his name on the birth certificate.

0:37:440:37:47

For us, it's exceptionally hard

0:37:470:37:50

to try and find that needle in a haystack

0:37:500:37:52

without knowing a name. If somebody's born illegitimately,

0:37:520:37:56

normally they would take on their mother's surname,

0:37:560:38:00

so without knowing who the relationship was with,

0:38:000:38:03

or where it even took place,

0:38:030:38:05

we have no way of being able to find out who this person is.

0:38:050:38:09

The ongoing search for Leo's daughter

0:38:090:38:12

is being championed by his stepson Paul.

0:38:120:38:15

Well, I know I'm not entitled to anything,

0:38:150:38:17

and because he died intestate,

0:38:170:38:19

I thought I didn't want his money going to the Government.

0:38:190:38:23

I'll try my damnedest, if he has got a daughter,

0:38:230:38:25

to make sure it goes to her.

0:38:250:38:27

Despite searching every record available to him,

0:38:270:38:30

Hector has so far been unable locate any trace of Leo's missing daughter,

0:38:300:38:34

who may be in Canada, or even in the UK.

0:38:340:38:37

Without having the luxury of a birth certificate

0:38:370:38:41

or a baptismal record,

0:38:410:38:44

or the name of a potential illegitimate daughter,

0:38:440:38:49

or even the name of the person with whom he may have had a relationship

0:38:490:38:53

and then had an illegitimate daughter,

0:38:530:38:55

it really leaves us in a very difficult spot,

0:38:550:38:58

and, on the face of it,

0:38:580:39:01

I don't really think that there's any resolution to this case,

0:39:010:39:06

so eventually the Crown will be quite happy

0:39:060:39:10

to obtain the deceased's assets,

0:39:100:39:13

and this will all go to Her Majesty's Government.

0:39:130:39:17

But Paul hasn't given up hope of finding his stepsister,

0:39:190:39:24

Leo's long-lost daughter.

0:39:240:39:27

I think Leo would have wanted me to do it.

0:39:270:39:30

He would have liked me to do it.

0:39:300:39:32

Last thing I can do for him.

0:39:340:39:37

Are you Leo's daughter, or do you know someone that could be?

0:39:400:39:43

Do you hold the key to solving this £13,000 case?

0:39:430:39:49

'Well, there's been a dramatic twist in the hunt for Leon's heirs.

0:39:520:39:55

'I've come to London to meet heir hunter Hector Birchwood and Leon's stepson Paul.

0:39:550:40:00

'Both men have been working for years to solve the riddle of Leon's life.'

0:40:000:40:04

-Paul, it's lovely to meet you.

-Lovely to meet you.

-Thank you.

0:40:060:40:10

-You're obviously really fond of Leon?

-Yeah.

0:40:100:40:13

-Terribly.

-And what are your favourite memories of him?

-Hmm, good Lord, loads.

0:40:130:40:19

I suppose when I first met him, he used to look after me,

0:40:190:40:22

treat me well...

0:40:220:40:24

When I left school he got me my first job.

0:40:240:40:27

-And taking me to the pub.

-So, Hector, I'm glad you could join us.

-Pleasure.

0:40:270:40:33

Did you know from the start this was going to be a difficult case?

0:40:330:40:37

Yes, I knew it was going to be very hard.

0:40:370:40:39

There were a number of reasons why this case was going to be hard from the outset.

0:40:390:40:43

Latvia, because of its history, has had a number of its records destroyed.

0:40:430:40:47

So we knew that even if we found anyone,

0:40:470:40:50

it would have been very difficult to document any form of claim.

0:40:500:40:53

We've not had a lot of success in Latvia before.

0:40:530:40:56

And in addition to that,

0:40:560:40:59

we could not find a birth for Leon where he said he was.

0:40:590:41:05

So the initial research that we did

0:41:050:41:09

didn't prove very fruitful at all.

0:41:090:41:12

And it was at that point that I decided to research

0:41:120:41:15

in the family that Leon married into.

0:41:150:41:19

That's when I contacted Paul.

0:41:190:41:21

And Paul was himself doing a lot of research,

0:41:210:41:23

trying to find Leon's family.

0:41:230:41:26

So we effectively traded information.

0:41:260:41:28

He gave me papers that he had in his possession and I gave him

0:41:280:41:32

papers that I had found in the National Archives.

0:41:320:41:35

We traded information, we put it all together,

0:41:350:41:38

and we still didn't really get anywhere!

0:41:380:41:41

'Hector's main problem in this case was trying to locate the potential illegitimate daughter.

0:41:410:41:46

'It had been suggested Leons had her whilst living abroad.'

0:41:460:41:51

So where did the trail ran cold?

0:41:510:41:53

Well, the trail ran cold in Canada, because, as you knew,

0:41:530:41:59

he came to the UK as a Merchant Mariner.

0:41:590:42:03

So we thought that perhaps maybe he had a daughter there,

0:42:030:42:07

and that was our idea.

0:42:070:42:08

-You gave me pictures of Leon in his time in Canada.

-Canada, that's right.

0:42:080:42:13

He was a young man, so we thought perhaps maybe

0:42:130:42:16

he might have had an illegitimate child there.

0:42:160:42:19

We got some help from the Latvian community in Canada

0:42:190:42:22

and we managed to trace down the daughter of his landlord

0:42:220:42:27

-who rented his apartment.

-Good Lord.

0:42:270:42:30

Sadly, no-one could confirm, A, he had any relationship,

0:42:300:42:35

and B, and he had any daughter. No-one knew of any daughter, no-one knew of any children.

0:42:350:42:40

So it seems unlikely that Leons did have a daughter after all.'

0:42:420:42:46

So, Hector, have you got an update for us?

0:42:470:42:51

Well, I do have some updates. We managed to find...

0:42:510:42:56

a farmhouse, which is where Leon was born.

0:42:560:43:01

Strewth!

0:43:010:43:03

The farmland - we found his family still reside there.

0:43:030:43:07

You're joking?

0:43:070:43:09

Good Lord.

0:43:110:43:12

-How do you feel?

-Shocked.

0:43:150:43:19

I wasn't expecting that at all.

0:43:190:43:21

We found the descendants of a paternal aunt of the deceased.

0:43:210:43:26

Anna Grinbergs. She was the sister of his father Fricis.

0:43:260:43:32

Fricis Grinbergs.

0:43:320:43:36

She died in the late 1970s.

0:43:360:43:38

She was born in 1894.

0:43:380:43:41

Two years younger than his father.

0:43:410:43:44

And she had two children - Krishus and Ilma -

0:43:440:43:48

both of whom married and are now deceased.

0:43:480:43:51

And so we found their children -

0:43:510:43:53

one of them who is still living in the farmhouse Where Leons was born.

0:43:530:43:57

-I really wasn't expecting it.

-It's really amazing.

-Fantastic.

0:43:570:44:02

So all those years, a good few years of working this case,

0:44:020:44:06

but finally Hector has cracked it.

0:44:060:44:08

-Have you been in touch with them?

-Yes, yes.

0:44:080:44:11

We've been in touch, we've submitted their claim, it's been accepted,

0:44:110:44:15

and the money will be distributed actually this week.

0:44:150:44:19

-Oh, result.

-Fantastic news.

-What a result.

0:44:190:44:24

-Well done.

-Thank you.

-Cor, absolutely fantastic.

0:44:240:44:27

Wait till I tell everybody.

0:44:290:44:32

I think it's so lovely that you've been trying to find out

0:44:320:44:36

-and working so hard to crack this...

-Yeah.

0:44:360:44:38

If it wasn't for Hector,

0:44:380:44:41

I would have got nowhere. I was just going round and round in circles.

0:44:410:44:44

By the way, they did confirm he didn't have any daughter either,

0:44:440:44:48

I did ask!

0:44:480:44:50

-So where that came from...

-I don't know.

0:44:500:44:53

At least we haven't been able to verify that.

0:44:530:44:56

So, Paul, where would you like to go from here, would you like to get in touch with the heirs?

0:44:560:45:01

Now I know, I would love to,

0:45:010:45:04

if Hector would be good enough to give them their address.

0:45:040:45:08

-If I could meet her, better still.

-A whole new journey to go on.

0:45:080:45:14

And after it's all over with. I just can't wait.

0:45:140:45:17

One chapter comes to an end in the hunt for Leon's rightful heirs.

0:45:170:45:22

But another begins in reuniting his long-lost family

0:45:220:45:26

and it's all thanks to the heir hunters.

0:45:260:45:30

Now, do you have long-lost family? Here's some more names of unclaimed estates

0:45:330:45:38

from the Treasury Solicitor's list.

0:45:380:45:41

Could you be in line for a forgotten fortune?

0:45:410:45:44

The list of unclaimed estates

0:45:440:45:45

is money that is owed to members of the public

0:45:450:45:49

and new names are added all the time.

0:45:490:45:52

The unclaimed list is a list of cases that we haven't found kin for.

0:45:520:45:56

The list goes back to 1997

0:45:560:45:59

because that's when our case management system came on line.

0:45:590:46:02

The idea is to produce a list of all those solvent cases

0:46:020:46:05

so there should be a few pounds in there, possibly many thousands.

0:46:050:46:09

So how is the Bona Vacantia Division working on your behalf?

0:46:090:46:13

The Bona Vacantia Division doesn't employ genealogists or agents

0:46:130:46:17

we work very hard to find kin ourselves. We advertise in local and national newspapers

0:46:170:46:21

and ultimately put the names on our website.

0:46:210:46:25

Do the names on the list mean anything to you?

0:46:250:46:28

Could they be relatives of yours?

0:46:280:46:30

Christopher Michael O'Riordan died in Fulham, London,

0:46:330:46:36

on 18th August 2010.

0:46:360:46:39

O'Riordan is a Celtic Irish name

0:46:390:46:41

and originally derived from words meaning Royal poet.

0:46:410:46:46

Do you remember Christopher, does his Irish surname ring a bell with you?

0:46:460:46:50

Alexander Clark Molyneux died in Corby on 3rd August 2010.

0:46:500:46:56

The name Molyneux derives from Moulins,

0:46:570:47:00

a town on the River Allier in France, famous for its water mills.

0:47:000:47:04

Moulin is the French for mill.

0:47:040:47:06

Were you a friend or neighbour of Alexander's?

0:47:080:47:10

So far, all efforts to find his heirs have drawn a blank.

0:47:100:47:14

John Samuel Earnshaw died on 11th October 1997

0:47:140:47:19

in the district hospital in York.

0:47:190:47:22

I've got John's death certificate here

0:47:220:47:25

and it shows he used to work in a canteen. Did you used to work in a kitchen or a cafe in the York area

0:47:250:47:30

and maybe know a John Earnshaw?

0:47:300:47:32

Maybe you could crack this case.

0:47:320:47:35

The death certificate also shows

0:47:350:47:37

that John was born on 26 December 1919 in Putney, London.

0:47:370:47:42

Were you part of the Earnshaw family living in a Putney at that time?

0:47:420:47:45

A reminder of those names again.

0:47:450:47:48

Christopher O'Riordan, Alexander Molyneux and John Earnshaw.

0:47:480:47:54

If today's names are relatives of yours, you could have a windfall coming your way.

0:47:540:47:58

Finally today, let's rejoin the heir hunters

0:48:030:48:06

as they search for heirs to the estate of former model, Grace Woods.

0:48:060:48:10

The team are investigating Grace's case.

0:48:100:48:14

She died in Oxford in 2009 without leaving a will

0:48:140:48:17

and her name was advertised on the Treasury Solicitor's list.

0:48:170:48:21

But one wrong step in their search has sent that team wildly off course.

0:48:230:48:27

I've made a mistake on this case and run with the birth in 1908

0:48:270:48:32

and it looks as though the birth is in 1920.

0:48:320:48:36

Knowing that Grace was a famous model,

0:48:360:48:38

the team is now working flat out to find relatives for the 1920 birth.

0:48:380:48:43

Trawling through records, they make another exciting discovery.

0:48:430:48:47

Apparently she went over to the US of A.

0:48:470:48:51

It seems Grace Woods was so sought after as a model,

0:48:510:48:54

she travelled to America on the Queen Elizabeth in 1946.

0:48:540:48:59

There she is... A mannequin.

0:48:590:49:02

Let's get stuff in on priority on that

0:49:040:49:06

because there could be value on this.

0:49:060:49:09

The team is now certain it's an estate worth working.

0:49:090:49:13

We have a little bit of information which is from a shipping record

0:49:130:49:16

where the deceased is travelling to America in a first class cabin.

0:49:160:49:20

That first class cabin is on the Queen Elizabeth,

0:49:200:49:22

which is a very, very luxury liner.

0:49:220:49:25

Certainly a very expensive cabin to be travelling to America on.

0:49:250:49:30

So indications like that sort of gear us to the line

0:49:300:49:33

that we're dealing with a person who certainly had wealth at one stage.

0:49:330:49:37

In fact, Grace Woods wasn't just any model

0:49:380:49:40

but Britain's top model after the war.

0:49:400:49:43

Now for British mannequins going to the States,

0:49:430:49:47

Georgie Clifford, Grace Woods, Jane Lynch...

0:49:470:49:50

in 1946, she led a team of models on a famous trip

0:49:500:49:54

which showcased British style in America.

0:49:540:49:57

The tour was set up by Grace's modelling agency.

0:49:570:50:00

The trip of the mannequins to New York

0:50:010:50:04

was a very important part of Lucy Clayton's involvement.

0:50:040:50:09

She saw on opportunity to take her girls over

0:50:090:50:12

as ambassadors for British fashion.

0:50:120:50:15

The idea of this glamorous Englishwoman

0:50:150:50:17

travelling abroad with her girls, hand selected,

0:50:170:50:21

brought immediate American media attention.

0:50:210:50:24

Grace's glamorous look was so in vogue,

0:50:250:50:28

it made her the British supermodel of her day.

0:50:280:50:31

I think the English market was very influenced

0:50:310:50:34

by Hollywood in the 1930s.

0:50:340:50:38

If we think of those wonderful 1930s movies

0:50:380:50:41

that were coming out of Hollywood,

0:50:410:50:43

it was the beginning of platinum blonde,

0:50:430:50:46

it was the beginning of quite curvy women.

0:50:460:50:50

Records show that all of Lucie Clayton's original models

0:50:500:50:54

had a life-changing experience when she scouted them out.

0:50:540:50:58

I should imagine she loved every moment of it.

0:50:580:51:00

At the office, the race is now on

0:51:040:51:06

to find heirs to the estate ahead of the competition.

0:51:060:51:08

We know it's about £5,000.

0:51:080:51:11

Our indication is we think it may be up to about £20,000 or £30,000

0:51:110:51:15

or possibly higher.

0:51:150:51:17

We've done a lot more digging into this life.

0:51:170:51:20

The team now believes Grace was born

0:51:200:51:23

to William John Cooke and Gertrude Johnson

0:51:230:51:25

and they're hoping the 1911 census will reveal her wider family.

0:51:250:51:30

Johnson and Cooke is a surname that's difficult for us

0:51:300:51:35

because it's hard to identify.

0:51:350:51:37

It's a case of putting the name in and seeing if we come up lucky

0:51:370:51:40

but it doesn't seem to be happening.

0:51:400:51:42

The team urgently needs to find a marriage certificate

0:51:420:51:45

that will identify the right parents.

0:51:450:51:48

-Anything you can get would be most appreciated.

0:51:480:51:52

Birmingham based researcher Paul Matthews

0:51:520:51:54

is sent to nearby West Bromwich to get the proof.

0:51:540:51:57

-Can we have that marriage, please?

-Of course.

-In 1919.

0:51:590:52:02

Can we have it on the express service? I know there's an extra charge, but that's fine.

0:52:020:52:07

OK. No problem, sir.

0:52:070:52:08

If it's held here, the certificate will be a vital link

0:52:080:52:12

that will speed up the heir hunt.

0:52:120:52:14

OK. Thank you very much indeed. I suppose you want my money as well.

0:52:150:52:19

Thank you very much.

0:52:190:52:21

This is the marriage of the deceased's parents.

0:52:220:52:25

The mother was Gertrude Johnson and the dad was William John Cook.

0:52:250:52:30

He was 29, she was 22. Bachelor to spinster.

0:52:310:52:34

Um... Yeah. Everything fits into place,

0:52:350:52:39

so all we've got to do now is find Gertrude's brothers and sisters.

0:52:390:52:45

At the office, the team's now making progress

0:52:450:52:48

finding heirs through Grace's mother, Gertrude Johnson.

0:52:480:52:52

There were seven children born,

0:52:520:52:54

so the deceased's mother had six siblings.

0:52:540:52:57

They're finally starting to build an accurate family tree.

0:52:570:53:01

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

0:53:010:53:04

The team's got names of Grace's six aunts and uncles.

0:53:040:53:08

If they have living descendants, they'll be heirs.

0:53:080:53:12

We're making good progress. The tree's gone from a single page

0:53:120:53:16

out to five, six pages long. We've come down at least one generation.

0:53:160:53:20

We're dealing with cousins of the deceased.

0:53:200:53:22

One of Grace's uncles, Thomas Richard Johnson,

0:53:220:53:26

married an Amy, and the couple lived in Birmingham.

0:53:260:53:29

Paul Matthews is sent to another register office

0:53:310:53:34

to find out if Thomas and Amy have any living descendants,

0:53:340:53:38

who would be heirs.

0:53:380:53:40

We've now got the deaths of Richard Johnson, an uncle of the deceased,

0:53:400:53:45

but the actual informant on the second death,

0:53:450:53:48

which was Amy,

0:53:480:53:51

in 1971...

0:53:510:53:53

The informant was an Elizabeth Millicent Hill.

0:53:530:53:56

Elizabeth Millicent was actually Thomas and Amy's daughter,

0:53:560:54:00

and Grace's cousin. Elizabeth died in 1991,

0:54:000:54:03

but she had two children, a son called Martin and a daughter Sharron.

0:54:030:54:08

Paul's managed to find an address for Sharron in nearby Solihull.

0:54:080:54:12

She would have been born 1947, so she's retirement age,

0:54:130:54:17

so hopefully she'll be in and we can get a hold of her,

0:54:170:54:20

and tell her all about this and get her signed up.

0:54:200:54:23

The team have invested many man-hours into this case,

0:54:250:54:28

and it looks like they've finally found their first heir.

0:54:280:54:32

The pressure's now on Paul to sign her up

0:54:320:54:34

ahead of the competition.

0:54:340:54:36

Good afternoon. Paul Matthews, Fraser & Fraser.

0:54:400:54:43

Basically it's an estate we're dealing with,

0:54:430:54:46

coming down through your late mother.

0:54:460:54:48

-We think you're entitled. Can you spare me half an hour?

-Certainly.

0:54:480:54:52

OK, that's great. Thank you very much indeed.

0:54:520:54:54

A visit from the heir hunters has taken Sharron by surprise.

0:54:560:55:00

I bet you never thought we'd knock on your door!

0:55:000:55:04

I didn't! None of our relatives have had any money. Most of them have died paupers.

0:55:040:55:08

We don't know the value. You might get a few bob out of it.

0:55:080:55:11

Well, you know, even 50 pence is better than nothing.

0:55:110:55:15

Paul needs to make sure that Sharron is, in fact,

0:55:150:55:17

Grace Woods' first cousin once removed

0:55:170:55:20

before she can make a claim.

0:55:200:55:22

Right. Your dad's forenames.

0:55:220:55:24

-My father?

-Yeah.

0:55:240:55:26

William Charles Kendall.

0:55:260:55:30

Luckily, Sharron's able to provide the names of her relatives

0:55:300:55:33

to help the heir hunt, and she recalls her distant cousin.

0:55:330:55:37

-Was she very famous, or...

-I think so.

0:55:380:55:40

I don't know whether they used to call her Grace Darling

0:55:400:55:44

or something like that, because she was a darling of Vogue magazine.

0:55:440:55:48

Sharron signs with the company, and in return for an agreed percentage,

0:55:480:55:52

they'll help her claim her share of Grace's estate,

0:55:520:55:55

currently estimated at £30,000.

0:55:550:55:58

First heir signed up. No sign of any competition so far,

0:55:590:56:03

so obviously they all think there's no value to it,

0:56:030:56:06

but we hope that our educated guesswork

0:56:060:56:10

is...is correct.

0:56:100:56:14

A few weeks later, the heir hunters learn their hard work and the gamble have paid off.

0:56:160:56:22

A sample claim has been accepted by the Treasury solicitor,

0:56:220:56:25

and it's only at this time we get to find the real value of the estate.

0:56:250:56:30

We were hoping for a value of between £30,000 and £50,000.

0:56:300:56:34

Fingers crossed, it may have been a bit more.

0:56:340:56:37

We've actually heard that the value of this estate

0:56:370:56:39

is 153,000, so three times what my top hope was, really.

0:56:390:56:45

It's a substantial estate,

0:56:460:56:48

and in total it will be shared amongst 18 heirs.

0:56:480:56:52

That was the car he had when we were there.

0:56:520:56:54

For Sharron and her brother Martin, who's also an heir,

0:56:540:56:58

the experience has stirred up memories of their famous relative.

0:56:580:57:01

The last time I saw Grace, I think I was about seven years old.

0:57:010:57:06

I remember her coming to my grandmother's house,

0:57:060:57:09

and being in the lounge,

0:57:090:57:11

but I can remember looking at her, thinking how beautiful she was.

0:57:110:57:14

I mean, I was in awe of her,

0:57:140:57:16

because she wore the most beautiful clothes,

0:57:160:57:19

and she was absolutely beautiful, and I made my mind up

0:57:190:57:23

I wanted to be a fashion model, too.

0:57:230:57:24

Martin also recalls that Grace had suffered from an illness.

0:57:260:57:30

I was told that during the war,

0:57:300:57:33

she'd had TB of the throat,

0:57:330:57:35

and she had to have an operation to have the windpipe removed

0:57:350:57:39

and replaced with a stainless-steel tube. When I saw her last,

0:57:390:57:43

she had a big necklace round, hiding her throat part.

0:57:430:57:46

In fact, Grace contracted TB

0:57:460:57:49

while she was on her famous trip to New York.

0:57:490:57:51

She was gravely ill, and although she recovered,

0:57:510:57:55

it seems the tracheotomy put paid to her illustrious career.

0:57:550:57:58

But for those who knew her, she remains an inspirational figure.

0:57:580:58:03

She was just a sweet lady, and she WAS a lady.

0:58:030:58:06

You couldn't say she was a woman. She was a lady. She was elegant.

0:58:060:58:10

The thing that pleased me most was,

0:58:120:58:15

when she was telling me about her happy days as a model,

0:58:150:58:19

and, um,

0:58:190:58:22

to reminisce about those days,

0:58:220:58:25

I could see the pleasure in her face,

0:58:250:58:28

and the happiness it gave her to reflect on.

0:58:280:58:32

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:400:58:42

E-mail subtitling@bbc.co.uk

0:58:420:58:45

Series dedicated to finding the heirs of people who have died without leaving a will.

Grace Woods died in Oxford aged 89 leaving an estate worth £150,000. The heir hunters are stunned to learn that Grace was Britain's first bona fide supermodel and in 1946 led a troupe of Britain's finest models on a glamorous trip to New York.

The heir hunters also look at the case of Leons Grinbergs, a Latvian who was forced from his homeland by the bloody battle between the Germans and the Russians.

Plus details of three more unclaimed estates - could you be an heir?