Series following the work of probate researchers. The case of Robin Miller enables an heir to find out more about his grandfather's past as one of Kitchener's Army.
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Today the heir hunters are researching an estate worth an astronomical amount of money.
Found a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Somewhere out there are some long-lost relatives
who have no idea they're in line for a windfall.
Could the heir hunters be knocking at your door?
On today's programme...
Now we can rock'n'roll.
..it's pennies from heaven for one lucky beneficiary.
When I discovered the value of the estate, I was staggered.
An heir hunt that travels across the globe
and uncovers one of the most valuable estates ever.
He's going to receive a truly life-changing amount of money.
And an heir retraces his grandfather's footsteps...
He's done things that we can never, ever dream of doing.
..deep in the trenches of World War I.
When the whistles went and you'd go off over the top,
you were just sort of floundering almost waist deep in mud and water.
Plus how you may be entitled to inherit an unclaimed estate held by the Treasury.
Could thousands of pounds be heading your way?
Every year in the UK, an estimated 300,000 people die
without leaving a will.
If no relatives are found,
then any money that's left behind will go to the Government.
Last year, they made £14 million from unclaimed estates.
That's where the heir hunters come in.
There are over 30 specialist firms who make it their business
to track down missing relatives and help them claim their rightful inheritance.
People are entitled to this money. We make sure they get it.
It's early on Thursday morning
at the offices of heir hunters Fraser and Fraser.
-Can you check probate, Debbie?
-And the team are already hard at work.
-That could be right.
-No, I don't like that. Wrong age.
The Treasury has just released its list of people who've died without leaving a will
and boss Neil Fraser
has spotted a case which is a little out of the ordinary.
What we're looking at today is the case of Robert Ford Mead
and he dies in Thailand.
The list of unclaimed estates normally only covers people
who have died in England or Wales.
The only exception is when somebody dies overseas
but leaves behind assets in the UK.
Neil knows that this case could be fraught with difficulties.
This is going to be very, very hard for us to get on.
We don't know if we're going to be able to get the death certificate, we don't know how old he is,
because we take that information usually off the death certificate.
We certainly don't know what type of assets he's got.
The team are hoping they're dealing with a wealthy ex-pat
who's left behind a property, bank account or pension in the UK.
But Robert Mead could just as easily have died with
no more than a few thousand pounds to his name.
So the team are taking a massive gamble.
Heir hunters work on commission,
receiving a percentage of an estate's final value.
If the value is substantial, they'll make a profit.
If the value is very low, they could have trouble just breaking even.
Neil puts senior researcher Gareth in charge of the case.
-Have we got a manager on this?
Gareth is an experienced heir hunter
but already he's worried about the seemingly insurmountable task ahead of him.
I haven't got an area in the UK to look for him.
So I don't know where he was from originally.
Was he living in Thailand? Was he just on holiday in Thailand?
I've literally only got his name, Robert Ford Mead.
So I'm struggling to identify anything, really.
With no leads to go on, Gareth decides a sensible place
to start his enquiries is with the British Embassy in Thailand.
So he gives them a call.
We are actually in the process of trying to locate the heirs to his estate
and at the moment we've got so little information to go on
I was hoping you might have some further details.
This turns out to be a good move,
as the embassy in Bangkok is more than willing to help.
Thank you very, very much. Cheers, bye.
He thinks they will almost certainly have a file on the deceased
and he's going to root out that file
and hopefully e-mail or call us back with some details.
Robert was one of around 6,000 British nationals
who die every year overseas.
Before his name appeared on the Treasury list, his death would have
set in motion a whole chain of events both in Thailand and the UK.
The responsibility for deaths abroad lies with the Foreign Office.
When a death comes in,
it will always be the frontline services at our embassy,
our consulate, our high commission that will generally deal with it.
And that can obviously mean immediately dealing with
the authorities, it can mean dealing with the police, the hospital,
depending on the nature of the death.
It will be called in to London
and we will obviously start looking for the next of kin here.
Finding the next of kin is of paramount importance.
In an ideal world, there would be, in the back of the passport,
where it says "next of kin", details,
but unfortunately that doesn't always happen.
So you may look through some of the belongings,
you may have to look at the credit card details, any personal letters.
Talk to the ex-pat community, did they know him?
Was he a member of any clubs? Is he registered with the embassy?
With the British Embassy in Thailand on the case, things are looking up.
While Gareth waits for them to get back to him,
the rest of the team start pursuing other leads,
and it's not long before they make a breakthrough.
What we've been able to do is, through a process of
pure elimination, identify the address for the deceased.
By going through all the Robert F Meads they could find on the electoral roll,
the team have been able to identify one who was living by himself.
They believe this is the correct Robert Mead
and the electoral roll provides them with his address.
He owns a property down in Eastbourne and it looks like a family home
so we've got value on it so we've started rolling on it.
This is exactly what Neil was hoping for.
A family home in Eastbourne could be worth a substantial sum of money
so the team now know it's worth their while to continue pursuing this case.
Now we can rock'n'roll.
Robert Mead died on 17 February 2010 in Koh Samui in Thailand.
But the team have now discovered he did have a life in the UK.
His next-door neighbour, Ramesh Patel,
knew him from when he was a young man.
Robert was a shy boy. Very, very shy.
I never saw any friends,
not even a boy friend, not even a girlfriend.
Robert shared a house in London with his parents,
to whom he was very close.
Robert loves his mother a lot. That we saw.
Because they always go together, no?
All three of them.
His parents eventually retired to Eastbourne,
but Robert stayed on in London,
where he worked as a development manager
for a well-known cake and biscuit company.
He always comes with the van, Mr Kipling cakes, or McVitie's.
He always parked the van here, in front of the house.
That's why I knew that he's working for McVitie's or Mr Kipling.
The team now know that Robert owned a property in the UK,
which means there is money in the estate.
But the discovery of his address
has also provided them with a vital clue -
Robert's age when he died.
He's 63 years old,
which is pretty much how old we thought he was going to be.
So the team can now work out the year that Robert was born,
and thus identify the correct birth record for him.
Once they have the correct birth,
they can begin to look for other family members.
Well, now we've got his birth, we can work it,
so he appeared to be living with a John and an Isabella, who are probably the parents,
so we are going to work those.
We need to see if he's got any brothers and sisters.
Researcher Debbie gets on the case.
I just want to double-check the spelling of the mother's maiden name.
She finds a marriage for Robert's parents,
rather unexpectedly, in Scotland,
and then goes on to see whether they had any children other than Robert.
Currently I'm trying to establish siblings of the deceased.
Debbie's search comes up trumps.
So far we think he's got a brother, John.
This is potentially an exciting development.
If John is still alive,
he could be the heir to Robert's estate.
Robert's parents, John and Isabella,
married in Edinburgh in 1944.
Soon after marrying, they moved to London,
where they had two children, Robert and his younger brother, John.
John was born in 1949,
so there's every possibility he's still alive,
or so the team think.
Unfortunately, a quick search of the death records...
Dies in 1984.
..reveals that John passed away in 1984.
To confirm this death and eliminate John as an heir,
Gareth needs to get a copy of John's death certificate
from the register office in Hounslow in London.
Ah, is that Bob?
And, as luck would have it,
travelling researcher Bob Smith calls in at this particular moment.
'After you've got Millsy's death certificate,'
can you get one for me from Hounslow, please?
-It's John Andrew Mead, M-E-A-D.
Whilst the bulk of their research is done in the office,
heir hunters also rely heavily on a network of travelling researchers,
ready to hit the road at a moment's notice.
Based throughout the UK, their job is to pick up certificates,
make enquiries with neighbours,
and make sure they get to the heirs ahead of competing heir hunters.
-All right. OK, mate.
While Bob heads off to Hounslow,
the team set about looking for a marriage for Robert's brother, John.
-Check marriages for John A Mead.
-John A Mead?
Yeah, dies in Hounslow in 1984.
And it's not long before they find one.
-Hounslow's good. Hounslow's perfect, in fact.
-So, take that marriage, then. June '78.
It looks as though Robert's brother, John,
got married in Hounslow in 1978.
The team's task now
is to see whether he and his wife had any children.
If they did, they could be the heirs to Robert Mead's estate.
But it's not looking hopeful.
Neil hasn't found any children from the marriage of John Mead.
This means that there don't appear to be any close kin on this case,
and the team will now have to expand their search
to look for aunts, uncles and cousins.
Researcher Alan gets to work
on Robert's father's side of the family.
I have identified the marriage of the deceased's paternal grandparents.
Robert's paternal grandparents were John Mead and Julia Bennett.
They had two children, Robert's father, John, and a daughter, Joyce.
If Joyce had any children, they would be cousins of Robert's,
and potential heirs to his estate.
But it's not good news.
Joyce died unmarried in 1947 in Brentford.
As Joyce was Robert's father's only sister,
and as she died without having any children,
this brings research on the paternal side of the family to an end.
It would appear at the moment in time there's going to be no full blood
on the paternal side of the family.
Things are not looking very hopeful.
With no close kin and no heirs on Roberts father's side of the family,
the team's only hope now is the maternal side.
And it looks as though they're all based in Scotland.
Good morning, Alan.
How are you?
It's Gareth, by the way.
Gareth puts in a call to the company's Scottish agent
to request some help with their research.
It's a very short family tree cos we don't have much information.
The deceased is Robert Ford Mead,
and that's M-E-A-D.
Robert Ford's parents are John Clifford Mead
and Isabella Ford Finlayson.
They get married in 1944 in Edinburgh.
That's our Scottish agent,
who's going to get the marriage of the deceased parents,
and will almost certainly be working the Finlaysons in Scotland,
I would have thought.
All the team can do now
is play a waiting game and hope that the Scottish agent
will find some heirs
on Robert's mother Isabella's side of the family.
We're really pinning all our hopes on Isabella.
Hopefully Isabella's got a nice family
and we'll find some heirs from that.
Nice, big family. Nice, big Scottish family, that's what we want!
Coming up, the team gets confirmation
of the estate's final value,
and it exceeds all expectations.
When I discovered the value of the estate, I was...
Well, I was staggered.
It's 45 minutes, an hour's worth of research,
which could make Fraser & Fraser's year.
Sometimes, heir hunting cases
can awaken a desire to delve into family history
and reveal stories that have been lost for decades.
This is what happened in the case of Robin Miller.
Robin Miller died on November 26, 2008, in Coventry.
He was 73 years old.
He lived alone in a flat in this house,
where his neighbours knew him as a quiet, reclusive character.
But Robin was actually a man of hidden depths
and had a bit of an adventurous streak,
as his lifelong friend, Roy, can reveal.
Robin's main passion was cycling.
He used to do Land's End to John o'Groats
on his summer holiday fortnight
and in those days he used to manage to do it in the fortnight.
I should think he must have done it 20 times in his lifetime.
Robin was also a man of rather old-fashioned tastes.
A pure Victorian,
and anything past the, sort of, the war,
he didn't want to know about.
He just felt that it was a waste of time and...
I mean, if it was horse and carts,
or that type of transport, he'd love it.
But if it was cars or planes, he would boycott it.
He lived for Victoria.
When Robin died, he left an estate of £33,000, but no will.
His case was taken up by heir hunter Tony Pledger.
This case first came to our attention on the Bona Vacantia list.
At that time, we couldn't establish a value for it,
so we put it to one side until such a time as we did know a value.
That turned out to be £33,000,
so we then started looking into it.
Tony's first step was to establish whether Robin had been married
and whether he'd had any children.
We were unable to trace any marriages of him in the Coventry area.
We then have to assume that he was a bachelor at the time of his death
and, as a bachelor, had no children.
As Robin had no descendants,
the team would now have to go back a generation to find his parents.
Once they had his parents' names,
they could see whether Robin had any brothers and sisters.
The birth certificate of Robin told us who his parents were.
We then found that they'd married in 1922
in the Chipping Norton registration district.
From that marriage,
there were two children - Robin's elder sister and Robin.
Robin's parents were Walter Miller and Kathleen Dore.
They had two children - Cicely, born in 1926, and Robin, born in 1934.
If Cicely was still alive, as Robin's only sister,
she could be the sole heir to his £33,000 estate.
The team's task now
was to try and track her down.
Robin Miller was born on December 12, 1934, in Coventry.
As a boy, he worked in a local grocer's shop,
where he soon progressed to become manager.
He then went on to work for the railway.
Well, he has to shovel the coal in the fire
and keep the steam up and all this, you know?
Yeah, and he was on one or two of the bigger engines.
He went London,
and from London to Glasgow and that
on the Royal Scot and one or two others, I think.
Tragically, Robin's parents both died within a year of each other
when Robin was just 18,
and his neighbour Roy and his family took him under their wing.
My dad invited him round for Christmas lunch,
which he thoroughly enjoyed
because we lived on...
It was like a smallholding on Tile Hill Lane,
and we used to rear our own poultry,
and we used to have goose for Christmas lunch,
and it really went down well.
And he never missed a Christmas lunch
with my father and myself for 60 years.
In the office,
the team have discovered that Robin had a sister, Cicely,
who could potentially be the heir to his estate.
But a search of the death records soon put an end to this possibility.
She passed away in 1933 aged six years
in Coventry Hospital of bronchial pneumonia.
This meant that Robin had no surviving close kin,
and the team would have to go back a generation
to investigate the families of Robin's parents.
Tony started to look into Robin's mother's side of the family.
He discovered that Robin's mother, Kathleen,
was the daughter of James and Louisa Dore.
She had six siblings who would be aunts and uncles of Robin's.
The team began to work their way through these uncles and aunts
to see whether they had married and had any children.
It transpired that all of the uncles and aunts
had family of their own
and so it became immediately apparent
that we were looking at a fairly sizeable maternal family.
With such a large maternal family,
the team had high hopes of finding some of them still alive.
It looked like they were on the verge of finding their first heirs.
Coming up, the search for heirs
reveals the horror of life in the trenches during World War I.
I'm glad it was those guys and not me.
It's not something I fancy doing, that's for sure.
Could you be in line for an unexpected windfall?
In the UK, the treasury has a list of over 2,000 estates
that over the years, have baffled the heir hunters
and still remain unclaimed.
This is money that could have your name on it.
These estates can stay on the list for up to 30 years
and each one could be worth anything from 5,000
to many millions of pounds.
Today, we're focusing on three names from the list.
Could they be relatives of yours?
Pollyanna Frances Charley Burnett died in Hereford in November 2009.
Although Burnett is a relatively common surname,
Polyanna's forenames make her name combination very unusual.
Does this combination ring a bell with you?
John Emmanuel O'Hosi died in Leeds in February 2007.
O'Hosi is a very unusual clan name with unclear origins.
Do you remember John? Can you help solve this case?
Mary Griffiss died in Woodford Green in Essex in 2004.
The surname Griffiss,
probably a corruption of the popular surname Griffiths,
is extremely rare in the UK.
Were you a friend or neighbour of Mary's?
If no heirs are found, her money will go to the government.
If the names Pollyanna Burnett, John O'Hosi, or Mary Griffiss
mean anything to you, or someone you know,
you could have a fortune coming your way.
Heir hunter Tony Pledger
was looking into the case of Robin Miller.
He died in Coventry aged 73,
leaving behind an estate worth £33,000.
As Robin had never married and had no children, or living siblings,
Tony had expanded his search to look for aunts, uncles and cousins.
And it looked like there were quite a few.
It became immediately apparent
that we were looking at
a fairly sizeable maternal family of the deceased.
One of Robin's maternal aunts was Violet Dore,
who married a Thomas Sandland.
They had a daughter, Dorothy, who had sadly passed away.
When she died in 2009, she had survived the deceased,
but unfortunately she had died before we were able to contact her.
So Dorothy's share of Robin's £33,000 estate
would now pass to her son, Marshall.
The team tracked Marshall down to an address in Bedfordshire
and got in contact.
Their call came as a bolt out of the blue.
It was a shock to get a call from Fraser
cos I only met the guy once back in the '60s.
So to think we were entitled to something was an absolute knockout.
I had no idea. It was amazing.
The only time Marshall had met Robin was at his grandmother's funeral.
I know absolutely nothing about cousin Robin.
I only met him the once. I didn't even know he was a relative of mine.
He walked in and somebody said, "This is your cousin Robin."
I said, "Oh, really?" So that was it.
Marshall is actually Robin's first cousin once removed.
His mother, Dorothy, was Robin's first cousin.
She married Reginald in 1944 and Marshall was their only son.
My parents met during the war
while they were both working for AC-Sphinx,
a company that made spark plugs for Spitfires and suchlike.
During the Second World War, working for a factory like AC-Sphinx
would have been a reserved occupation.
Reserved occupations are those civilian jobs
which are so important either to the munitions industry,
or to the national economy,
that the people who hold them are exempted from conscription.
A spark plug factory would have fallen into this category.
Britain fights a very motorised war.
It's reliant on an enormous aerial campaign against Germany
from 1941 onwards.
Every bomber that's flying against Germany
has four of these huge engines powering it across the Channel.
It's reliant on an awful lot of spark plugs.
Marshall's father, Reginald, worked as a universal grinder,
sharpening the tools used to make the spark plugs.
His mother, Dorothy, was a production worker.
As the war progressed, more and more men were called up to fight
and this led to an increased need for manpower
to fill the jobs back home.
One of the ways to do that, is to bring a lot more women
into the engineering labour force
and particularly into the munitions production system.
Most of those women
are undertaking what are fairly unskilled jobs
but some of them go on to take up what would formerly have been
reserved occupations held by men.
The introduction of women into the engineering workforce
provided plenty of opportunity for romance to blossom,
which is exactly what happened in the case of Marshall's parents.
They did their courting at the back of the factory
during the air raids and during the war.
But, yeah, they enjoyed it. They had good fun there.
And, er, that's how I happened to come into this world.
Inheriting from a cousin he hardly knew
has awakened Marshall's interest in the family that linked them.
In particular, his grandfather, and Robin's uncle, Thomas.
Just like Marshall's parents,
who were brought together by the Second World War,
his grandparents, Thomas and Violet,
also met doing their bit for their country during the First World War.
My grandfather, Tom Sandland,
he was fighting in Ypres
and was in the Durham Light Infantry.
He got injured and he landed up in hospital and, um,
she nursed him and they fell in love.
Thomas Sandland was in the 11th Battalion Pioneers,
a division of the Durham Light Infantry,
who landed in France in July 1915.
They spent the duration of the war on the Western Front
and saw action in some of the major battles of the First World War.
Marshall is keen to find out more
about the wartime experiences of his grandfather,
who was also Robin's uncle.
So he's going got meet historian and First World War expert Taff Gillingham.
-Hello, Marshall, pleased to meet you.
-Hello, Taff, pleased to meet you.
-Want to have a look at the trench?
-That's why I'm here.
Taff wants to give Marshall an idea
of the conditions his grandfather would have fought under.
So he's invited him to visit a replica
of the First World War trench system, near Ipswich in Suffolk.
So your grandfather, Thomas Sandland,
served with the 11th Service Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry.
And the service battalions were those which were raised
only for service during the First World War.
That's all that they were going to do and at the end they'd be disbanded.
So they weren't regular soldiers, they weren't territorial soldiers,
-they were what they called Kitchener volunteers.
Kitchener's Army was an all-volunteer army
formed in the United Kingdom after the outbreak of hostilities.
It was created by the Secretary of State for War, Horatio Kitchener.
Contrary to popular belief that the war would be over by Christmas,
he predicted a long and costly battle
that would require a huge increase in troop numbers.
So he began a massive recruitment campaign to expand Britain's army.
11th Service Battalion were nearly all miners.
Yeah, that would fit in because Pop was a miner.
Because there were so many miners,
they were made into a Pioneer Battalion.
And what that meant, was that within their division, they were the troops
who were fighting soldiers - they could find themselves in action as well -
but they could be called upon to do trench digging, road building, repairing structures in the trench.
-So they had a specific role as well as doing the fighting.
Before the war, Thomas Sandland worked as a coalminer in Durham.
His experience down in the pits was perfect preparation
for the gruelling hours of trench digging
he would undertake as a Pioneer.
Never was this more true than at the Battle of Passchendaele.
The big problem with the fighting at Passchendaele was that the weather turned
and there was torrential rain. When the whistles went, you'd get off over the top.
You were just floundering almost waist-deep in mud and water.
Obviously in the midst of battles, trenches get very heavily shelled.
You know, if it's been battered for several days
this all gets filled in. The earth's coming in, the sides are smashed down.
So a big role that they have is keeping the trenches deep enough to defend.
At the time, Passchendaele was seen as a vital piece of ground
that needed capturing.
The Germans were sitting up on the Passchendaele Ridge,
observing the British Army, not just from the front,
but also from two sides.
And it was a thorn in the British side
that needed clearing and sorting out.
Really, 1917, the Battle of Passchendaele is probably,
out of all of the battles in the First World War,
the one that sapped British morale more than any others.
Taff has obtained a copy of the 11th Battalion's war diary,
which paints a vivid picture
of the backbreaking work the Pioneers undertook.
Here we are on the 29th.
Read this for me. It just gives you an idea
of how it wore the fellows out.
So, read it from here.
"The men are thoroughly weary on arrival, in bivouacs.
"After work, they parade daily at 7:15am,
"carry haversack rations and return at 4:30pm.
"They take both breakfast and dinner in the dark.
"Some are too tired to eat dinner.
"Others too weary to turn out for rum rations."
It really does give you an idea of how much hard physical work
these fellas were having to put in.
-Besides the fighting.
-Besides the fighting side of it.
I mean, in a way, this role of the Pioneers
-is more important than the fighting.
-Oh yeah, yeah.
Cos they're obviously doing this work for everybody else in their brigade.
-Creating all these tunnels and these...
For Marshall, today's experience has been a real eye-opener.
It was very, very eerie being in those trenches.
I'm glad it was those guys and not me.
It's not something I'd fancy doing. That's for sure.
But it's also served to reinforce the affection he feels
for his grandfather, and Robin's uncle, Thomas Sandland.
I've always admired my grandfather
because of what he made of himself and what he's done,
but to see what he went through to get there, it's, er...
You can only love him and admire him even more,
because he's done things that we can never, ever dream of doing.
Marshall didn't really know his cousin Robin,
but thanks to him, he has gained a fascinating insight
into his family's experiences during the two World Wars.
And those who did know Robin well
will remember him fondly.
After my dad died and then he came to us,
I think he most likely looked on me nearly as a brother, really.
He come to our house once a week, on a Monday.
And it was a real ritual every week. He wouldn't go anywhere else.
He'd come if he'd got pneumonia. He just loved coming, aye.
Heir hunters Fraser & Fraser
have been investigating the estate of Robert Mead,
who died in Thailand in 2010.
Initially, the team had virtually no information to go on.
I've literally only got his name, Robert Ford Mead.
So, I'm struggling to identify anything, really.
But then they had a lucky break, when they managed to track down
an address for Robert in Eastbourne.
From that address, we can then work out, erm, his date of birth.
We even had his parents' names, so, erm,
that little bit of information and, you know, we can fly along.
This address also meant it was worth the team's time and effort
to continue pursuing the case.
Although he died overseas,
Robert had left behind a property in England,
which could be worth several hundred thousand pounds.
Earlier, Gareth put in a call to the British Embassy in Thailand,
to see if they could fill in any gaps about Robert's life.
They passed his request on to the Foreign Office,
who have just called Gareth back.
Well, thank you for your time and calling me. You've been a great help.
Take care. Bye-bye.
The Foreign Office had managed to track down
a second cousin of Robert's.
Unfortunately, under UK law, second cousins are too distant to inherit,
so this cousin has no claim on Robert Mead's estate.
But she was able to help the Foreign Office with their enquiries.
It appears that the deceased spent six months in the UK
and six months in Thailand.
He rented an apartment where he died in Thailand.
He'd rented the apartment for three months.
When Robert retired in 2003,
he sold the house he had lived in in Hounslow,
and moved into his parents' home in Eastbourne.
His parents had both died by this point,
so Robert was alone.
There was nobody else in his life, you know.
No girlfriends, no boyfriends, nothing.
He was alone, totally alone.
With nothing to keep him in England,
Robert decided to up sticks
and go and spend his retirement in sunnier climes.
And from that moment forth,
he spent half the year in Eastbourne,
and half the year in Koh Samui,
an island in the Gulf of Thailand,
renowned for its palm-fringed beaches and year-round sunshine.
Robert moved to Thailand
because I think he thought he must enjoy his life now.
He once wrote me the card that he's enjoying the sunshine
and the weather, everything in Thailand.
As the Foreign Office were unable to track down
any family members closer than a second cousin,
Robert's estate found its way onto the Treasury list,
where it was picked up by the heir hunters.
So far, the team have determined
that Robert has no surviving close kin,
and no surviving aunts, uncles and cousins
on his father's side of the family.
They have therefore been pinning their hopes on the mother's side,
and have enlisted the help of their agent in Scotland
to track down heirs.
There's a couple of changes.
Researcher Simon has also been doing some investigations of his own
in the office.
I think it's the mother of the deceased's family,
Isabella Ford Finlayson.
Erm, just found the marriage of her parents,
so the grandparents of the deceased, I think.
Erm... It's in Edinburgh. It's in 1923.
Now that they've found Robert's maternal grandparents,
James and Isabella Finlayson,
they can look to see
whether they had any children other than Robert's mother,
who was also called Isabella.
OK, let's try and see if we can pick up death cert
for James Gough Finlayson.
But searching for records on the Scottish databases
can be problematic.
You can't look at the actual maiden names on the births in Scotland
in the period we're looking.
So, there's plenty of births
that are potential aunts and uncles of the deceased,
but at the moment it's hard to identify them.
The team have been assuming that the heirs on this case
will be cousins on the maternal side of the family,
so for now, it looks like there's not much more they can do
but wait for their Scottish agent to get back to them.
But suddenly, all their assumptions are blown sky-high,
when Alan makes a startling discovery.
That could well be the existing one.
He thinks he's found the widow of the deceased brother John.
And he's also discovered something else rather intriguing.
Living with John Andrew Mead at one point was
his widow who we already knew about and also Sean.
Sean was born "Sean Graham", however on the electoral rolls he's calling himself Mead.
My question is, was he adopted by John Mead? If he was adopted by John Mead, then he's an heir.
This is potentially a very exciting development.
It appears that John's wife was previously married to a John Graham
and they had a son, Sean,
but at some point after John and his wife got married,
Sean changed his surname from Graham to Mead.
Under UK law, adopted children have the same rights of inheritance as blood children,
so if Sean was adopted by the deceased brother John, he would be nephew of Robert's
and hence, closer kin than any aunts, uncles and cousins the team might find in Scotland.
Gareth's on the verge of a major breakthrough.
At the moment, I'm not 100% sure. We don't know for definite whether Sean was adopted by John.
If he was adopted by John, then he is an heir. If he wasn't adopted by John, then he's not an heir.
The team really need to speak to Sean or his mother
to find out whether their assumptions are correct.
They track down an address for Sean and Gareth wonders whether to send Bob Smith to go and visit him.
He's clearly at this address. More importantly, he's clearly not going to be at home, is he?
It's still fairly early in the day and Sean is likely to be at work,
so Gareth decides instead to call Sean's mother.
I'm hoping that if our research is correct then your son, Sean, was adopted by yourself and John -
would that be correct?
He was officially adopted.
This is great news.
Sean's mother has confirmed that he WAS adopted by John Mead
and the couple did not have any further children.
This means Sean is closer kin than any cousins the team might find in Scotland
and he is therefore the only heir to the estate of Robert Mead.
Gareth gets straight on the phone to Bob Smith.
Hi, Bob, how are you?
Can I give you a slightly different destination? The sole heir of the estate.
OK, all right.
-Before you get there, though, could you give the heir a call on his mobile cos he's at work?
-He's expecting your call.
-All right. Cheers.
Bob was on his way to the register office to pick up some certificates,
but he's used to getting diverted at a moment's notice, so he arranges to meet Sean in a local pub.
He will need to confirm some details with Sean to make sure the team's research is correct
and that he is definitely related to Robert Mead.
-Right now, you were adopted, weren't you?
-I was adopted by John.
-What was your father's name? This would be your adopted father's name.
-John Andrew Mead.
-Now your father's brothers and sisters, these would be your aunts and uncles...
-Can you name them at all?
-There was only Robert.
At this stage, Bob is unable to tell Sean how much he'll be inheriting,
but he IS able to suggest that the estate could be worth a substantial amount of money.
-We think that there may be as many as two properties...
..one over here and then one possibly maybe in Thailand.
-OK, so he got about, then?
Bob leaves Sean to mull over the events of the day.
Like I say, I think it might be a day that will change your life.
Oh, fingers crossed.
Bob's visit has left Sean slightly overwhelmed.
He hadn't seen Robert for many years.
The reason we lost contact
with my uncle Robert was purely because back in the day, him and my father didn't really get on -
kind of brotherly non-love, and...
and I'm sure it happens in quite a few families, to be honest.
For Bob Smith, it's a successful end to a very eventful day.
Interviewing the sole heir to an estate, which is, it would seem, to be quite a valuable estate as well,
that's going to... like I said to him,
"This could be a day that's going to change your life."
That's good. It's all good.
Why can't it happen to me? I don't know.
Several weeks later, Sean agrees the company to make his claim to the Treasury
and the team receive some staggering news.
We were hoping for a value of £200,000,
by the end of the day, fingers crossed, we may have a value of £400,000.
Well, the excellent news is the estimated value of come in is approximately a million pounds.
This is an heir hunter's dream scenario -
estates worth this amount of money are very few and far between.
Sean's inheritance will however be dramatically reduced by inheritance tax,
but the amount he receives could transform his life.
A lot of the time we hear how unfair it is when you get adopted out of a family
you no longer inherit from the original blood family,
but we've always said that you become a beneficiary to your new family.
In this case, the heir has been adopted into the family.
His adopted uncle has now passed away
and he's going to receive a truly life-changing amount of money.
Sean's happiness at inheriting Robert's estate
is slightly tinged with sadness.
On one hand, you do have this bolt out of the blue, this bonus, which is totally unexpected,
and will always go down nicely, but it's hard to feel overly happy at somebody's misfortune, in this case,
somebody passing away and not really ever being there to catch up and find out what happened with him,
so it's swings and roundabouts really.
This case has taken the heir hunters from London to Edinburgh
to Thailand and back to the UK.
Robert Mead, a quiet, private man, who led a fairly ordinary life,
has in death, left a huge mark in the world.
For senior researcher Gareth, this is a case he'll remember for a long time to come.
This is one of my first cases managing, er...
and it's worth a million pounds, it's a brilliant stroke of luck.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
The team are trying to find the heirs to the estate of Robert Mead, who died in Thailand. The team face a tough challenge working out if Robert had any relatives in the UK. Will all their efforts be rewarded when they find out how much the case is worth?
And the case of Robin Miller enables an heir to find out more about his grandfather's past as one of Kitchener's army during World War I.
Plus, details of unclaimed estates where heirs still need to be found.