Playboy tycoon sued by receptionist 'he promised to marry'

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A former receptionist who says she was betrayed by a playboy tycoon after he promised to marry her is now fighting for a slice of his multi-million-pound property empire.

Gillian Turner sold her house and used her £200,000 life savings to set up home with property developer Michael Durant, who she says promised her they would be “together forever”.

She claims her investment meant Mr Durant, 61, was free to build a lucrative buy-to-let property empire, but after they split in 2014 he failed to honour a decade-old promise to “give her” half the business which she believes is worth millions. 

However Mr Durant, who has a child with Ms Turner, argues he never made the alleged promise, and contributed to the £1.1 million family home in Hertfordshire by pledging to cover the £250,000 mortgage.

Giving evidence at Central London county court, Ms Turner said she met Mr Durant while working as a receptionist for a timber firm in 1989. “He would turn up at 2.30am in the early morning after the nightclubs had shut, knocking at my door and asking to be let in,” she said.

Property developer: Michael Durant

“He would stay with me a day here and a day there but it never worked. He just kept wanting to go nightclubbing every weekend.

“The relationship was always on the rocks. He would stay for a few days and I would live in hope that it would be good this time.” 

Ms Turner said the businessman declared his love on Christmas Eve 1998, and the next year they had a son together, but the pattern of their relationship did not change. “He was just never there. He would turn up from time to time saying he wanted to see his son,” she said.

Ms Turner told the court she was persuaded to invest in a family home in Hill Rise, Cuffley, Herts, in 2004, but Mr Durant could not match her £200,000 outlay.

“He said he needed his money to buy more property and he couldn’t put any of his money into Hill Rise at all because he needed it to develop his business,” she said. “He also said we are going to get married — he said this was our life, this was our future.”

Ms Turner claimed Mr Durant promised to give her a half share of his company — Lodge House Ltd.

“He said he would give me a 50 per cent share in his business,” she said. “He said it was for our future and I would be given half the business.”

Mr Durant said that he has paid about £180,000 in mortgage payments on the home and denied ever making a promise to hand over half of Lodge House Ltd. “I never did as the discussion never arose,” he said. 

Mr Durant’s accountant told the court that in the 20 years he had worked for Mr Durant he had never heard mentioned any plan to share the company with Ms Turner.

Judge Alan Johns QC reserved judgment to a later date.

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