Gardener, 71, loses £200k court battle with lawyer ex over garden

‘Overly dramatic’ gardener, 71, who sued her lawyer ex-boyfriend for ‘trashing’ the garden at her Camden flat loses £200,000 court battle after judge said her claims were ‘overblown’

  • Ex-lovers Patricia Langley, 71, and Lucian Milburn, 72, had £200,000 court spat
  • Ms Langley claims Milburn destroyed her favourite plants at their Camden home
  • She accused Mr Milburn of a post-breakup ‘slash and burn’ attack on her garden 
  • Mr Milburn moved into the flat downstairs, where he now lives with his new wife
  • Judge rejected Ms Langley’s claims as being ‘overblown’ and overly dramatic 
  • An ‘overly dramatic’ gardener who said her lawyer ex-boyfriend trashed her flowerbeds after a messy breakup has lost a £200,000 court battle after a judge dismissed her claims as ‘overblown’. 

    Patricia Langley, 71, claimed her solicitor ex-partner Lucian Milburn was behind a post-breakup ‘slash and burn’ at the garden in the Camden, north London flats where they both lived, during which the flowers she had planted were ‘ripped and torn up’.

    The couple had lived together in a flat in a house owned by Mr Milburn, but ended up fighting a ‘sad and unfortunate’ court case after they split and Mr Milburn moved into the flat downstairs, where he now lives with his new wife.

    At Central London County Court, Miss Langley sued him for about £200,000 over wrongful interference with her plants, restriction of access to the garden and a series of breaches of his obligations as freeholder of the building in which the flat is.

    But despite awarding her £13,000 damages to be paid by Mr Milburn over a separate flooding issue, a judge has left Mrs Langley with nothing after rejecting her claims that her ex had torn up her garden and ordering her to pay over £15,000 towards his lawyers’ bills.

    Ruling on the case last week, Judge Simon Monty QC said Miss Langley’s evidence about the plants was ‘overblown’ and overly dramatic, having claimed to be ‘beside herself with grief’.

    Keen gardener Patricia Langley, 71, (above) claimed her lawyer ex-boyfriend trashed her flowerbeds after they split up

    Keen gardener Patricia Langley, 71, (above) claimed her lawyer ex-boyfriend trashed her flowerbeds after they split up

    Ms Langley claimed her solicitor ex-partner Lucian Milburn was behind a post-breakup 'slash and burn' attack on her garden in the Camden townhouse flat (above) that they once shared

    Ms Langley claimed her solicitor ex-partner Lucian Milburn was behind a post-breakup ‘slash and burn’ attack on her garden in the Camden townhouse flat (above) that they once shared

    ‘Miss Langley was prone to over-dramatisation in her evidence… and she found it hard to focus on the relevant issues. For example, her evidence to how she felt in relation to the alleged destruction of the plants was over-blown.

    ‘I wasn’t impressed by her description of Mr Milburn having acted with great wickedness with the intention of harming her, and I reject that submission,’ he said.

    ‘Mr Milburn was by contrast calm and thoughtful and I felt displayed an air of wearied and genuine exasperation at these proceedings and the vast majority of the allegations against him.

    ‘The fact is that this is a sad and unfortunate dispute between a former couple who continued living in the same building, albeit in different flats, after the end of their relationship, when Mr Milburn is now married and lives downstairs with his wife.

    ‘I am not convinced on the evidence I have heard that Mr Milburn was responsible for destroying the plants. Miss Langley was notably reluctant to accuse him directly as having done it.

    ‘The furthest that Miss Langley was prepared to go was to say that Mr Milburn ‘had a hand in it’ and that ‘he knows how to dig up plants, and his were undamaged’.

    ‘I am not persuaded by Miss Langley that it was Mr Milburn who destroyed the plants.’

    She had also already received some compensation for the loss of her plants during an earlier court row, he said.

    The judge said there was ‘simply no evidence’ she had been prevented from using the front garden, while plants she had planted in the back garden were still there and she had not asked for them back.

    ‘In my view there is something in the suggestion…that Mr Milburn and his new wife used the back garden and Miss Langley did not want to be there with them, so she had not in fact been excluded but rather she chose not to use it,’ he said.

    Lucian Milburn, 72, denied destroying his former lover's flowers and plants. Ruling on the case last week, Judge Simon Monty QC said Miss Langley's evidence about the plants was 'overblown' and overly dramatic, having claimed to be 'beside herself with grief'

    Lucian Milburn, 72, denied destroying his former lover’s flowers and plants. Ruling on the case last week, Judge Simon Monty QC said Miss Langley’s evidence about the plants was ‘overblown’ and overly dramatic, having claimed to be ‘beside herself with grief’

    The court heard that the couple had been in a relationship for many years and in 2001 had together bought a second floor flat in a townhouse in Camden Road, of which Mr Milburn was the freeholder.

    They separated in 2011 and Mr Milburn moved into another flat in the basement of the house, where he now lives with his new wife.

    Miss Langley claimed that, in 2015, her ex then tried to ban her from the communal front garden of the flats and soon afterwards she found flowers and plants she had maintained for years destroyed.

    ‘I came out and found the front garden like a slash and burn, with the exception of Mr Milburn’s favourite plants: the peonies, the geraniums,’ she said.

    ‘All my plants had been ripped up and torn up. Some of them might even have to have been dug up.

    ‘The plantings he was fond of weren’t touched. The gardenias weren’t touched.

    ‘It was indescribable, the destruction of what was a well-maintained garden….It was an act of dismemberment in effigy of my person.’

    Although she didn’t directly accuse him of physically pulling up the flowers with his own hands, she told the judge she believes her ex ‘had a good hand’ in the trashing of her plants, branding him ‘sneaky and dishonest’.

    She also sued for damages for breaches of some of Mr Milburn’s obligations to her as freeholder, which makes him her landlord as well as joint owner of the flat.

    Following a storm at Christmas 2017, the flat had been damaged by rainwater, leaving it ‘uninhabitable,’ she claimed.

    She had then been deprived of an electricity supply for months, she added, and Mr Milburn had failed to properly maintain and clean communal areas of the house. 

    The claims that Mr Milburn had not maintained common parts of the property were rejected, but the judge awarded her nearly £13,000 compensation for the effect of the flooding following the storm at Christmas 2017.

    The flood damage and subsequent issues with the electricity supply had made the flat ‘uninhabitable’ for a time and ‘unpleasant’ for months afterwards, he said, and she deserved some compensation to reflect that.

    However, Mr Milburn had offered to settle the case before the trial for £30,000, which she had rejected, meaning she would have to pay £15,689 towards his lawyers’ bills, leaving her owing him £2,744 at the end of the case.