September 21 2014 Latest news:
by Paul Wright
Thursday, May 8, 2014
The partner of an Alzheimer’s disease sufferer has been forced to launch a High Court battle to fulfil her dying wish – all because the couple were not married despite spending 21 years together.
Leo Rahdadi has been left “powerless” to organise a burial for Barbara Garratt, who died in a nursing home on April 15.
The 54-year-old says he is regarded in law as “little more than a friend” as he has battled to fulfil his partner’s request to be buried in Highgate.
Barbara, a former health worker who was born in a Highgate convent in 1958, had always wanted to be laid to rest in an “environmentally-friendly coffin” in Highgate.
But after a relative insisted she be cremated and her ashes scattered hundreds of miles away in Doncaster, Mr Rahdadi has been forced to seek a High Court injunction to ensure her last wishes are fulfilled.
He said: “Barbara was an anarchist and we had always said that our love was more important than a marriage certificate, so we never tied the knot.
“I regret that now – it was a big mistake. If we had been married, I wouldn’t have been put through all of this.
“After suffering for so long, she died in my arms. Now all I want is to make sure her burial wishes are respected.”
It is a situation, he says, that has “opened his eyes to how little control unmarried, long-term partners have” in law.
Mr Rahdadi, a musician who met Barbara in 1993, says marriage became impossible for the pair after her mental health deteriorated and she was sectioned in 2006.
He spent the next seven years visiting her in care homes across north London and battling in courts for control of her care.
“I went to work one day and when I came back, she was gone,” he said.
“I pleaded with the social workers to allow me to take her back home but as we weren’t husband and wife, I wasn’t regarded as her next of kin.
“For that whole seven years, I was also the only one seeing her almost every day, the only outsider monitoring her care, and the only one who made sure she wasn’t just another person forgotten in a care home.
“But in the eyes of the law I’m seen as next to nothing – just a friend.
“I’ve almost had a nervous breakdown.”
Legal professionals say the dispute highlights a growing problem.
Suzanne Marriot, a partner at Charles Russell law firm, said: “Leo and Barbara’s case stems from a failure to make couples properly aware of the importance of power of attorney measures.
“As an unmarried couple they should have organised a lasting power of attorney for health and welfare.
“Because they didn’t, Leo’s legal standing is diminished.
“The government recently recognised that more needed to be done with publicising this issue – and unfortunately more cases like this could result, as the proportion of unmarried couples in the UK grows.”