Hong Kong's most famous foreign correspondent was yesterday urged by a judge to drop her case against the head of a public-relations company, who she claims mishandled her finances.
Judge David-Michael Gill told lawyers representing 94-year-old Clare Hollingworth to mediate her financial dispute with Ted Thomas instead of going ahead with a High Court case.
The judge said it would be "sad" if Hollingworth, a former UK Daily Telegraph reporter famous for scooping the world on the outbreak of World War II, spent her latter years in court.
Hollingworth accuses Thomas, head of the Hong Kong-based Corporate Communications, of withdrawing nearly US$300,000 from her bank account in cash and cheques over a two-year period.
Hollingworth handed Thomas control over her finances in 2003 but says he failed to act in her interests when she was in ill health and has failed to account for more than half of the money.
In a writ filed with the help of her family, she claimed Thomas withdrew nearly US$23,000 from ATM machines using her cash card and a further US$265,000 in cheques. Many of the cheques were made out to Thomas, his companies and his associates.
Thomas last year repaid about half the money, but Hollingworth is seeking the return or accounting for a further US$153,000 that the writ said he has failed "to completely and adequately explain."
The writ lists cheques that included some for sums of up to US$90,000 to Thomas Edward Juson -- 76-year-old Thomas' real name -- made out between July 2003 and May last year.
The action is being brought by Hollingworth with the help of her two grandnephews, Patrick Garrett and Andrew Flude, and two executors who have power of attorney.
Thomas, the author of a book on how to deal with the media entitled I Was Misquoted, has vigorously defended himself against the allegations in the writ.
He says he acted at all times in Hollingworth's best interests and invested her money in ventures she was not aware of because he believed it would earn her more money than leaving it in the bank.
Hollingworth is famed for getting one of the greatest scoops of modern times when she was first to report on the outbreak of World War II.
Aged 27 and a journalist for less than a week, she was on the Polish-German border in 1939 reporting for the Daily Telegraph when she sighted a huge line of troops, tanks and armored cars facing Poland.
Her eyewitness account was the first anyone had heard of the invasion, and it began a journalistic career that would span seven decades and take her to Palestine, Algeria, China, Yemen and Vietnam.