Team GB Olympic sprinter Emma Ania wins legal battle with bigamist father’s fourth wife


A Team GB Olympic sprinter has won a house lawsuit with her bigamist father’s fourth ‘wife’.

But 100-metre sprinter Emma Ania is left with nothing after the six-year inheritance battle engulfed all of the value in her late father Austin Ania’s home.

The sprinter’s father died in 2016 at the age of 84 after marrying four different women but only divorcing one.

He had made no will, leading to a bitter battle between his fourth ‘wife’ Florence Ania, Olympian daughter Emma and her mother Patricia Ania over his east London home.

Judge Nigel Gerald ruled that retired nurse Florence was only in a “marriage of convenience” with Austin, noting that Emma and her mother don’t have to give her a penny.

But the court heard Emma, ​​who competed for Team GB at the 2008 Olympics, was also left with nothing because of the cost of fighting her “stepmother”.

Florence Ania outside Central London County Court after the hearing


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Emma Ania, now 42, was a prolific athlete and was part of the British team that failed to finish the 4 x 100m relay final at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games after a relay handover mishap.

She missed London 2012 through injury but has since built a successful career as a personal trainer.

She was one of nine children her father had with his first two wives, Mary, from whom he later divorced, and Emma’s mother, Patricia.

He married Patricia in 1974 and separated in 1991, but although he did not divorce, he married a younger woman, Toyin, two years later.

That marriage also failed, but again he did not divorce before marrying his fourth “wife”, Florence, in 2000, meaning Patricia was his last legal wife.

Mr Ania had suffered from poor health for much of his adult life and died in 2016, sparking a dispute over his home in Leyton, east London.

Emma Ania was a Team GB Olympic sprinter. Pictured here at the Commonwealth trials in 2005



After a trial in Central London County Court last year, Judge Gerald dismissed Florence and Patricia’s claims that they were entitled to the house, which was in Mr Ania’s name.

Delivering his verdict, he said that “emotions ran particularly high between the warring factions”, with Patricia and Emma expressing a “very strong dislike” towards Florence.

“The common view of the defendants is that Florence is essentially a con artist who entered into a sham civil marriage with her [Mr Austin] and has tried to take advantage of his frailty and advanced age to get money from the estate,” he said.

“Florence, on the other hand, considers herself very much the wronged woman because it is her position that when she married the deceased she did so in good faith, unaware that he was already married and therefore entered into a bigamous marriage. “

Although they were married at Haringey Registry Office in 2000, Mr Ania and Florence had never been a real couple, the judge found.

Their marriage was simply an avenue for Nigerian-born Florence, whose asylum application had been rejected in order to be allowed to remain in England.

The house in St Mary’s Road, Leyton, is at the center of the dispute


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Former Team GB Olympic sprinter Emma Ania outside Central London County Court


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Florence, who claimed to have “sacrificed 18 years of my life” to look after Mr Ania, told a “direct lie”, he said.

They had not married in a “tribal” ceremony in Nigeria, only in a civil ceremony in London to help her stay in the UK.

“Florence never considered himself anything but a marriage of convenience or marriage of convenience to the deceased,” he noted.

“Florence and the deceased conspired to invent the marriage of convenience solely to allow Florence to remain in the UK because her asylum application was doomed to failure because it was based on a web of lies.

“Not only did she willingly attend the civil marriage in 2000 because she knew it wasn’t real, but there had never been a tribal marriage, thereby refuting her claim that the civil marriage was a renewal of vows.”

However, since Mr Ania provided her with a home in the last years of her life, she was dependent on him and was therefore in principle entitled to a disbursement from his estate under the Inheritance Act 1975, he added.

Emma Ania far right at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games after the women’s 4×100m relay final



But the case was back in court this week after Florence claimed the Leyton house was deliberately sold below its true value to “defeat her claim for a payout”.

Although an expert valued the estate at £340,000, Emma and Patricia, as administrators of the estate, had sold it for just £100,000, leaving nothing left to fund a payout to Florence once the estate’s debts were settled.

For Patricia and Emma, ​​attorney Stephen Boyd denied that the property had been deliberately sold at “undervalue” so as not to have to give Florence a penny, pointing out that it would hurt them too as they inherit most of the estate would.

Patricia was the main beneficiary under the intestate rules and had intended to use the house as her family home but had to sell it because she could not get a mortgage to fund the £250,000 needed for the refurbishment and extension, he said.

A deal was then struck with an Icelandic businessman to buy the house for £190,000, which was only reduced to £100,000 because they could not get Florence to leave first so it could be sold empty.

Judge Gerald delivered a ruling, saying the £340,000 valuation was not reliable given the “appalling” condition of the property, its squatter “squatter” Florence and the fact that it was effectively a “forced sale”.

He said the mother and daughter were put in a position to sell due to unpaid debts Florence had from a previous court case related to the validity of her marriage to Mr Austin.

“It seems to me very difficult to challenge the integrity of the decision Patricia and Emma made to enter into this contract,” he said at the end of a four-day trial this week.

“In my opinion there is nothing surprising or inappropriate about the actions, behavior and behavior of Patricia and Emma as Administrators or the Third Party Purchaser.

“There is no evidence of any kind of improper collusion. In many ways, Patricia and Emma were put in a forced sale position.”

The judge said Florence made “largely false” allegations during the proceedings, including an offhand allegation that Emma, ​​who lives in Belgium, and the Iceland-based buyer were in a relationship simply because she had been told Emma did it a white friend.

He continued, “Now that the property has been sold and most of the proceeds have been spent, it is clear from the estate accounts provided to me that the estate has negative assets.

“Their lawsuit under the 1975 Act had to fail because there was no money. It must follow from this that the lawsuit must be dismissed.”

He ordered her to leave the house now for the new owner to take possession of, saying Florence was a “squatter” with “no legal right” to remain there.

“You have 28 days before you have to leave the house, I’m afraid,” he told her.

“You need to contact the local authority.”

Emma then told Ania she hopes the family can now put the six-year struggle behind them.

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