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Heir Hunters solve Yarmouth mystery

PUBLISHED: 12:31 13 July 2009 | UPDATED: 14:24 03 July 2010

TWO half-sisters living 100 miles apart have discovered each other's existence - and their shares in a £23,000 fortune left by a Great Yarmouth man.

The story is revealed for the first time in the popular Heir Hunters programme made by Flame Television for BBC One.

TWO half-sisters living 100 miles apart have discovered each other's existence - and their shares in a £23,000 fortune left by a Great Yarmouth man.

The story is revealed for the first time in the popular Heir Hunters programme made by Flame Television for BBC One.

The story starts with quiet octogenarian bachelor Cyril Curtis, who died at his Yarmouth home in 2008. Although he appeared to have no relatives, probate research company Hoopers took up the challenge of keeping the money that he left from the government by finding who might be entitled to it.

Hoopers soon traced Cyril's five brothers and sisters - one of whom, Leonard, had lived with his partner Emily Shepherd for many years, but never married her. They identified as Cyril's heir Joyce, born in 1956 and daughter of Leonard and Emily. Joyce, who lives in Tipton, West Midlands, remembers her father as "a gentle giant, the perfect dad. But I was never allowed to ask about his past."

Then Hoopers case manager Jeremy Ford discovered the reason for this secrecy. Twelve years before Joyce was born Leonard had married Hilda Tomlinson at St Bridget's Church, Wavertree, Liverpool, in 1944. The couple, who never divorced, had a daughter, Shirley - half-sister to Joyce and also entitled to share in their Uncle Cyril's money.

Shirley says: "When I heard I have a half-sister I went silent with shock - and excitement. I'd like to meet her and I've sent her a letter care of Hoopers saying it would be lovely to hear from her."

Jeremy Ford, who led Hoopers' search for Cyril's heirs, says: "We always have to be very careful when contacting heirs. We never know what we're opening up."

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