Chapter 24 of Chris Birt’s book The Final Chapter examines the claim that Maisie Demler’s signature on her Last Will and Testament was possibly forged . . .
There could be an element of truth in his assertions as Chris does point out a number of differences in the signatures that he has used as examples. My belief is that his examples only tell part of the story.
Chris has used as his first example the signatures from Len and Maisie’s marriage certificate of 7 October 1936 then with others from later documents with emphasis on Maisie’s handwritten Last Will and Testament.
Birt has stated that Maisie’s signature on her will “contained an element of forgery” possibly by cut and paste. A specialist’s opinion was that the style of handwriting used to sign Maisie’s name was “consistent with having been created by her husband, Lenard Demler.”
Another expert was not so sure and couldn’t positively state that Demler signed his late wife’s name on her will. However, she did hold the view that “two different writers” completed the signatures of M C Chennells and M C Demler (see top line below).
To our inexperienced eyes there are quite obvious differences especially with the letters M, C, and slope of the lower case l. Len’s signatures are also slightly different, notably the L and D plus the omission of the W for his middle name of William.
All Len’s other signatures after this date are almost identical and the same goes for those signed by Maisie. It is only the pair on the marriage certificate that are different so it seems both Len and Maisie, for whatever reason, changed their style.
In checking out the possibility that we could be mistaken I undertook a search of all documents on my files and it is in my humble opinion that Maisie’s signature was definitely not forged on her Last Will and Testament.
ANOTHER DUBIOUS SIGNATURE
Unexpected discoveries are the pennies from heaven and I couldn’t believe my luck after receiving the probate records for Nellie Chennells from Archives New Zealand in April 2009.
Apart from hitting the jackpot with finding the Somerset House receipt for Nellie’s estate in England, I also found a set of double signatures that raised more questions for me than answers.
In the records sent by Archives was the “Affidavit of Executors to lead Grant of Probate” actioned by Nellie’s Auckland solicitors Glaister, Ennor & Kiff and duly signed on 8 October 1948 by her executors and trustees, Len and Maisie Demler.
The photocopied page bearing the signatures of the Demlers revealed a second set of signatures, although much fainter, that did not match the document’s final signatures as witnessed by the Supreme Court of New Zealand.
When I first viewed the original held by Archives I did not notice the double signatures and it was not until I got home and studied the copies of the documents that I got suspicious about the dual signatures that had mysteriously appeared on this very important document.
On querying Archives about this unusual phenomenon I was told that the ultra violet light from modern photocopiers can conceivably pick up all traces of signatures previously erased.
POTENTIAL ACT OF DECEIT
On giving this more thought I asked myself the obvious question of why these signatures were done twice in the first place? It sounds like a simple question until a closer inspection reveals a potential act of deceit.
The name Demler appears four times, three of which are identical to Len’s handwriting–Len’s two signatures signed opposite his name are almost identical while the top example of Demler above M C Demler has also been written by Len. What was Len up to?
It is apparent that Len had initially signed his wife’s name as Maisie’s hidden signature is clearly totally different from her normal signature (see earlier examples).
It seems Len thought it was okay to sign his wife’s name but on presenting the papers to court was told that the signing of legal documents had to be witnessed by the Court for the very reason that M C Demler could be anyone.
An embarrassed Len Demler would have realised his “mistake” and been forced to admit what he had done. The Court would have erased the incorrect signatures so that the couple could sign again in front of a court solicitor
There was no apparent gain for Len’s action so while it could possibly be that Len pre-signed in pencil to show where the final signature should be, was it only a thoughtless mistake?