Simon Vaughan, 31, from Newport, Shropshire, was left brain-damaged after his vehicle was hit by a Taliban bomb while serving in Afghanistan. He tried to kill himself after his wife Donna, 33, walked out on him after ‘squandering’ his £1.1million compensation payout. She didn’t even tell Simon she was leaving and in the messy aftermath, he tried to strangle himself. It later emerged that she had ‘squandered’ a large part of his payout and she ended up taking him to court in a bid for more money.
Today, Simon still needs round-the-clock care. He is in a wheelchair and his speech is halting and indistinct. But left with around £28,000 and unable ever to make more, he can no longer afford the thrice-weekly intensive physiotherapy sessions or the hydrotherapy and speech therapy that was improving his quality of life.
Lynne Baugh recalls her son Simon once was: strong, physical, and active. The accolade from his commanding officer cheers his mother. ‘He said Simon was one of his scruffiest soldiers, but also among the best and most conscientious selfless in his commitment.‘I was proud,’ adds Lynne, ‘but also broken-hearted.’ Lynne suspects that even as Simon fought for his life in intensive care, Donna ‘was working out how much would be paid out if he died’.
On Valentine’s Day 2013, after ten years of marriage, a pregnant Donna, 33, walked out, taking their son. She didn’t even tell Simon she was leaving. In the messy aftermath, he tried to strangle himself. It later emerged that Donna had ‘squandered’ in the words of Simon’s mother a large part of the £1.1 million compensation money that was intended for his long-term care and rehabilitation.
She bought a bungalow in rural Shropshire for £295,000 without a survey, then found it was structurally unsound. It was demolished and rebuilt by Donna’s father, at a cost of £300,000, but still failed to meet building regulations.
By the time Donna took him to court in September, Simon’s compensation pot had been whittled down to £200,000. She was demanding almost all the money he had left, plus a one-third share in the bungalow, which was specially adapted for his needs even though he was still paying the mortgage on their former home in Telford, which is in negative equity.
As Lynne remarks bitterly: ‘She seemed quite happy to make him sell the bungalow his home because she wanted a share in it.’
Could Donna’s excessive demands possibly be justified? Last month, after a three-day hearing, a judge decreed that they could not; that Simon should keep his bungalow; and that his former wife should not be granted a share. Happy at least about this decision, Simon is nonetheless still worried about the future. He must find £1,500 a month in maintenance for his children, aged 13 and two payments he does not begrudge because ‘taking care of their needs was always my priority’.
Donna was granted ownership of the house they had shared in Telford and Simon was ordered to pay her £30,000 to offset the negative equity on the property. Not only that, he had to give her another £10,000 for expenses such as buying a car.
Incredibly, he must pay her £84,163 legal bill and his own £28,615 court costs, and on top of that foot the £20,000 cost of putting right his new home a sum he believes his former father-in-law, who built it, should have found.
Left with around £28,000 and unable ever to make more, he can no longer afford the thrice-weekly intensive physiotherapy sessions or the hydrotherapy and speech therapy that was improving his quality of life. He had taken his first tentative steps with a walking frame, but can now afford only one physio session a week, so progress will be curtailed.
Lynne is clearly dismayed by Donna’s stance, but strives to remain measured. ‘It can’t have been easy,’ she says. ‘I know how I felt when Simon was so badly injured. I don’t know how I’d have coped as his wife. ‘He was the money earner and an absolutely brilliant dad; physically strong her protector and provider. In the blink of an eye, all that was gone. ‘But it is the way Donna has acted that hurts. Her love of money took over.’
Donna was invited to respond to this article, but chose not to. Her solicitors said: ‘This has been a difficult process for the Vaughan family, but Mrs Vaughan is pleased that a satisfactory outcome to the case for herself