Woman claims boyfriend planned to give her $millions

| 15/04/2016
Cayman News Service

Michelle Bouchard

(CNS): Answering the first question put to her as she took the stand in her own defence Thursday, Michelle Bouchard (55) denied stealing anything from her former elderly boyfriend, James Handford (87). Bouchard, a Canadian national, who was in a relationship with Handford, an Australian, when he was in Cayman, said the couple had planned to spend the rest of their lives together. She told the court that he had planned to give her millions of dollars worth of property and described how a half million dollar loan became a gift.

Bouchard said they had been engaged to be married in the spring of 2012 but she did not tell his family because he wanted to be the one to break the news. Bouchard said that as time had passed, she and Handford became closer and a relationship began.

She explained how she had started out as an assistant, helping him with various projects that he was involved with in the Cayman Islands.  She said that he became attracted to her and wanted a physical relationship. Although she was curious about the sexual possibilities, she was unsure as she had just turned 50 and was going through menopause. Bouchard, who was arrested in October 2012, told the jury that while they were together as a couple, that never had sex.

When questioned by her defence attorney, Peter Carter QC, Bouchard said that Handford had promised to give her all of his properties in the Cayman Islands, including a condo at Water’s Edge on Seven Mile Beach, three rental units at Landmark Plaza, a boat house and 18 acres of development land in Savannah, totalling over $15 million.

She told the court that when Handford had proposed to her, she told him she was concerned about the income imbalance between the two and felt beholden to him. She said that Handford had become responsible for everything, her shelter and finances, and if anything happened to her she would have nothing to fall back on.

When asked about half a million dollars that was given to her by Handford in 2011, she told the jury that it was a loan she had asked for to allow her to invest in an income property and the intention was to pay him back interest free. However, Bouchard claimed that by the time he give her the cheque, he told her it was a gift and it was understood that she didn’t have to pay him back.

But in his written statement to police Handford said the money had been a loan for the investment and it was to be paid back.

Explaining how she had come to Cayman and met Handford, Bouchard told the jury she had come to work with a company called OBM as a corporate interior designer. She said she made up to $90,000 a year before the global housing market crash in 2009, when she was made redundant due to the lack of work. Bouchard said that up to that point she had provided for herself since she was 15 years old and Handford had come into her life at a difficult time. She told the court that it was as if he came to her rescue. She claimed that when they first met, she had a boyfriend and Handford a girlfriend.

As they got to know each other, Bouchard said, she made money by taking care of his business and worked on design projects on his behalf. She would take money from a joint account they shared to pay herself, she said. There were no formal time sheets for her working hours but she made a mental note of the hours. Bouchard also claimed to have used her own personal credit cards to pay for various things on Handford’s behalf and then pay herself back with money from the joint account.

The case continues Friday in court five.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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