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Source: BBC News
A divorcee granted a record £48m when she split from her husband has been tied up and robbed of jewellery at her home by a balaclava-clad gunman.

Beverley Charman, 53, ex-wife of the insurance magnate John Charman, was threatened at gunpoint when she was alone at her gated mansion in Kent.

The ordeal came at the end of a week in which Mrs Charman faced her former husband at the Court of Appeal, where he is challenging the divorce settlement. Police are speculating that her high-profile divorce may have made her a target for thieves.

Her house, in Sevenoaks, Kent, is on a private road and is surrounded by high walls and electronically controlled gates. The man broke in at 9.40pm.

Mrs Charman was threatened with a gun - which police said could possibly have been an imitation or a pellet gun - and forced to open a safe and hand over jewellery. She was tied up and later found by one of her two grown-up sons when he arrived home 20 minutes later.

A police spokeswoman said: "Kent police are investigating a burglary that occurred on Friday evening. "Several hundred thousand pounds worth of jewellery was stolen and a safe was targeted. "The suspect was reported to have used a weapon. The suspect is a white male who wore a balaclava and dark clothing."

Mrs Charman's £48m divorce settlement is being challenged by her former partner and owner of the Axis insurance group. It has reduced his wealth to about £87m. She contested his original offer of the house plus £6m.

Mrs Charman told the Court of Appeal last week that family assets should generally be divided equally between the breadwinner and the homemaker when a marriage breaks down. Mrs Charman is expected to be represented by Martin Pointer QC, who will also represent Heather Mills McCartney in her forthcoming divorce. He accepts that courts should still have some discretion in dividing a couple's assets.

However, her lawyers accuse her former husband of attempting to introduce "one law for the rich and one law for the poor - or at least one law for the rich and a different law for the super-rich". Mr Pointer is expected to argue that the House of Lords has laid down clear guidelines on divorce cases, which have been followed in reaching the settlement figure.

Mr Charman, 54, whose insurance company has a market capitalisation of about £3bn, said last week that the £20m he had already offered to his former wife was "fair and more than reasonable". He said the £20m would be "impossible for any reasonable person to spend in their lifetime".

Invested on a risk-free basis, it would give Mrs Charman, a magistrate, an income of more than £500,000 a year for the rest of her life, net of tax.

When Mr Charman moved permanently to Bermuda for tax reasons in January 2003, his wife stayed in the matrimonial home, which is has an estimated value of £2.75m. Mr Charman maintains that a "dynastic trust" of £68m which he set up in 1987 for future generations should not be part of the assets to be divided between himself and his wife.


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