Prince Andrew‘s former girlfriend Koo Stark has been hit with a £285,000 court bill on top of six-figure legal costs after a judge rejected a ‘meritless’ claim her financier former lover had agreed to pay her £50,000 a year for life.
The actress – who famously dated the royal in the Eighties – was branded a ‘gold digger’ by ex Warren ‘Robbie’ Walker over her claims he promised in 1997 to give her the lump sum every year, plus household expenses, for life.
The unmarried pair had just had a daughter and Ms Stark, 64, claimed the 61-year-old made the promise in return for her giving up plans to write what he regarded as a ‘distasteful’ newspaper column called ‘Diary of a Single Mother’.
Koo Stark (left), 64, and Warren ‘Robbie’ Walker (right), 61, seen outside the High Court before an earlier hearing
However, he only paid about two years’ worth of the £50,000 instalments before the relationship ended and – 20 years later – she took him to court in a fight over the cash.
Ms Stark claimed Mr Walker was in breach of his promise and a later agreement, in which he pledged to give her £200,000 to secure a home.
But Mr Walker insisted he did not owe her anything, claiming the two decades old agreements were not legally binding and in his evidence branding her a ‘gold-digger.’
Her bid was refused by a judge last year, but she took it to Court of Appeal judge Lady Justice Asplin, who has now thrown out her case, which she said was ‘totally without merit.’
The appeal judge said there was no point even allowing Ms Stark’s case to be heard in court because she stood no chance of winning and overturning the earlier decision.
Her appeal bid was based on simple disagreements with the judge’s findings and ‘unsubstantiated new points’ which had ‘no real prospect of success,’ said the judge.
The decision means Ms Stark has been left having to pay her ex’s lawyers’ bills – estimated at up to £285,000 – on top of her own costs, which are likely to also run into six figures.
The High Court heard last year that Ms Stark and Mr Warren met in 1994 and started a relationship, living together in a mews house in Knightsbridge, west London.
Ms Stark had been an actress and photographer, but more famously an ex of Prince Andrew – while Mr Walker was a financier with a guarded private life.
She told the court that, while pregnant with their child in 1996, she had been in negotiations with The Times to write a column called ‘Diary of a Single Mother’.
It did not come to fruition, but while pregnant a second time in 1997, the idea was raised again, she told the judge.
Unhappy with what he viewed as the ‘distasteful and unethical’ idea, Mr Walker made the £50,000 a year promise in a handwritten letter, she said.
The letter stated that he would ‘guarantee’ her the ‘equivalent of £50,000’ a year out of ‘kindness and love.’
Ms Stark said Mr Walker had repeatedly told her that the promise was in return for her abandoning the ‘Diary of a Single Mother’ column idea.
Ms Stark claimed Mr Walker was in breach of his promise and a later agreement, in which he pledged to give her £200,000 to secure a home
He strongly disliked any form of publicity and was very keen to prevent it from happening, she said.
She claimed he told her his promise was ‘as good as a bank note’ and that he would treat her as a ‘wife or ex-wife.’
And she claimed the reference to ‘the equivalent of £50,000’ meant that the sums due to her should rise with inflation each year.
Relations between the couple broke down at the end of 1999 and a flurry of litigation has ensued in courts on both sides of the Atlantic in the years that followed.
In his ruling last March, Judge David Halpern QC said Ms Stark had been ‘understandably furious’ when, at one point during the second pregnancy, a lawyer of Mr Walker’s had ‘suggested that she had sought to blackmail Mr Walker by threatening to have an abortion.’
‘She was also understandably hurt at this travesty of the facts, given that the second pregnancy was aborted on medical grounds,’ he said.
Mr Walker accepted that the 1997 letter was in his handwriting, but said it was not intended to be a legally binding document.
He said he had made the promise to give Ms Stark some comfort and to smooth the way for him to continue having access to their child.
The court heard Mr Walker paid Ms Stark US$20,000 a quarter – equivalent to £50,000 a year – from September 1997 until the end of 1999.
She claimed that was evidence of him abiding initially by their agreement, whereas Mr Walker said they were voluntary payments to ensure contact with his daughter continued.
Ruling against Ms Stark, who he said had been ‘living beyond her means for many years,’ Judge Halpern said he did not consider the 1997 promise to be a binding agreement.
‘If Mr Walker had indeed made a binding agreement to pay her this sum in return for foregoing the opportunity to write for The Times, I would have expected him to have recorded this in the document,’ he said.
‘I am not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the opportunity to write a column for The Times was revived in 1997, nor that it was turned down in consideration of Mr Walker agreeing to pay her the sums set out in the letter.
‘Although it is not necessary for me to reach any firm conclusion as to the meaning and status of the document dated 20th September 1997, I conclude that it is likely that Mr Walker’s evidence is close to the truth.
‘He intended the document to look like a binding agreement in order to ensure that he would continue to have access to [their daughter].
‘He did so using formal language and by including a reference to the term ‘guarantee’ – which was meaningless in this context – but he was careful to add the words ‘love and kindness’ in order to ensure that it would not stand up in a court of law.
‘He intended it to be nothing more than a ‘gentleman’s agreement’, using that term in the ironic sense……’
Prince Andrew and Ms Stark, who dated in the 1980s, at Spencer House in London in 1999
The judge said there were many aspects of the agreement – including how long the payments would continue – that would have been negotiated if the former couple had meant it to be legally binding.
He said there was no evidence of a price being agreed for her to write the column and said he was not convinced that the column idea had been revived in 1997.
As to the 2001 promise to give her £200,000 to secure housing in the UK, the judge said the agreement was made in the context of family court proceedings relating to their then young child and was not intended for Ms Stark’s benefit.
Following the ruling, Ms Stark applied to the Court of Appeal for permission to challenge Judge Halpern’s ruling, but has now seen that application thrown out by Lady Justice Asplin.
The judge said her ‘repetitive and difficult to follow’ appeal grounds amounted to disagreements with findings of fact and new points which had not been put at the trial in the first place.
‘They raise no allegation of an error of law,’ she said.
She added: ‘The grounds of appeal have no real prospect of success and there is no compelling reason why this court should hear the appeal.
‘For all the above reasons, permission to appeal is refused. The grounds are totally without merit.’
The original case was heard in private due to issues surrounding their family court cases being discussed in evidence, although the judgment was delivered in public.
The former couple’s now adult daughter was referred to in Judge Halpern’s judgment as X and so cannot be identified for legal reasons.
Following Judge Halpern’s judgment, Ms Stark was ordered to pay Mr Warren’s lawyers’ bills, which are estimated at up to £285,000, with £150,000 on account pending full assessment.
Her own legal costs are unknown.