Northern Ireland

George Best's sister wins damages over Calum Best comments

george best
Image caption The footballer died in 2005 after suffering multiple organ failure

The sister of George Best is to receive libel damages over unfounded allegations about the sale of his trophies and memorabilia, the High Court has been told.

Apologies were also issued to Barbara McNarry as part of settlements reached with two national newspapers and a celebrity magazine.

Mrs McNarry sued over comments attributed to Mr Best's son.

The court heard she had been left extremely upset by the articles.

Mrs McNarry sued over comments attributed to the late Manchester United and Northern Ireland star's son, Calum Best, in articles which appeared in the Daily Mail, Daily Star and OK! Magazine.

'Unfounded'

As part of the resolution, statements were read out in court by a legal representative for the publishers of both newspapers.

One of them set out how an article published in the Daily Star last October under the headline "Calum Best: How can aunt flog dad's treasures?" contained "unfounded and unjustified allegations" regarding Mrs McNarry.

It said: "The defendant acknowledges that it was in fact the decision of the executor of the estate, albeit with Mrs McNarry's reluctant consent, to auction some of the late footballer's trophies and memorabilia, in order to discharge the estate's debts and that this caused considerable distress to Mrs McNarry.

"We unreservedly apologise to Mrs McNarry and her family, and as a mark of our regret have agreed to pay substantial damages and legal costs."

A similar statement was read out over the contents of a piece in the Daily Mail headlined "How can my aunt pawn dad's legacy?: George Best's son Calum on the feud that is tearing his family apart."

It also acknowledged that unfounded allegations were made that Mrs McNarry had acted improperly and unfairly over the sale.

"We are happy to make clear that it was the executor's decision to put the items up for auction in order to discharge the extensive liabilities of the estate, albeit with Mrs McNarry's reluctant agreement, having been left with no financial option in the circumstances," the statement added.

"We reiterate the point made in the article that Mrs McNarry had wanted to keep these treasured items, and had made every effort to produce an alternative to the sale, but ultimately had to agree to this action on the part of the executor.

"We had not intended to suggest that Mrs McNarry had behaved unfairly or inappropriately towards Calum Best and we apologise to her for any contrary impression that may have been given in the article."

Mrs McNarry was not in court, but her lawyer later outlined her regret at having to take legal action.

'No alternative'

Paul Tweed, senior partner at Johnsons law firm, said: "However, it was distressing enough for her to have to accede to the executor's decision to sell the trophies when she had been doing everything possible within her power to retain them for the purpose of exhibiting the mementos for the benefit of the community.

"Unfortunately the financial status of the estate left her with no alternative but to agree to the sale."

Mr Tweed added: "She was therefore extremely upset to have read these outrageous and totally unjustified articles which were based on allegations by Calum Best which could not have been further from the truth.

"My client however acknowledges the categoric retraction and apologies read out to the court this morning and she now just wants to put this behind her and to continue with her work and support for the The George Best Foundation .

"She is not at this stage in a position to make any decision regarding the substantial damages that are also to be paid as part of the settlements due to the ongoing financial uncertainties and commitments surrounding the administration of the estate."

The judge in the High Court in Belfast was told the actions are to be stayed on terms endorsed.

It is understood that Mrs McNarry, who helped set up the George Best Foundation following his death in 2005 to raise money for local football and research into liver disease, is to receive five figure sums from each of the defendants.

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