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Glasses tycoon wins court fight with son’s ex in ‘bloody cow’ text row

Hanelore Matt and her son Andreas Matt outside Central London County Court (Champion News)
Hanelore Matt and her son Andreas Matt outside Central London County Court (Champion News)

A business tycoon has won a court battle against his son’s ex-girlfriend after she refused to pay back almost £200,000 because she had been called a "bloody cow" during a row.

Hannelore Matt, co-founder of one of Germany’s biggest eyewear chains, sued Liana Fox over money which had been given for the purchase of a home in Kent.

Mrs Matt’s son Andreas had been engaged to Mrs Fox, 61, but a bitter court battle followed the couple’s break-up.

Mrs Matt, 87, said Ms Fox - who formerly ran a sculpture gallery in Canterbury – had taken exception at being called a "bloody cow" by Andreas during a row.

Mrs Fox claimed the money was hers to keep, as part-payment towards massive debts run up by Andreas Matt during their relationship.

However after a week-long trial at Central London county court, Judge Mark Raeside KC dismissed Mrs Fox’s debt claim as "implausible" and ordered her to hand back the money.

The judge said Mrs Matt had considered Mrs Fox "as close as a daughter" and trusted her enough to hand her the money - 225,000 euros (£190,000) - towards buying a cottage in the Kent countryside for the family.

But the purchase never happened and so Mrs Fox would have to hand it back together with interest.

Mrs Matt built family business Optik Matt - which sells glasses, contact lenses, frames, sunglasses and hearing aids - with her husband Bernard Matt. Founded in 1955, it is now one of Germany’s top five eyewear chains with 82 shops, 450 employees and a multimillion-pound turnover.

Mrs Fox and Andreas started a relationship as teenagers in the 1970s, but parted with Mrs Fox marrying in England and Andreas working for the family business in Regensburg, Germany.

Mrs Fox was widowed in 2009 and rekindled her romance with Andreas the following year.

Andreas was convicted and jailed for embezzlement in 2018, and then sought a move to England with the help of his mother.

But the couple broke up in 2020 before a home had been purchased, and in texts about repaying the money Mrs Fox wrote: "Bloody cows don’t answer text messages...To the people who call them bloody cows. No one in my whole life has ever called me that."

Giving judgment, Judge Raeside said Mrs Fox had "convinced herself" that her claim that the money was to repay debts was true.

She had put forward a detailed list of sums she said she was owed, but that had been compiled after the end of the relationship and not at the time the 225,000 euros was paid, he said.

He found that the 225,000 euros had been entrusted by Mrs Matt to Mrs Fox, who was "as close as a daughter," to put towards a house in England "no doubt for the enjoyment and use of all three of them."

"I am quite satisfied and find as a matter of fact, on the balance of probabilities, that the 225,000 euros paid to Mrs Fox by Mrs Matt was not in respect of part payment of debts owed by Andreas Matt to Mrs Fox," he said.

"On balance, the view I have formed is that it was the mutual intention of both Mrs Matt and Mrs Fox that this large payment was for the purpose of purchase of a house.

"I am equally satisfied that Mrs Fox knew about this. That is the plausible explanation, rather than the quite implausible case put forward by Mrs Fox."

He ordered that the 225,000 euros be repaid, along with interest. As the loser, Mrs Fox will also pay the lawyers’ bills for the trial, which have not yet been quantified.