IT was a chance meeting that led to a doomed love affair and ended with a Scottish tycoon being sued for more than £200,000 by his jilted partner.
Former Inverness Caledonian Thistle chairman Alan Savage is celebrating after winning his case against Julie Zelent, a former bank executive he met on a flight who claimed she had been left “economically disadvantaged” after the couple’s split.
Asked about the case during a trip to the Cheltenham Races yesterday, Mr Savage said: “My only tip at the Cheltenham Races is not to get involved with any women you meet on a plane.”
Ms Zelent had originally sought £500,000 for a loss of earnings, employment benefits and pension rights,, but reduced her claim to £219,500 at the end of a six-day civil hearing at Inverness Sheriff Court in January.
During the case she claimed the widowed millionaire recruitment mogul was a control freak who told her what to wear.
But a sheriff threw out the action and branded her a liar who could have been seeking revenge for being dumped.
Mr Savage, who owns Highland-based recruitment firm Orion, said he was delighted at winning the case, adding that he now wanted to put the whole “stupid, insulting and embarrassing episode” behind him.
He had met Ms Zelent while on a business flight from Edinburgh to London in August 2006, just six months after his wife Linda died of cancer. Ms Zelent moved into the widower’s home three months later.
She had raised the civil action against the businessman, claiming he forced her to give up a £54,000-a-year job with Royal Bank of Scotland in London in order to move to the Highlands to live with him.
She claimed she also turned down the offer of another well-paid job when the businessman begged her to return after a brief separation.
But in her judgment published yesterday, Sheriff Margaret Neilson was scathing of Ms Zelent, who was given a job by Mr Savage and paid £4,000 a month.
The sheriff said: “I have found the conduct of the pursuer in this case to be extremely concerning. She is a witness of so little credit that I cannot attach any significant weight to her evidence at all.
“The decision I have reached is that the pursuer is lacking in all credibility, has not proved any economic disadvantage and has not therefore proved her case. To my mind that is an end to it.”
Mr Savage set up Orion, which supplies workers to the oil and gas industry, with wife Linda in 1987. By 2008 it had a turnover of £287 million. Mrs Savage died in January 2006, aged 53. Last year, Mr Savage married Lynne Cordiner, an ex-corporate fundraiser for Highland Hospice.
In her judgment, the sheriff added: “It is rare indeed for a court to be put in the position where it has to disregard so much of the evidence of a party to an action. The pursuer is lacking in any credibility whatsoever. Her motivation is known only to herself. She was thus forced to accept that a large part of her evidence, and her claim on record was based on lies. I am not clear whether the pursuer is or is not a fantasist.
“However the inescapable conclusion I am drawn to is that she has deliberately misled a number of people including the court, the defender, her own solicitors and her experts in her prosecution of this action.”