A JOBLESS mum is seeking a record £500,000 pay-off from her former partner who she claims treated her as a “dogsbody”.
Jacqueline Whigham, 49, from Penicuik, has launched Scotland’s biggest ever “palimony” battle against entrepreneur Steven Owen, who has built up a £3 million property and building empire with his brother William.
Whigham claims she is entitled to cash he made from property deals and business ventures carried out during their 27-year relationship.
She claims she struggled to look after kids while working gruelling hours at a hotel the brothers bought – all for £15 a week housekeeping.
Whigham also says she was referred to a stress speciliast as a result.
On the first day of her suit at the Court of Session, she told how she moved in with Steven Owen and his brother in Musselburgh just three months after they met.
The brothers eventually sold up and the three moved to a nine-bedroom house in Ferry Road.
Jacqueline fell pregnant with her first child while the brothers turned the property into bedsits.
She told the court: “I became housewife to Owen and William, doing all the cooking, cleaning and washing. I didn’t have any money because I wasn’t earning.
“Steven would bring food for me to cook and if I wanted to go anywhere I would ask Owen for the bus fare, I was looking after my newborn daughter at the time.”
Less than a year later, the Owens sold again and bought Habbie’s Howe Hotel near Penicuik – she said she saw no part of any profit for the sale.
Whigham claims she was left to run the hotel virtually single-handed – even returning to work within days of the birth of her second daughter.
She said: “I was doing most of the cooking for the restaurant – we were very famous for our steaks at the time.
“It was also my job to fire people and to help organise the rotas. I cleaned the hotel every day.
“I worked six days a week. I’d start at six in the morning and wouldn’t finish until at least 10.30pm. I was stopped from visiting my parents because it was too difficult to get away. I went back to work the day after I got out of hospital after giving birth to my second child. I was looking after the children while working. Steven didn’t change nappies or bathe or feed the kids.
”I had no money. The children had hand-me-down clothes and my mum helped out buying things when she knew I needed help.”
Whigham also told the court how she helped run Steven’s two businesses – plumbing firm Dial a Rod and online shop Gadget Wizard – for little or no pay.
The 2006 Family Law (Scotland) Act gave new rights to cohabiting couples to use the courts in the event of a break-up. But the financial settlements they can seek still don’t match the rights of married couples or those in civil partnerships.
The case continues.