Hilary Devey began to sell off her £80m property because she was ill

Hilary Devey began to sell off her £80m property because she was ill

October 19, 2023

Hilary Devey began to sell off her £80million property and business empire in in 2014 ‘so her son could inherit her fortune’ because she knew she was seriously ill after 40 year smoking habit, friends say

Heavy smoker Hilary Devey began selling off parts of her £80million empire in 2014 to ensure her only son would be provided for after a series of health scares, a friend told MailOnline today. 

The Dragons’ Den star passed away at her luxurious villa in Marrakesh at the age of 65 in June 2022 after battling a long and severe lung infection.

But her cash-free will from months earlier has raised questions about the whereabouts of her £80million fortune and whether she entrusted her only son – a recovering heroin addict – with her money and homes around the world before she died last year.

Hilary’s will valued her estate at nil but experts have pointed out that the figure would not have included any assets she held overseas. Ms Devey instructed that the rest, known as the residuary, should be held in trust for her only son Mevlit Husseyin Ahmet. Some types of trust are no longer subject to inheritance tax upon the person’s death. 

Devey, a one-time chain smoker, had a stroke in 2009 that left her with a paralysed arm. In 2017, she gave up cigarettes after smoking ‘at least 20 a day for over 40 years’ after another serious health scare.

A friend of the star, who knew her in the years before she died but asked not to be named, told MailOnline that he believes that Hilary spent years preparing her death after years of smoking caused her lung problems. Hilary wanted to ensure as much as her fortune was passed on to Mevlit, the insider added.

Her friend claimed: ‘I don’t think she ever had that much money. She paid out a bit in her last divorce and maybe she gave the rest, in cash, to her son when she knew she was dying’. 

Hilary Devey with her son Mevlit. Hilary died last year but it is not known if her only child inherited her £80million fortune

Mevlit is the sole heir to his mother’s fortune

The Marrakesh villa where Hilary died last June. She admitted to owning several properties and land in Morocco

Grade II-listed Rangemore Hall, five miles from Burton-on-Trent, which was owned by Hilary Devey. She sold up in 2015

Hilary on the terrace by the pool of her home in southern Spain

The end of her third marriage, to property developer Philip Childs, after two years in 2013, also focused her mind on the future. She vowed at the time to never remarry, calling her final divorce ‘probably one of the unhappiest periods of my life’. 

In the years before her death, Hilary sold her wing at Rangemore Hall in the East Midlands in 2015 for a £2.2 million price tag. She also sold a Florida mansion, named ‘Villa Hilary’, for £5.5million in 2014. 

EXCLUSIVE: Two of Hilary Devey’s companies were  forced into liquidation after her death.

By Andy Young 

Hilary Devey made her fortune from the pallet company called Pall-Ex which she set up using money from selling her home and car.

Companies House records for the Pall-Ex Group which was incorporated in 2007 show that it changed its name to HDL Holdings in July 2015.

Records listed Devey as owning at least 75 per cent of the company before it passed into the control of the Official Receiver under the winding up order made by District Judge Obodai in the High Court’s Business and Property Courts in Manchester on November 29 last year.

The order was passed after a petition from a creditor, the giant motor spares company Euro Car Parts, although records do not reveal the size of the debt owed to the firm.

But the order stated that the ‘costs of the petitioner’ be paid out from the assets of the company.

The last published accounts for HDL Holdings show it had current assets of £5,604,544 and was worth £4,454,177 after liabilities were taken into account at the end of its accounting period in July 2020.

The company’s net assets after liabilities were valued at £341,167 in its previous set of accounts, published a year earlier.

Company records also show that the same judge wound up Bodiwork By Devey Ltd on the same date following a petition by Euro Car Parts. The company was at least 75 per cent owned by Devey. Its last accounts show it was worth £253,712 in September 2020.

Hilary built up to more than £80million in cash and assets from a pallet company turning over £100m-plus a year, but sold Pall-Ex haulage in January 2020. 

One of Devey’s lifelong friends, former beauty queen Angela Mulligan who once represented Northern Ireland in the Miss Great Britain contest, hinted to MailOnline that her fortune might be invested abroad.

Devey’s will which was drawn up in 2021 left her ‘large diamond cross’ to Ms Mulligan. When asked if there was an explanation for Devey’s estate being valued at nil, she replied: ‘Somebody who is worth eighty odd million will have no doubt redistributed her wealth in some way.’

The whereabouts of her fortune – and whether it was inherited – is a mystery after the Daily Mail’s Richard Eden revealed that Devey left not a single penny in her Last Will and Testament registered with the British authorities in 2021.

Experts have pointed out that the figure would not have included any assets she held overseas. 

The mother-of-one, who built her business empire with £110,000 cash raised from selling her modest house and car in the 1990s, also admitted having at least four homes in the UK, Morocco, Spain, and Boca Raton in Florida.

But it is not know whether it has all gone to her beloved only child Mevlit Brewster-Ahmet, 35, whom she admitted she ‘spoiled’ as a child while bringing him up as a single mother, later spending £500,000 helping him beat drug addiction. 

Mevlit shared a bed with his mother until he was ten – with Hilary saying she was following her ‘instinct’ as a parent. The businesswoman admitted he would still come and lay on her bed with her well into his twenties.

And the conundrum over his inheritance raises the possibility that another will exists elsewhere in the world – perhaps in Morocco – that passes on her cash and assets.

16 months on from her death, newly published probate documents disclosed that, in the will made in 2021, she left her large diamond cross to her friend Audrey Mulligan, and her personal effects to her trustees – her son, publicist and lawyer – so they could distribute them as she had wanted in a letter of wishes, which is not public.

Her son Mevlit was, in her own words, ‘my world’, and in a moving tribute after she died, Mevlit said: ‘It was always me and my mum against the world as we watched over each other in our own way’.

Mevlit, pictured as a teenager, and his mother were exceptionally close. Sharing a bed for many years. He said of his mother when she died: ‘It was always me and my mum against the world’

Hilary’s Last Will and Testament registered with the British authorities in 2021 said her estate was valued at zero, despite her fortune

Hilary was married three times. In the 1980s she had a romance with a Turkish business executive, Hussain Ahmet, and they had their son in 1986. 

But it later emerged she received a phone call from a woman who said she was Ahmet’s wife and mother of five of his children. Hussain apparently denied it initially but Hilary left him in 1990 after his brother confirmed the truth.

It was then just her and Mevlit, who said last year: ‘She was a beautiful woman, a beautiful person and a beautiful mum with a beautiful heart. My mum was with my for my first breaths and I was with her for her last. Rest in peace Mum – I will never stop loving you.’

Hilary previously told the Daily Mail how her achievement in business had come at great personal cost to her son Mevlit – now 35 – who developed a chronic drug addiction, spending £600 a day on heroin.

She estimated that she had spent well over £500,000 on his recovery. Mevlit was severely dyslexic – he was 11 but had a reading age of five, she said, so she paid for him to go to a specialist boarding school.

Aged 14 he began dabbling in drugs. Hilary described the period as: ‘I sometimes I felt my son had gone to bed as Mevlit and woke up as Kevin the Teenager’.

She revealed back in 2011: ‘In fact, the hardest work I’ve ever done is pulling my son back from the grip of heroin. He was six weeks from dying when I found out about his drug-taking seven years ago. It has been an utter hell.

‘For a long time I had to lock every door behind me. He would steal my clothes, food, electrical household items – anything he could sell for money to get a fix. He stole cash from my purse, took money out using my bank cards and pawned my jewellery.’

Hilary Devey and her son

Ms Devey rose to fame on the BBC Two hit series Dragons’ Den (pictured second left with other dragons Duncan Bannatyne, Theo Paphitis, Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones)


As his desperation grew, Mevlit became increasingly devious and inventive. Aged 17, he passed his driving test and Hilary rewarded him with a petrol card.

‘People I know have since told me that he would flag down drivers on the road and sell them a tank full of petrol for less than cost,’ she reveals. ‘I’m quite bitter that they knew all along and never told me.

‘I once had to drag him from a drug den in Derby after one of his friends told me he was there. I felt dreadful and was very frightened, but I was more concerned about getting him out.

‘I know I spoiled him when he was a kid but I was a single mother and he was my whole world.’

Hilary, pictured on 3 October 2013 at Windsor Castle, was made a CBE for her services to the transport industry and charitable work

British businesswoman and star of Dragons’ Den Hilary Devey died at the age of 65 

She had been married three times, to Ed Devey, Malcolm Sharples from 1976 to 1978 and Philip Childs from 2011 to 2013, and has one son, Mevlit Brewster-Ahmet, who is 35. Pictured with Malcolm Sharples

Born in Bolton, the northern businesswoman previously lived near Burton-upon-Trent in Staffordshire but later relocated to Boylestone, Derbyshire. The television personality reportedly has homes in London, Morocco, Spain, and Boca Raton in Florida. Pictured left at the The Pride of Britain Awards, at Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London in 2016, and right, during her time in Dragons’ Den in 2012

Such was their bond, Hilary slept in the same bed as her only child until he was almost in secondary school.

She told ITV’s Loose Women: ‘I slept with my son because the advice then was to sleep with them’, she said.

‘He slept in my bed, in fact I couldn’t get him out. He was sleeping in my bed until he was probably ten, nine or ten.’

Before finding fame and fortune, the life of Hilary Devey was rocked by a series of tragic events, including her own kidnap and rape – and the death of her beloved father.

At aged four, her parents’ successful heating company went bust and she had to watch bailiff’s empty out her home in Lancashire – which she would later say gave her the motivation to be successful, particularly after watching her father have to work in pubs to pay the bills.

Her family were then moving around so much for work that she had to change schools more than 10 times.

Then at aged 12, while living in Accrington, she was kidnapped and raped by a predator.

Hilary revealed the traumatic event in her autobiography Bold As Brass, claiming an older girl named Sandra had taken her to the attacker, adding: ‘He kept me there with him all night – the b****** who thought that raping a child was his due at the end of the night. He did it again and again.’

‘He just wouldn’t stop and however much I kept trying to push him away, he didn’t take any notice.

‘Spots covered his face and he stank of something that I would later learn was garlic.

‘I felt fear rise inside me when he started pulling at the school shirt I’d left on after changing my skirt for jeans. ‘Please don’t,’ I cried.’

Adding to the trauma, she returned home only to be branded a ‘dirty whore’ by her father, who accused her of being out all night with a boy.

Her father died of stomach cancer when she was just 18, and she never told her parents about the attack.

She said: ‘I remember the day he said, ‘I’m dying’. I was devastated but he just got on with it. He was like me – take a painkiller and go. I am my father’s daughter.’

Although academically bright, she never stayed at a school long enough to make friends, let alone get into a routine. She developed a tough, independent streak. Her tenacity, she said, came from her father’s uncompromising work ethic. Hilary and her two older brothers, Gary and Stuart, were expected to help in the pub during weekends and holidays.

She adored her father. ‘I was taught that you work, you earn, you improve your life. I’ve been working since I was seven and was helping out behind the bar. Dad would pay us to do chores but he also made me pay him a taxi fare if he drove me somewhere.’

She inherited his ‘backbone of steel’ and was devastated when he died of stomach cancer in 1976. She was just 18 and had returned from a 12-month stint in the Women’s Royal Air Force to get married to her teenage sweetheart, local boy Malcolm Sharples.

Hilary said: ‘He was my first boyfriend. I realised that I wanted to experience more of life than Bolton had to offer and we parted after a couple of years.’

She travelled around Europe as a sales rep for the book-and-record company Leisure Circle. After five years living in hotels she was ready to settle and ended up working in the rag trade in London’s East End, where she met Mevlit’s father, Hussein, a Turkish manufacturer. ‘I had never met anyone of Eastern origin before,’ said Hilary. ‘He was charismatic and handsome. I was madly in love and we moved in together.’

When she became pregnant, Hilary was overjoyed and imagined herself soon married. They had been together for seven years but there was to be no happy ending. Mevlit was 18 months old when she learned Hussein was already married – with five children – in nearby Ilford.

Hilary fled penniless with Mevlit. Her boss at TNT, the parcel delivery service where she was then working, arranged for her to be transferred to Leicester. Hilary felt safer away from London.

After a few years she set herself up as a self-employed sales and marketing consultant. Her mother, who had remarried, moved nearby to help with child care.

She said: ‘I didn’t want my son to go without so I pushed myself hard to build a life for us. Fortunately I was always good with numbers and I loved the cut and thrust of business.’

It was early in 1996, while working with a garment parcel distribution company in Kent, that she spotted a niche in the pallet end of the haulage market and set up Pall-Ex with £112,000 she raised by selling her house and car.

‘It was tough but I was a single mum and I was determined to provide a good life for us. I worked hard and for years survived on just a couple of hours’ sleep per night,’ she said.

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