Rulings that retainer was an unreliable witness are dismissed There was much ado about the handwriting, but in the end the decision by five judges in Hong Kong's top court to find in favour of Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum came down to the Wangs' loyal butler. From the first page of the Court of Final Appeal's 253-page judgment, Mr Justice Patrick Chan Siu-oi made it clear the statutory declaration by Tse Ping-yim stating he witnessed the signing of the will was the reason why the court allowed the appeal. Mr Justice Roberto Ribeiro outlined the two statements made on September 6 and 9, 1999, where Tse declared he had signed a pile of documents on his boss' desk in March 1990. Tse was due to give a more detailed declaration, but left Hong Kong to travel to the mainland, where he was building a house. He visited Thailand on a sightseeing tour before returning to Guangdong, where on November 21, 1999, he was admitted to Shenzhen People's Hospital with an advanced case of liver cancer. He returned to Hong Kong on December 4, 1999, but was too sick for further interviews about whether he witnessed the signing of the wills, and died two days later. The judges dismissed rulings by their lower court counterparts that Tse was an unreliable witness and the assumption it was 'improbable' that an employer would ask his butler to witness his will. Mr Justice Ribeiro said a loyal butler would be 'precisely the kind of faithful retainer who might be asked to attest an employer's will'. The judges also dismissed the accepted suggestion by lower court judges that the statement was designed as part of a dark conspiracy, where the men who took down the statutory declaration had pre-drafted it and Tse just had to sign it. The judges found Tse was a credible witness whose evidence was the most important in the entire civil trial. This was crucial to the Court of Final Appeal judges overturning the finding against Wang, because the evidence and debate by handwriting experts as to whether the will was forged were deemed to be of far lesser importance. Mr Justice Henry Litton said wrangling over handwriting evidence in the Court of First Instance had been a waste of time and the hearing 'would have occupied no more than a few days in court' had the trial judge exercised proper control. 'The aim of any piece of civil litigation is the just, expeditious and economical disposal of the matter at hand. The trial here failed on all three grounds,' he said. Mr Justice Chan said the doubt over the authenticity of the signatures of Teddy Wang Teh-huei and Tse should not be considered above all other evidence in the case. If the court found the butler's statements to be true, then it could still hold that the will was genuine, and dismiss the contradictory evidence from various handwriting experts. Mr Justice Chan gave two legal precedents where the court preferred direct evidence from a witness rather than evidence from an expert. 'This is especially so in the nature of handwriting evidence because of the nature of such evidence,' he found. 'Handwriting analysis is not an exact science and the opinion of a handwriting expert is inherently less precise than a conclusion based on the results of scientific analysis.' The judges ruled that differences in the signatures used by Teddy Wang across a number of decades and on his different wills did not mean they were forged. Rather, the differences were due to 'natural variations' that the author was likely to possess. Slight differences in part of Wang's signature on different dates can be seen in the graphic. But Mr Justice Chan said that in the absence of clear expert evidence, variation could be due to tremors, type of pen used, and paper the characters were written on. Mr Justice Ribeiro also dismissed evidence that Nina Wang was not the natural choice as the benefactor of the will, saying there was nothing to suggest the couple were not completely reconciled by the 1970s after an affair between her and a warehouse manager. But the relationship with Mr Wang was perhaps not as cosy as previous judges had ruled, Mr Justice Ribeiro said, because despite his 'immense wealth' he only gave his father $19,000 a month to live on, of which $8,000 had to go to his mother.