The recent case of the aggrieved client who plastered his car with libelous stickers and left it near his solicitor’s office brought back memories. It reminded me of the ultimately much more successful litigant Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Wintle who – this time rightly – had it in for the Brighton solicitor Frederick Nye (Wintle v Nye [1959] 1 All ER 55 ).

The dispute was over £40,000, which Wintle’s cousin had apparently left to Nye in a will drawn up by the solicitor. In those days there was nothing inherently improper in the practice and my recollection is that my principal Simpson inherited a series of relatively small bequests from testatrices whose lawn I had cut or whose cat I had rescued from a tree during my articles. In 1955, with his claim going nowhere and the Law Society unwilling to intervene, Wintle lured Nye to a flat in Hove, debagged him and photographed him, trousers around his ankles and wearing a paper hat.

Nye was then made to sign a statement saying he knew the intention of the testatrix to divide the estate between Wintle’s cousin and another woman and would rectify matters. He also signed a cheque made out to Wintle for £1,000. Nye was then allowed to leave sans trousers and went to the police.

Defended by Billy Rees-Davies, Wintle was acquitted of attempting to defraud Nye but went to prison for six months for the assault. Wintle, who had a fine war record, appealed against the length of his sentence and lost. The resultant publicity was, however, massively in his favour. Two years later, Wintle and his sister claimed a share of the estate on an intestacy which resulted in a jury decision in Nye’s favour. Now acting in person, Wintle appealed again and lost once more, but this time Lord Justice Sellars provided a dissenting judgment. Finally, appearing in person in November 1958, Wintle succeeded in front of the House of Lords who, saying the trial judge’s summing-up had been defective, offered a retrial at which point Nye threw in the towel. Six months later, Wintle was awarded his costs.

It was not, however, the end of the matter. In April 1960, Nye was struck off, with the disciplinary committee finding that he had deliberately enriched himself. It was some time before the Law Society tightened the rules for solicitors drawing up wills leaving them substantial bequests.