A FORMER journalist’s curiosity about his family history led to a long court battle to unearth a scandal so dramatic it was buried for nearly a century and has now become the subject of a multi-million dollar film.
Ian Richardson, of Ealing Common, began his hunt for the truth while visiting his mother in Melbourne, Australia, about 15 years ago.
The 75-year-old, who has lived in west London since 1968 said: "We were going through some old photographs and there was a woman I’d never seen before. I asked my mother who she was and she got quite dismissive and said it was just Aunty Florrie and she didn’t want to talk about her.
"My mother could be very evasive but she was up against a son who was a journalist and I could smell a story."
Mr Richardson discovered Florrie’s marriage to missionary Reverend Frank Paice fell apart while the couple were spreading God’s word in East Bengal during the First World War. Their divorce was fast-tracked in 1919 and within six months Rev Paice had married his mistress Olga in India.
Mr Richardson said: "Back in those days a divorce would have taken about seven years to process. It was astonishing. I couldn’t find anything in the Australian Truth, the Australian version of the News of the World, and I discovered that not only had it not been reported but the judge in the supreme court in Melbourne had ordered the file to be sealed for all time. I’ve never found a case of the same period that had had the same ban applied to it.
"When they returned to Australia several years later they had completely reinvented themselves. They had a son and not even he knew they had been missionaries. They were pillars of society but six years of their life had been wiped from their history."
Mr Richardson, a former BBC journalist, fought the supreme court for 18 months before he was allowed to see the file and uncover the scandal, the culmination of 10 years of research.
His book, God’s Triangle, telling the story of the scandal and how it was unearthed, was published last year.
Mr Richardson said: "It’s a fantastic story but also a very sad one."
Film producers have picked up the story and some Australian state funding has been offered. A script is hoped to be completed in 18 months and the budget is expected to be between five and eight million US dollars.
Mr Richardson said: "It’s very exciting. I always thought it’d make a terrific film."
God’s Triangle is available in Ealing bookshops. Visit www.godstriangle.com to find out more.