Long lost relatives of Northamptonshire astronomer are set to inherit a share of his £290,000 estate, after featuring in the BBC One programme Heir Hunters.
Astronomer Roy Panther, 90, of Walgrave, died in October 2016 with no will or known next of kin, as he had never been married nor had any children.
Professional probate genealogists and stars of BBC Heir Hunters, Finders International, took on the case from the Bona Vacantia list to try and trace any rightful heirs to Roy’s substantial estate.
Further research revealed that Roy’s father, James, had been married three times, however, research confirmed that James did not have any children from his previous marriages. So efforts were then focused on the paternal side.
Roy’s paternal aunt, Mathilda Panther, would lead Finders International to an heir, and Roy’s cousin, Gladys Faulkner (nee Berrill) from Daventry was identified as heir to part of Roy’s estate.
For 40 years Gladys lived only eight miles away from Roy and never knew that he existed. She said: “We were taken by complete surprise when the phone call came, and you think this doesn’t happen very often, why should it happen to me. It was a total shock. To think that I had a relative like Roy, that I never knew or heard of.
“It’s odd to think Roy lived very close to me for almost four decades and I never even knew him. It’s a shame and I wish I had known him.”
It was during this search they found out an interesting history to Roy’s passion for astronomy. As an avid astronomer, Roy was passionate about the starts.
His passion for discovery is what landed him in the history books and on Christmas day 1980, after 33 years of searching, Roy discovered a new comet. This was subsequently named Comet Panther after him.
Tom Kerss from Greenwich Royal Observatory said that it is rare to see a comet and that Roy was a true visual observer.
Danny Curran of Finders international said: “In this industry, we are always coming across unique cases and the case of Roy Panther was no exception.
“It’s great we can pass on the history of his astronomy successes to his family, who never even knew he existed.”
Finders International traced 13 heirs to the estate.
The episode is part of the latest Heir Hunters series on BBC and will air today.