Hillary family rift widens

By Kathryn Powley

Peter Hillary. Photo / Greg Bowker
Peter Hillary. Photo / Greg Bowker

The rift between Sir Edmund Hillary's widow and his children grew yesterday, with claims his son Peter has been cut out of a trust the great mountaineer set up.

Sir Ed's daughter, Sarah Hillary, said her brother Peter had not been appointed to the Himalayan Trust, set up by her father to help the Sherpa people, because of personality conflicts.

"There's been a bit of a take-over of the trust by a group that probably don't want Peter there," she said.

Sarah Hillary was appointed to the trust on Friday but she said Peter would have been a better choice.

The comments come as Sarah and Peter battle Sir Ed's widow, Lady June Hillary, over her plans to auction in Switzerland next Saturday his collection of Rolex watches, including one given to him after he climbed Mt Everest in 1953 which is now valued at $25,000.

Sarah and Peter have threatened legal action if the auction house does not withdraw them from sale.

Mike Gill, a long time Himalayan Trust member and a close friend of Sir Ed, said he was expelled on Thursday in a letter couriered to him from Lady June.

He said the trust had split into two groups - one behind Lady June, the other looking for more activity in the trust. Gill had suggested Peter Hillary be appointed to the trust.

Trust council member David Hayman, who is Lady June's son-in-law, said Friday's meeting was "very successful".

Sarah Hillary's appointment was a "very popular outcome".

Lady June said yesterday that the proceeds from the sale of the watches were earmarked for charity work supporting education and health services in Nepal.

A friend of Lady June, Jim Wilson told the Herald on Sunday they wanted to "clear up any possible misconception that we are selling these watches for personal gain.

The sale of the watches was to raise funds for Ed Hillary's Himalayan Trust." At the end of last June the trust's assets were worth about $3.9 million.

But Lady June's intention to sell the watches to benefit the trust came as news to Sarah and Peter Hillary.

Sarah Hillary said: "We think it's a wonderful idea to do it to raise money for the Himalayan Trust but we should have been consulted about it. One of the watches is one that Peter had for quite some time."

Peter Hillary declined to comment but his wife, Yvonne, said: "Ed Hillary had a son, three grandsons - any one of whom would have loved those watches."

- Herald on Sunday

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