Bitter legal stoush over iconic photographer’s fortune ends!
The Gold Coast photographer Marty Tullemans, who was as much a part of surf history as the iconic photographs he took but who suffered from bi-polar disorder and, later, dementia, died of kidney failure two years ago.
Marty was man of indeterminate age whose flamboyant behavior, driven by his mental illness, helped created a sort of cosmic legend.
Minutes after I’d sold a painstakingly restored vintage station wagon built in 1964 to him, I looked out the window of my office to see the ancient Valiant mowing through the company’s flower beds, the compact Dutchman’s grinning face only just visible above the oversized steering wheel.
Another time, at the opening date with the woman who would become my wife, later ex-wife, Marty appeared with a sword and performed a dangerous set of callisthenics while swinging his weapon, which was polished to a high sheen.
And ol Marty, who was pretty canny with his money, left a total of 625k, which included $379,000 in cash.
A will from 2013 shared his estate equally between his ex-partner’s four kids, including his step-daughter Tamar Tane, and nothing to his sister, Maria Shaw.
In response, his sister claimed she had found an envelope, marked “Powderkeg”, after he went into a nursing home that contained an updated version of his will, this time leaving most of his fortune to her.
The mysterious will!
“This is to be read only if the will is contested,” a letter accompanying it read.
The step-daughter, Tamar Tane, challenged Maria’s application and filed a counterclaim.
Tane’s lawyer alleged there were “suspicious circumstances” surrounding the signing of the will.
In a court doc, Maria says she and her husband found a safe containing the updated will, dated October 18, 2019, in Marty’s Kirra Beach Caravan Park cabin.
Maria said the will had been witnessed by her dad Petrus Tullemans and Marty’s pal and neighbor of thirty years, Deborah Phillips.
Shaw’s son, David, said his Uncle Marty asked him to fill in a will form and then dictated his wishes and then watched as Marty signed the form in front of his grandfather Petrus and neighbor Deborah.
Marty, said David, told him to keep the will confidential, telling his nephew, “I have put the will in an envelope which has “Powderkeg” written on it and put it in my safe”.
The “Powderkeg” will left fifty k to Tamar Tane to divide with her siblings however she wanted, fifty k to Marty’s bro Frank and the rest to Maria.
And here came the twist.
Deborah Phillips, whose signature is allegedly on “Powderkeg”, signed a stat dec saying she didn’t see or witness Marty or his Dad signing it.
In November 2020, Deborah said Maria invited her for dinner and said, “I need you to sign a document for Martin” which she said she refused.
Maria denied asking Deborah to sign the will.
The judge, meanwhile, ordered Maria to reveal text messages between her and Deborah and to surrender all of Marty’s phones and computers.
On Friday, Justice David Jackson described the circumstances surrounding “Powderkeg” will as suspicious pointing to the discovery of the will by Shaw, who was gonna get the bulk of the cash, that it was written by her son and the neighbor saying she didn’ t sign it, and found in favor of the 2013 will.
A fitting coda, I think, to Marty’s wild life.
“I’ll never forget Marty Tulleman’s rolling up to our family front door in Nullaburra Rd Newport back in 1976,” Nick Carroll wrote. “Tom and I were innocent grommets and the Cosmic Pygmy was one of our early encounters with the sort of incredible humans who dwelled in the realm we were doomed to inhabit for the rest of our lives. We went out in front to greet him, and Tullemans bowed, then began a kind of ritualistic movement, a dance if you will, swinging his hips around like an Indian Yogi. “Do this!” he urged us “You’ll open up the chakras!” The smell of patchouli arose and wafted across the lawn. Our 80 year old grandmother, who’d lived through two world wars and a depression and was now engaged in raising three grandkids on a foreign shore, was entranced by Marty. “What an interesting person!” she said to me later. She was totally right. Vale, you wacky witty lens person you.”
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