PRIVATE papers stolen and destroyed by vandals while a pensioner was in hospital with a broken hip triggered a bitter land dispute which scythed through a farming community.

Dorothy Davies, now 74, of Gwern-y-Pale, near Llangollen, was in hospital for 12 weeks in 2003 when thugs broke into her home, stealing or destroying many of her personal belongings.

But what turned out to be her most grievous loss was title deeds to about 3.5 acres of land known as Gelli Fields, between Glyn Ceiriog and Pandy, which she said had been been in her family since the 1950s when her father, John Davies, bought Tyn-y-Berllan farm.

The loss of the crucial documents was at the heart of a three-year legal row between Mrs Davies and David and Debbie Lloyd, who own Hafod-y-Garreg Farm and claimed ‘adverse possession’ – often called ‘squatters’ rights’ – over Gelli Fields.

Now, however, a specialist adjudicator at the Land Registry has ruled in Mrs Davies’ favour and confirmed her as the land’s rightful owner.

Mr and Mrs Lloyd had argued that since 1995 they had been in occupation of Gelli Fields, using it for various purposes, including muck-spreading, hedging and fencing, grazing livestock, laying down hardcore for campers and erecting motorcycle jumps for their children.

However, adjudicator Edward Cousins ruled that the couple’s claim to adverse possession of Gelli Fields and to have the land transferred into their names, was not supported by the evidence.

He accepted that Mrs Davies was “telling the truth” when she said title deeds to Gelli Fields had been lost or stolen while she was in hospital and that she held “paper title” to the disputed land.

Mrs Davies had told the tribunal that Gelli Fields had been in her family’s ownership since the mid-1950s when her father, John William Davies, purchased Tyn-y-Berllan along with other land in the Tierw Valley.