HER dying wish was to help a Hampshire haven for sick and injured owls.

Bird-loving Vera Spear was so passionate about the work of New Forest Owl Sanctuary and other animal charities she left them her life savings of £260,000 – minus a small sum for her parrot.

But just days after the 84-year-old pensioner died in her Fareham nursing home in 2007 the Ringwood-based sanctuary closed amid allegations of cruelty.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC then decided to settle in court who now deserved the £65,000 slice originally destined for Mrs Spear’s beloved owls.

Now, three years after the death of their benefactor, just under half the New Forest owls made homeless after the sanctuary’s collapse have at last received the legacy.

For High Court Judge David Cooke ruled yesterday that Mrs Spear’s parting gift should follow them to their new home at the North Wales Bird Trust (NWBT) in Llandudno.

He said: “It is submitted that it would be appropriate to direct the gift be given to NWBT in view of the similarity of its purposes to those of the New Forest Sanctuary, and the fact it has taken over the care of a substantial part, if not the whole, of the collection of birds.

“I agree and propose to make an order accordingly.”

The North Wales Bird Trust in Bodafon Farm Park, Llandudno, claimed it deserved a share of Mrs Spear’s estate because they now care for 137 owls from the New Forest.

But the Attorney General’s lawyer, Christopher Buckley, argued the money should go to other charities named in her will or 16 “named beneficiaries” – all relatives of Mrs Spear traced by an expert genealogist.

In 2003, the sanctuary in Ringwood was accused of cruelly keeping the birds. After a Charity Commission inquiry, it was removed from the charities register in August 2006, the High Court was told.

Other charities benefiting from Mrs Spear’s generosity were the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, of Priorslee, Telford, and Monkey World in Dorset.