A WOMEN has received an unexpected £10,000 inheritance from a long lost relative and invested it in a vegan cafe.

Rebecca Green, originally from Horsham, thought it was a hoax when she was tracked down by the BBC's Heir Hunters.

She inherited the money from Derek Lewis Mercer, from Hastings, East Sussex, who she thought had been dead for many years.

Rebecca was surprised "had an estate to be inherited" after spending his life in and out of prisons and mental institutions before his death in May 2018 aged 74.

An episode of the popular BBC programme showed how the team at Finders International discovered that Rebecca's father was first-cousins with Derek.

Mrs Green, who now lives in Devon, said: “When finders contacted me and said I was in line to inherit money from Derek Mercer, I immediately assumed it was a hoax.

"Firstly, I thought Derek had died years ago and secondly, having been aware of his difficult life, in and out of prison and institutions, I was even more surprised that he had an estate to be inherited.“ “I remember Derek’s mother. She suffered from paranoia. Among other quirks, she wouldn’t answer the door and would only answer the phone if you rang it three times and then rang back!

"I also vaguely remember Derek, although he had spent a large part of his life in and out of prison as well as various in mental institutions.”

Rebecca said the money "made a huge difference to my life" and allowed her to secure the future of her business in Okehampton, Devon.

Finders International found 21 relatives in all, each taking a share in Derek’s £250k estate that included a house on Park View in Hastings.

Danny Curran, managing director of Finders International, said the money would have gone to the Treasury if it wasn't claimed.

He said: “The best part of probate research, or heir hunting, is what we uncover and, of course, it is always such a pleasure to unite people with money that would otherwise have gone to the Treasury.

“Local authorities and hospitals will do their best to track down the next of kin and in many cases, like this, they ask us to help find surviving relatives.

"It is rare not to find surviving relatives, but if that is the case then the estates pass to the Crown as bona vacantia — ownerless goods. ”