A TREDEGAR artist must pay back thousands of pounds to her ex-lover who helped her start a business and bought her expensive gifts.

Blackwood County Court ruled yesterday that £7,000 given to Heulwen Phillips, 53, of Glanhowy Street, Dukestown, was a loan to help sell her abstract paintings.

During her relationship with Steve Howell, 64, of Castle Street, Tredegar between October 2005 and July 2007, he also spent £6,845 on jewellery, meals and her household bills.

Retired builder Mr Howell was claiming £13,845 back. He gave £1,000 cash to help his girlfriend set up an art business in December 2005 and further amounts for her to set up a website and hold exhibitions.

Mr Howell said: “Her mother kept saying ‘remember who’s paying for all this’ and she would reply ‘don’t worry mam, he’ll get every penny.”

He claimed she spent much of the initial £1,000 on Christmas presents and bills, adding: “She would say ‘once I’m rich and famous you won’t have to worry about money’.”

His representative Rhian Jones told Ms Phillips: “You indulged your hobby at someone else’s expense.”

Ms Phillips claimed the money had always been a gift and ended the relationships because of his jealousy and "sour grapes.”

Her daughter Oriel Menna Price claimed Mr Howell accosted someone in Tesco for looking at her mother and accused a visitor at an exhibition of having an affair with her.

Miss Phillips quit her job as a teacher in 2002 to further her art career.

District Judge Alan Fraser ruled the £6,845 amounted to “gifts of a social nature”, but £7,000 was a loan and must be paid back.

However he said the money shouldn’t be paid back immediately simply because the relationship broke down and she must pay the money back when she is profitable as well as £225 court fees.

After the case, Mr Howell said: “I am very happy. The money means nothing to me, it is about the principle. I’ve proved it wasn’t a gift, but a loan.”

Miss Phillips said: “He came after me after seeing a story in the paper a year ago and thought I was doing well.”