A former assistant curator at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery startled a hearing in Fredericton Wednesday by alleging that gallery files were tampered with.

Paul Hachey, a 17-year employee of the New Brunswick gallery, said he heard stories about Lord Beaverbrook's son breaking into filing cabinets at the gallery.

The gallery is fighting the family-controlled Beaverbrook U.K. Foundation over ownership of 133 paintings.

It was the final day of testimony in Frederictonat an arbitration hearing over ownership of the paintings.

The gallery says they were given to the gallery by newspaper magnateLord Beaverbrookand belong to the people of New Brunswick, while the family claims they are owned by the British branch of the Beaverbrook Foundation.

Among the paintings in dispute are J.M.W. Turner's Fountain of Indolence, estimated to be worth as much as $25 million, and Hotel Bedroom by Lucien Freud, which could be worth as much as $8 million.

Allegations include use of hacksaw

Hachey was giving testimony about various documents, suggesting the foundation, not the gallery, owned the paintings in dispute.

He startled the hearing room when he recounted a story he'd been told by gallery director Ian Lumsden.

Lumsden allegedlytold Hachey that the younger Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook's son, showed up one Saturday morning in the 1970s at the gallery with a hacksaw.

Aitken used it to cut open filing cabinets in the office of Bob Tweedie, a former civil servant and chair of one of Beaverbrook's charitable foundations,Hachey testified.

Hachey said he never found out why Aitken sawed open Tweedie's filing cabinets.

But he allegesLumsden told him the story to suggest the files had been tampered with.

Lumsden is ill and did not testify, andAitken is dead. His heirs are pursuing the claim against the gallery.

Odd typeface used in records, Hachey alleged

Hachey alsotestified he had noticed something curious about some gallery records.

References to foundation ownership appeared to have been typed at a different time — or with a different typewriter — than the rest of the page, he said.

Foundation lawyers quickly got Hachey to admit he was not an expert in document analysis.

The hearing continues with a day of testimony in Toronto next week, followed by closing arguments back in Fredericton at the end of the month.