An unexpected tragedy changed the course of the Hancock feud on Friday, eliminating the last person to be considered to head the multibillion-dollar family trust.
Bruce Carter, an Adelaide businessman, was about to be cross-examined by Gina Rinehart's lawyers in the NSW Supreme Court when he withdrew his nomination because of the death of his wife.
Mr Carter, put forward for the role by Mrs Rinehart's estranged children John Hancock and Bianca Rinehart, was the only person the court was considering to replace the mining magnate as trustee after four other nominations were withdrawn or not allowed by the court.
Earlier, Justice Paul Brereton ruled out a last-minute bid by Mrs Rinehart's youngest daughter Ginia to create a company to be run by an independent director of a unit within the National Australia Bank.
He said the proposal came too late, the same reason he refused the nomination of Bianca on Wednesday.
That came after Mr Hancock's decision on Tuesday to withdraw his nomination in favour of Bianca and Mrs Rinehart's shock move a week earlier to step down as trustee.
After Mr Carter's withdrawal and with no family members up for the role, lawyers for both sides said they would compile names of possible independent trustees at the weekend to see if they could agree on any.
With the surprise elimination of all proposed trustees, both legal teams had to regroup and shelved evidence gathered in anticipation of the way the trial was expected to play out.
It had been predicted to become a showdown between Mrs Rinehart and Mr Hancock, her only son, over the position.
With the pair out of the running, the only attacks in the long-awaited civil trial have come from Ginia Rinehart, who sided with her mother and opposed Bianca's nomination on Wednesday.
Outside court yesterday, Mr Hancock defended Bianca and criticised Ginia for allegations in an affidavit against Bianca, which he said were "petty, irrelevant and nine-year-old information against her own sister".
He said Bianca had been a director of Hancock Prospecting for more than 10 years and it was "just ridiculous to say she couldn't be trustee".
The civil trial for control of the trust, which owns almost a quarter of the family company, Hancock Prospecting, comes two years after three of Mrs Rinehart's children launched legal action against their mother.
Hope Welker, Mr Hancock and Bianca Rinehart alleged their mother acted deceitfully and with gross dishonesty in her dealings with the family's $5 billion trust fund, set up in 1988 by their grandfather Lang Hancock to benefit Mrs Rinehart's children.
They also claimed that in 2006, she changed the constitution of Hancock Prospecting to prevent her being removed as trustee.
Hope withdrew from the action this year but her two siblings have seen it through to trial.
Over the past two years, Mrs Rinehart has failed in attempts to get the case suppressed, dropped or thrown out.
Yesterday, her lawyer Noel Hutley dismissed claims against her as fanciful, like "a cunning plan she engineered … worthy of Baldrick".
He said her children "imagined potential wrongs which seem to be the currency of this case".The civil trial continues on Monday.