Family buy £1.5m manor home to discover the seller “gutted” it before he left - turning it into a ‘war zone’
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Martin and Sarah Caton thought they were buying into an idyllic Cornish lifestyle when they purchased the Grade 2* listed Bochym Manor in Helston in 2014. However, their dream move turned into a nightmare when they arrived and discovered the building had been ripped apart and stripped bare - with some of the doors, windows, fireplaces and even floors being removed.
Some of the items taken included historic stained-glass windows and part of the rich wood panelling of the ten-bedroom gothic-revival home’s famous library. The couple have since faced a nine-year battle - finally winning a magistrates’ court order to have items seized by the police returned to them.
Rubbish was piled up high both internally and externally and most of the 13 attached holiday cottages were also completely gutted. Truro Magistrates Court has now concluded former owner Dr Mark Payne had "systematically" removed anything he could.
They added his thoroughness was exhibited by the photos from the surveyor’s report that were in "stark contrast" with those from the estate agent brochure. Speaking after the case, Martin, 50, said they were relieved that their near-decade long nightmare had reached a conclusion - but described it as a "somewhat hollow victory."
He said: "After completion, I travelled to the property with friends and we were met with a scene of utter destruction. It was like a war zone. The inside was barely recognisable. Doors, panels, bathrooms, kitchens and floors had been torn out.
"Rubbish had been left in piles inside and outside the Property. This destruction had extended to the external buildings and gardens. The holiday cottages had been gutted with trees cut down and garden structures taken away.
"Most of the curtains and carpets we had paid for had also been removed that had been paid for in addition to the purchase price. It was difficult to actually comprehend and take in. I was totally distraught."
Martin said the move to Cornwall was planned during a natural break in his career as a lifestyle choice and wanted to bring his children up there while running a wedding and holiday cottage venue. On discovering the damage, Martin said he immediately reported it to Devon and Cornwall police and had a survey carried out to document the damage before the lengthy clean up could begin.
In April the following year, Dr Payne was arrested and some items were seized following a search of his property and local containers. The items were put in police storage while they carried out their investigation.
Following the court ruling these have now been returned to Mr and Mrs Caton. Among the items returned were cast iron guttering, framed stained glass windows, slate floor slabs, wooden bookshelves, decorative items, carvings, panels and doors.