These pictures show the ‘war zone’ that greeted a family arriving for the first time at their historic £1.5m (4.92 feets) ($1.9m (6.23 feets) USD) manor home – after the seller ‘gutted’ it before completion.
Martin and Sarah Caton thought they were buying into an idyllic English lifestyle when they purchased the Grade 2* listed Bochym Manor in Helston in 2014.
But 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 paneling of the ten-bedroom gothic-revival home’s famous library.
The couple has since faced a nine-year battle – finally winning a magistrates’ court order to have items seized by the police returned to them.
These pictures show the scale of damage they were greeted with which is in stark contrast to the grand images featured in the realtor’s advertisement.
Trash 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 the total added cost of the whole saga had been a further £1.5m ($1.9m USD).
He said: “After completion, I traveled 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 recognizable. Doors, panels, bathrooms, kitchens and floors had been torn out.
“Two of the external doors had been removed and the property was not secure.
“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, UK, was planned during a natural break in his career as a lifestyle choice and he wanted to bring his children up there while running a wedding and holiday cottage venue.
During two five-hour viewings, he said that he noted no physical damage to the property or surroundings, although some maintenance was required.
Couple’s dream move becomes a nightmare: Martin and Sarah Caton. (Daniel Dayment via SWNS)
After waiting eight months between the exchange of contracts to competition and almost withdrawing due to various issues being raised, the family eventually took full ownership on 14 August 2014.
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 cleanup could begin.
They also reported the destruction to Cornwall Council and Historic England.
Martin said that whilst Historic England expressed shock at the state it was left in they said they do not pursue cases such as this.
In April of 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.
Martin added: “These were just a fraction of the items removed from the property.”
“The police built a case for prosecution and planned to share the process with the legal department of Cornwall Council. Many years of meetings and discussions followed but ultimately no action was taken by either party.”
The police decided in late 2020 that keeping the disputed items in storage was no longer viable and recommended that the Police Property Act be used to establish ownership.
Following the court ruling these have now been returned to Mr. and Mrs. Caton.
He added: “My wife and I have spent a great deal of time and money restoring the property and safeguarding it for the future.
“We were very grateful to the court for making the order to return these items to us so we can continue to preserve this historic property.”
Among the items returned were cast iron guttering, framed stained glass windows, slate floor slabs, wooden bookshelves, decorative items, carvings, panels and doors.
In making the ruling, magistrates said: “He took the floors, the doors, the bricks, the veranda, the toilets and so on.
“We are satisfied that they are the permanent parts of Bochym Manor, what in essence made it Bochym Manor and they are part of the property Mr and Mrs Caton purchased.”
Dr. Payne was also ordered to pay costs to Devon and Cornwall Police but not to Mr. and Mrs. Caton.
He had failed to appear or supply any evidence at Truro Magistrates’ Court.
He said after the case he was preparing to appeal against the ruling and denied committing any offenses stating: “Had I committed any criminal damage, had I committed any theft, had I committed any offenses under the Planning Act, I would have been prosecuted.
“Otherwise everything is just hearsay, innuendo and suspicion.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Saba Fatima and Newsdesk Manager