A COUPLE’S dream home turned into a decade-long nightmare when the seller stripped the building bare, removing doors, windows, floors, the veranda and even toilets leaving £1.5million damage.
Martin and Sarah Caton bought 10-bedroom Bochym Manor in Cornwall in August 2014 hoping to turn it into a wedding venue and holiday cottages.
But after agreeing a price and signing a contract to buy the house – once the most expensive in Cornwall – the former owner Dr Mark Payne allegedly hired local workers to systematically gut the Grade II* listed home.
The couple were shocked to find slate floors, wood panelled doors, stained glass windows, bricks, pipes, electrical cable, ironwork guttering, door handles, carpets, curtains and even the toilets had all been ripped out.
An hour after completion Mr Caton and two friends arrived and found the entrance pillar had been knocked down.
Other items included wooden carvings, a bannister decoration and six bookshelves,
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Since then, the Catons have been forced to spend over £1.5million – more than the original purchase price – to fix the damage and upgrade the home and cottages near Helston.
Martin, 50, a vet and entrepreneur, said: “The first time I saw what he’d done, I was distraught.
“It was like a warzone or like a tornado had been through and just shredded the place. He took pretty much every door handle, tiles off the wall, the locks were removed, he took a bathroom floor and replaced it with kitchen cupboard doors. There was some very random and bizarre destruction.
“I just couldn’t believe anybody would do anything that bad, even though the signs were there. I kept saying to Sarah he wouldn’t do any damage, he loves the property.
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"Then when I saw it for the first time all my worst fears came true. I wanted to close the door, walk away and put it back on the market and never come back.
“We even paid his legal fees and gave him an extra £50,000 for curtains and carpets which he took anyway.
"I don’t understand the mentality behind it – it’s staggering that you can be that cruel actually.”
Sarah. 44, an artist, said: “Seeing the property for the first time, I was obviously heartbroken and they just could not believe that someone could do that to property and to us.”
The couple set about using historic photographs to build a case and prove what had been taken from the house and in April 2015 police arrested Dr Payne at his home in Cumbria.
Officers recovered a small number of the items he had taken from the property but no further action was taken and the items were held in storage as both parties claimed ownership.
At Truro Magistrates’ Court last week Dr Payne provided no evidence to support his ownership claim and was not present when it was ordered that all the fixtures and fittings that had been “stolen” from the manor house should be returned.
Magistrates concluded that the property which Mr Caton viewed and contracted to purchase was the property he purchased.
But they found that Dr Payne had "systematically" removed anything he could from that property.
He was also ordered to pay costs of £4,455.00 to Devon and Cornwall Police.
In 2000, Dr Payne had bought the historic manor house – dating back to 1900 – for £1 million. At the time the beautiful Jacobean and gothic-revival manor house was said to be the most expensive house in Cornwall.
In an article in The Sunday Times from 2008, Dr Payne said: "I decided to buy Bochym before I even got out of my car and viewed it."
Mr Caton said: "It's been a long period of time fighting for some justice, it's cost me a lot of money to get these items back but it's a fraction of what was ripped out.
“Looking back, I suppose I was naive to trust his honour and integrity. I just didn’t think anybody was capable of that.
“Despite everything that happened in the last 10 years we won because we live in a beautiful place but we’ve had to sacrifice a bit to get there.”
Bochym Manor's history dates back to 1549 when it was owned by John Winslade who was beheaded after the failed prayer book revolution.
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It was a royalist refuge during the civil war and was burned down at the orders of Oliver Cromwell.
The house was rebuilt in the 17th Century and in Victorian times was owned by the Davey family who made their money from tin mining. Richard Davey was an MP and designed the library based on the House of Commons Library.
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