It was meant to be the dream investment – but it became a nightmare (Picture: SWNS)
A couple were horrified to find the stunning estate they bought for £1.5million was stripped of its most valuable assets by the previous owner.
When Martin and Sarah Caton sealed the deal for their new Grade II*-listed mansion in Cornwall, they must have been over the moon.
Bochym Manor came with a gorgeous Jacobean oak staircase, a walnut-panelled library and an incredible history dating back to the Domesday Book.
The ten-bedroom gothic-revival house even boasted secret passageways, historic stained-glass windows and came with 13 beautiful holiday homes as part of the estate.
Everything about it was the stuff of dreams.
But when they set foot inside for the first time since buying the property, elation quickly became unimaginable devastation.
They discovered that former owner Dr Mark Payne had ripped out doors, windows, fireplaces, floors, guttering and even the plumbing and electrics.
Bochym Manor is steeped in history but Dr Mark Payne had ripped a lot of it out before handing over the keys (Picture: SWNS)
Three of the four baths were gone and the magnificent stained-glass windows had been taken out, as had some of the library’s panelling, which had been carved by the same firm that rebuilt the Houses of Parliament.
It wasn’t just the manor that was stripped bare, the holiday homes were completely gutted and the staircase from the estate’s clock tower was ripped out for good measure by workmen hired by Dr Payne.
To make way for builders to get their trucks in and out to savagely rip the historic house to pieces, the entrance pillar at the end of the drive was also knocked down.
Mr Caton said: ‘I was distraught. It was like a warzone or like a tornado had shredded the place. He took pretty much every door handle, tiles off the wall, the locks were removed.
‘There was some very random and bizarre destruction. I don’t understand the mentality behind it – it’s staggering that you can be that cruel actually.’
Martin and Sarah Caton stand in the mansion’s Jacobean drawing room with the mantlepiece supports that have been returned after Dr Payne had them removed (Picture: SWNS)
Both Mr Caton, a vet and entrepreneur, and his wife had their suspicions something ‘wasn’t quite right’ before they were given the last key to the mansion near Helston after Dr Payne had made excuses to stop them coming to see it.
Despite getting a bad feeling about the deal, they pressed ahead with the sale in an attempt to pursue their dream of turning the estate into holiday cottages and a wedding venue.
Describing the moment they saw it for the first time, Mr Caton admitted that all of their ‘worst fears’ had come true.
He told the Mail on Sunday: ‘I wanted to close the door, walk away and put it back on the market and never come back.’
The couple estimate they have had to shell out another £1.5million to repair the damage done to the properties they bought in 2014.
Bochym Manor was left in disarray – and required substantial repair work (Picture: Facebook)
They reported the damage to the police and Cornwall Council as soon as they discovered it, which prompted a nine-year legal battle.
Sellers are prohibited from taking any items attached to the property, such as fixtures and fittings, without consent from the buyers.
Local authorities also have to allow permission for fixtures to be removed from a listed building.
Dr Payne was arrested on suspicion of theft, criminal damage and offences within the Planning Act at his new home in Cumbria by police, who recovered a small number of items in April 2015.
The council dropped the case over fears it wouldn’t be able to prove Dr Payne had caused the damage and he was released without charge.
Mr and Mrs Caton used historic photographs to show what the property looked like when they agreed to buy it and prove what had been taken.
They presented their case to the council again, who were advised by an external lawyer they hired that they had ‘ample evidence’ to prosecute.
But the council still refused to pursue Dr Payne – something which Mr Caton still cannot fathom.
He added: ‘It’s odd that if we were to change a small window without permission they will come after you, but if you destroy a house you are allowed to drive away with no consequences.’
In March this year, after fighting the case for nine years, the removed items were finally returned to the Catons after Dr Payne failed to supply evidence or appear at Truro Magistrates’ Court for a hearing under the Police Property Act to determine who owned them.
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‘It was like a warzone or like a tornado had shredded the place.’