The six-bedroom Grade-II listed property in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight had been ‘absolutely trashed’
The father of one of the ‘evil child vandals’ who ransacked a couple’s £1.2 million home and left it looking like ‘a war zone’ has said they might have targeted the house because it is haunted.
Owners Joanna and Matt Pittard were heartbroken to find the six-bedroom Grade-II listed property in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight had been ‘absolutely trashed’.
The yobs left ‘hardly anything untouched’, using chainsaws, axes and sledgehammers from the garage to smash the place while the Pittards were away between May and June last year.
Now, after the youngsters were hauled to court and fined for criminal damage, the father of one of them has revealed a possible motive for what the judge called their ‘disgraceful’ behaviour.
Speaking to us from his home in Shanklin, he said: ‘The house isn’t too far from where we live. I think they chose it because it was supposed to have a ghost.
‘It is close by and that was probably the reason they went inside.’
The property features in the ‘Ghosts of Isle of Wight’ book and is a stopping point for local ghost walks.
A passage in the book reads: ‘Then there is the former rectory of Shanklin, now “The Grange”, at least 400 years old in parts and probably older.
‘Everyone in the district knows of the haunted room in the north gable, and of the wasted face of an erring maidservant who was locked in the room for punishment and died there.
‘A bold Shanklin youth climbed up a ladder to investigate. What he saw sent him reeling backwards to his own death. So they say.’
The boy, now aged 14,was handed a 12-month referral order and made to pay £1,500 compensation to the Pittards, like the rest of the gang at the Isle of Wight Magistrates’ Court.
His dad told the Mail he still has not apologised, adding: ‘I know in his own way he is sorry, but he has never said it to me.
‘I know he will not do anything like this again and has not been in any trouble since last year. He has behaved.’
The court heard the couple had planned to make the property their family home before it was ‘absolutely trashed’ by the youths.
In her statement, Mrs Pittard said the damage was ‘heartbreaking’ and recounted the ‘horrendous’ experience of filling skips with their own belongings.
‘They maliciously chopped down our palm tree and tried to chop down our cherry tree – it looks like a war zone,’ she said.
‘From being a beautiful, historic building, it is a derelict shell of itself.’
She added: ‘We are horrified at the evil vandalism and attempts at arson at our property.
‘It will take a long time time to recover financially and emotionally from this event.’
An estate agent estimated the damage had wiped between £250,000 and £300,000 off its market value.
Magistrates chairman Keith Jones said he was ‘lost for words’ at their ‘disgraceful’ behaviour which had a ‘horrendous’ effect on the family.
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‘I think they chose it because it was supposed to have a ghost.’