- Joanne Barker, 46, fleeced rental payments earmarked for property landlords
- She used money to pay rent for her illicit lover and buy a central heating system
A cheating businesswoman stole more than £128,000 from an estate agents to fund an affair with her personal trainer – right under the nose of her business partner husband.
Lettings boss Joanne Barker, 46, fleeced rental payments earmarked for property landlords after she began a secret fling with Andrew Taylor, despite being married to and working with her husband Paul.
Throughout the course of 2014 to 2018, the mother-of-one also went behind the backs of Ian and Jo-Anne Tweedley, the couple’s best friends and fellow directors of the agency Barton Kendall, based in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.
Mrs Barker was finally unmasked as a thief when various landlords, who had assigned the agency to collect money from tenants, complained about not getting their pay.
Investigations later revealed how Mrs Barker diverted money from the firm’s client account into her own personal bank account – which she used to make rental payments to a fictitious landlord and pay for a £3,640 central heating system at her £400,000 marital home, Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court heard.
She also used her lover’s bank account to deposit £8,586 worth of stolen cash and allowed him to live rent-free for six months in one of the firm’s properties.
Neither Mrs Barker’s husband or her secret lover were aware of any wrongdoing.
In a statement Mr Tweedley, 57, who is managing director at Barton Kendall with his 52-year old wife said: ‘Jo and I worked tirelessly to build up and maintain the business in really difficult times and we became one of the leading lettings agencies in the area with a longstanding reputation.
‘I thought life was rosy, I thought we were financially secure albeit not rich, the mortgage was nearly paid off and I was gearing up to retire at 60. When we took on Joanne, she became a trusted family friend and I felt assured she would run the business in my absence.
‘But all that came crashing down when I found out she was siphoning off clients’ money from the business and stealing all the tenants deposits. That day was the worst of my life. I was in the office at 3am as I couldn’t sleep and my heart sunk as I realised my business was in tatters.
‘That same morning my sister rang me to say my nephew had been involved a in tragic accident and lost his life. I was numb, I hit rock bottom and we were truly at a horrendous point in our lives.
‘What followed was two years of stress, panic and exhaustion to the point of nearly having a breakdown. I was determined to save the business but with such limited funds I was very concerned we might have to fold the company as I didn’t see a way out.
‘I realised this would have an impact on our staff who had been conned and our many landlords who have been our clients for many years. I felt humiliated and embarrassed. The thought of ending of my life did not occur to me but I was as low and desperate as I have ever been.
‘Jo and I ploughed all our savings into the business. I sold my beloved car to pay off the landlords and obtained a £50,000 business loan to pay off contractors. It was almost catastrophic.
‘We lost some big landlords, over 50 managed properties, over £50,000 a year. Our insurance premiums went up from £1,600 a year to £20,000. Our standing as one of the leading estate agents in the town has dropped and our reputation has been severely tarnished.’
At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, Mrs Barker who pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation insisted she had only stolen £28,868 but forensic accountants said the total amount missing from the firm was £128,868.
She was sentenced to two years jail suspended for two years after claiming she was now living off state benefits in a flat in Salford and was needed to care for her elderly mother.
It is believed she has split up with 50-year old Mr Barker. The court heard the Tweedleys had been able to recompense all the landlords and other victims affected via their insurers.
The thefts occurred shortly after the Tweedleys, who acquired Barton Kendall in 2008, took on the Barkers as equal shareholders in 2015. Mrs Barker had initially been the lettings agency manageress at the Rochdale branch whilst her husband was a manager at Middleton.
Mr Patrick Williamson prosecuting said: ‘In 2018 a number of landlords began to complain they were not receiving rent payments which were due to them in line with their letting agreement. It seemed they were only paid by the defendant if they persisted with their inquiries about the missing money.
‘The Tweedleys later discovered significant sums of money were missing from their bank accounts to the extent Mrs Tweedley feared the firm was in real danger of bankruptcy. Initially they approached a family friend, a retired detective to look into the matter before being advised to report it to police.
‘Meanwhile the defendant resigned in November 2018 at the time the losses were being discovered and at this time her affair with Andrew Taylor also came to light. During a review Mr and Mrs Tweedley noticed company cheques being made out to the defendant and her husband – all in her handwriting.
‘The recipient account was that of the defendant but not her husband whose account showed no such deposits.
‘A £3,640 central heating system was installed at the defendant’s home in 2017 as part of a number of improvements. This was paid for out of the Barton Kendall client account by the defendant without the knowledge of Mr Barker or the Tweedleys.
‘A false invoice was later found stating work had been carried out a the Middleton office which in fact does not have a central hearing system fitted.
‘She also engaged in false representing that works were being carried out at landlords’ properties. One landlord handed over £1800 cash on the basis contractors had been instructed to carry out work at his property but none was in fact instructed. When the landlord asked about progress she said work was ongoing and gave the impression it was almost complete. In fact no work ever started.
‘She also allowed Andrew Taylor her personal trainer to use a Barton Kendal rental property between October 2017 and February 2018. There was no record of him paying any rent whilst Barton Kendall itself paid the landlord.
‘It appears she falsely informed Mr Taylor she owned the property and that he need not pay rent. She also made transfers from the client account to accounts held by the defendant and Mr Taylor.
‘One other landlord complained she was not receiving all her rental payments but the defendant said she was behind in carrying out transactions because – among other excuses – she was suffering from cancer.
‘When it was looked into, a number of payments purporting to go into the landlord’s account went to the defendant instead. Also a number of payments purporting to go a landlord called Taylor went into the account of Andrew Taylor. At no stage was Andrew Taylor registered as a landlord with Barton Kendall. The Tweedleys have had to inject personal capital to keep the business afloat.’
When interviewed by police Barker denied theft claiming she was owed all the money she pocketed. The court heard several landlords had since taken their business to other letting agencies.
In mitigation defence counsel Richard Dawson said Mrs Barker was a full time carer for her elderly mother who would have to move into a nursing home if his client was locked up.
‘She stole relatively insubstantial sums of the money but it then added up,’ he added. ‘She wishes to apologise for the impact her actions have had on others.’
Sentencing Judge Angela Nield told Barker to complete 180 hours unpaid work, 30 days rehabilitation activity days, abide by a two month 7pm-7am curfew and face a Proceeds of Crime hearing.
She said: ‘This was a company set up by your friends who had built up a good reputation over the years for efficiency and honesty. You became part and parcel of that company and were quite clearly trusted to the highest level.
‘You have offered an explanation about the difficult financial circumstances in which you found yourself coupled with problems in your marriage, exacerbated by an affair you had with an individual who then became implicated indirectly in your fraudulent behaviour.
‘But there is no excuse for this systematic theft and stripping of assets and what you did represented a significant breach of trust. You not only brought the company to the brink of possible bankruptcy but betrayed individuals who trusted you to run that business as your own.
‘Mr and Mrs Tweedley have not only lost significant sums of money, have been forced to reconsider their whole lifestyle and plans for a early and happy retirement.’
- Kevin and Julia Sheppard bought the building in central Salisbury 15 years ago
A couple who sunk their life savings into renovating a historic £300,000 coach house featured on Escape To The Country have been left without electricity after an angry neighbour cut their power supply.
Kevin and Julia Sheppard bought the building in central Salisbury 15 years ago before they started a major renovation on the property.
But in the last year they say they have been plunged into a nightmare after a feud with their neighbour, who owns the freehold to the land their property was built on, which saw him cut off their access to power – making it impossible to live there – but also stopping them selling up so they can move on.
Peter Jennings, a millionaire who lets property to students, has refused to relent on his decision to cut their electricity supply – and their electricity company has repeatedly refused to override him.
Mr Sheppard, 58, who manufactures lenses for a local optician, told MailOnline: ‘It has taken over our lives for such a long time. We are being held to ransom due to his greed and it’s really hurt us financially.
‘It’s just constant, it’s been non-stop. It’s just constant stress and our blood pressure is up the whole time. We wouldn’t wish this situation on our worst enemy.’
Mrs Sheppard, 59, added: ‘We are stuck in a nightmare – we can’t live in our house, no one else can either. Peter Jennings simply refuses to budge and the electricity company won’t reinstall a power supply unless he relents.
‘I am certain this was his plan from the beginning.’
The saga began in 2008 when they paid £38,000 to buy the semi-derelict building behind the grand Edwardian town house close to Salisbury cathedral where they owned two of four flats.
They spent a year and more than £100,000 removing the ruined original building and building a modern replica in its place, creating a smart two-bedroom self-contained home with open plan kitchen and luxury bathroom which is today thought to be worth around £300,000.
The original power supply to the Sheppards’ coach house property from the main house was professionally upgraded with a new submeter installed inside a flat they owned to track usage.
In the years that followed they lived in the new house themselves and then let it to a tenant.
But in 2012 the owners of the other two flats sold up and the buyer was property magnate Mr Jennings. Then in December 2022, the Sheppards sold their two flats at auction with Jennings buying both, meaning he owned the whole building.
At this point the happy lives the Sheppards had enjoyed came to an end. The day after the sale went through, power to their property was cut off.
Since then, as the freeholder, Mr Jennings has prevented anybody from installing a mains connection to the Sheppards’ property, arguing it would pass across his land so he has the right to refuse permission, the couple claim.
He is also said to have refused to allow them to pay him for electricity via the flat he now owns and refused five-figure cash offers to reconnect the power.
When the despairing couple eventually decided they could take no more they decided to cut their losses and sell the property. It was featured on the BBC property TV show as a desirable property in Wiltshire.
But at that point Mr Jennings put up posters around the property warning prospective buyers that it has no electricity and that they shouldn’t get involved.
Last year the Sheppards sold the property for £277,000 at auction leaving the couple thinking their nightmare was finally over.
But despite having put down a 5 per cent deposit on the ‘sold as seen’ property, the buyer learned of the electricity row and decided to walk away and write off £13,850 rather than spend any more.
Mr Sheppard added: ‘Every time we tried to sell the flats he would put a stop to it, we had been trying to sell for a few years and when they went to auction he got them for a lot less than they are worth.
‘His ultimate goal now is to get our property for nothing. The day after the sale went through the power went out.
‘It’s not like it’s in a field in the middle of nowhere, we’re in the centre of town, we must be the only house in Salisbury with no mains electricity.
‘He could flick it back on tomorrow if he wants to, but he has told us, ‘there is no way I am ever going to let that house have electricity’ so we are stuck paying the mortgage and all the bills on it but we can’t live there ourselves, let it out or sell it.
‘We just want SSE to install a power supply so we can sell up and move on.’
When the Sheppards asked energy company SSE to install their own cable to the house, Mr Jenkins allegedly told workmen that as he owns the freehold to the access road that this would need to be laid along that he had the power to refuse – which he did.
And despite the couple’s insistence that this isn’t legally sustainable the company has resisted all their appeals.
Left without power they spent £30,000 installing solar panelling on the roof as an alternative – but have found that it doesn’t generate enough electricity in the winter to allow the property to be habitable.
A spokesman for Scottish and Southern Energy Networks (SSEN) said: ‘Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has been aware of this situation since the residents concerned made contact with us several years ago with their request for a connection to our network.
‘The property in question used to have access to a private electricity supply, and even before the arrangement which provided this came to an end, we have been open to facilitating a potential solution that’s in the interests of all parties and that remains the case.’
Mr Jennings did not respond to requests for comment from MailOnline.
I’m considering buying a beautiful city centre apartment. Although it is being sold leasehold, it has a long time left on the lease so I’m not worried about that.
What is worrying me is that it comes with a £5,000 per year service charge. Could this cause a problem with my mortgage application, as I already need to borrow 4.5 times my annual income in order to fund the purchase?
The service charge does include things like a communal gym, 24-hour concierge and security, lifts and bike storage, but it still seems a bit steep and I am worried about costs escalating in the future.
Although I think I can just about manage to pay the service charge, I am worried about it also potentially causing me problems when I come to sell in the future as well – particularly if the costs rise over time. Should I avoid buying this flat?
Ed Magnus of This is Money replies: While £5,000 may be a lot to stump up every year, a service charge isn’t necessarily a red flag – provided you can afford to pay it, that is.
If you’re buying in an expensive part of the country, such as London, you’ll find plenty of high-specification new-build apartments that come with similarly high service charges.
HOW THIS IS MONEY CAN HELP
It can also be the case with older leasehold flats as well. Sometimes there is an annual sinking fund contribution to build up cash for any repairs or redecorating in the future. They may also have temporary high service charges to fund major works.
According to analysis by the estate agent Hamptons, 20 per cent of leaseholders in London pay more than £4,000 annually, compared to 11 per cent across England and Wales.
However, it’s fair to say the typical leaseholder will pay much less than £4,000 each year.
The average annual service charge for a flat in England and Wales is currently £1,431, according to Hamptons, equating to £119 per month.
Service charges are typically much higher in London than anywhere else in the country at an average of £1,792 per year.
You are right to worry about escalating costs in the future and the risk that this might put off potential buyers when you yourself eventually come to sell.
Service charges have increased 51.7 per cent since 2018, according to Hamptons, when they averaged £943.
However, much of this increase came between 2018 and 2019, which predominantly reflected the large number of fire safety measures which were put in place in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.
Why is a service charge required?
Whilst maintaining the flat itself is typically the leaseholder’s responsibility, the building and any communal areas often fall on the freeholder, who will in turn often appoint a managing agent to do so on their behalf.
Most leaseholders, particularly those in purpose-built apartment blocks, will have a service charge to pay, which goes towards the upkeep of the building and any communal areas.
The lease should always set out the way the service charge is organised and what fees can be charged.
It often includes the costs of buildings insurance, cleaning, gardening, repairs of communal areas, surveyors’ fees, fire risk assessments and managing agents fees, among others.
The annual costs often begin to mount up when it includes additional facilities such as a gym, swimming pool, cinema room, and 24-hour concierge among other things.
The price you pay isn’t just determined by the location and facilities on offer. It will often depend on how large the apartment is you are buying, as many blocks will operate a tiered system based on the number of bedrooms a flat has.
For example, Hamptons says the average one-bed service charge stands at £1,287 per year, the average two-bed pays £1,326 and the average three-bed pays £1,876.
To help provide some expert advice to our reader, we spoke to Chris Sykes, mortgage technical manager at broker, Private Finance and Nicholas Mendes, mortgage technical manager at broker, John Charcol.
Could it cause issues with their mortgage application?
Chris Sykes replies: Lenders will need to take into account any costs involved with a property, be that council taxes, insurance costs or in the case of a flat, ground rent and service charges.
Mortgage affordability is much more nuanced than 4.5 times income these days.
Whether or not you will still be approved for the mortgage depends on whether the person who assessed your affordability for the loan – whether this was your bank or a mortgage broker – took service charges into account in their calculations.
If the calculations were not taking into account service charges, and the amount you were told you could borrow was the maximum possible, then you may find you are not able to borrow quite as much as you thought you could.
It’s worth using a mortgage broker to check whether there are any lenders who might allow you to borrow the same amount with the service charge costs included.
I have seen service charges significantly affect the level of borrowing clients had available to them, in some instances by £50,000.
Nicholas Mendes adds: Typically, when purchasing a leasehold, the two costs which mortgage lenders require information about are ground rent and service charges.
Mortgage providers will factor these figures into their affordability assessment, as this will be treated as committed expenditure by a lender.
While 4.5 times income is a widely accepted rule of thumb when calculating affordability, there are several lenders which can offer a higher multiple.
Could a high service charge impact the flat’s saleability in the future?
Chris Sykes replies: You are right to consider this, but a lender and the mortgage valuer will take this into account too.
I have had plenty of clients living in high-end flats with high service charges who were able to sell those flats easily when needed.
But I have seen others where it has been trickier to find potential purchasers for the property.
You will want to consider whether £5,000 is just covering costs, or is a cash pot being built up for major works within that.
This is often referred to as a sinking fund and is kept in place to cover costs such as roof repairs, new gym equipment and air conditioning issues, and these costs will likely increase over time.
Valuers will consider whether this level of service charge is in keeping with the property, for example if this is a £250,000 flat in Liverpool then £5,000 could well be seen as excessive but £5,000 on a £650,000 flat in Canary Wharf when surrounded by other similar properties would be a lot more justifiable.
Nicholas Mendes adds: You’re right to have concerns about the prospect of ever-increasing service charge costs.
You do need to consider that future buyers will likely harbour the same doubts about the property as you, so it’s worth factoring this into your decision making.
Service charge costs will depend on the location, and the type of property, but a rule of thumb is the more impressive the building and facilities on offer, the higher service charges tend to be.
Developers build with a typical client in mind and want to ensure they offer the best facilities on offer, such as gyms, concierge services, landscaped gardens. But with this, you’ll find higher costs compared with a more modest building.
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By John Ely Senior Health Reporter For Mailonline
12:27 17 Nov 2023, updated 12:27 17 Nov 2023
NHS bosses are offering a £100,000 contract for anti-racism consultancy services, MailOnline can reveal.
The tender — branded ‘woke’ by critics — was posted by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), which manages blood supplies and organ donation in the UK.
The successful bidder will ’embed intentionally inclusive and anti-racist behaviours across our organisation’.
NHSBT wants a ‘solution’ which includes topics such as ‘racial equity, social justice, civility, cultural intelligence, and active bystander and inclusion’.
Critics slammed the six-figure spend on ‘woke waste’ and called for ‘every penny’ to go towards frontline care instead.
Cash-strapped hospitals are mulling scaling back operations this winter to balance the books, despite the waiting list sitting at an all-time high.
But NHSBT argued hiring an anti-racist consultancy would help tackle backlogs by increasing the organisation’s credibility with ethnic minority Brits. It also comes amid allegations of years of racism within the service.
A spokesperson said: ‘This project contributes to delivering better frontline care and reducing waiting lists, particularly for patients from ethnic minority backgrounds.
‘Our staff need to be able to encourage more donors from ethnically diverse backgrounds to donate blood, organs and stem cells.
‘This will mean we give more patients the best treatment that saves and improves their lives.’
READ MORE: Terrified parents fear their toddlers will never get ‘miracle’ cystic fibrosis drug, with NHS watchdogs poised to cut-off supply due to its £200,000 price-tag
NHSBT claims that boosting donations from minority groups would reduce the organ transplant waiting list and help prevent Brits with blood disorders needing A&E care, dropping overall pressure on the NHS.
In the application document, NHSBT wrote the consultancy was part of their ‘vision’ to be an ‘intentionally inclusive and anti-racist’ organisation.
Anti-racism is a term that means being actively opposed to racism, as opposed to simply not being racist.
NHSBT added the contract will be considered a success when their employees have a greater understanding of ‘race equity’, they are not disadvantaged by their characteristics, and its recruitment policies are ‘intentionally inclusive’.
Tom Ryan, policy analyst at campaign group the TaxPayers’ Alliance, told MailOnline the public would be dismayed by the spend.
‘Taxpayers are sick of seeing vital health funds spent on these right-on initiatives,’ he said.
‘With waiting lists still punishingly long, every penny should be directed at delivering frontline care.
‘It’s time for the health service to put patients first and crack down on woke waste.’
The anti-racism contract comes just weeks after ex-Health Secretary Steve Barclay wrote to NHS leaders slamming them for wasting taxpayer cash on costly diversity officers rather than spending it on frontline care.
He wrote: ‘Current live adverts include jobs with salaries of up to £96,376, which is above the basic full-time pay for a newly promoted consultant.
‘I do not consider that this represents value for money, even more so at a time when budgets are under pressure as we work to tackle the backlog left by the pandemic.’
Mr Barclay was sacked as Health Secretary last week.
His successor, Victoria Atkins, has yet to make a similar commitment to crackdown on woke waste in the NHS.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), which is one of the key funders of NHSBT, said: ‘Taxpayers rightly expect value for money from every penny spent in our NHS.
‘That is why the NHS and all of the department’s arms-length bodies continuously review whether their diversity and inclusion projects are good value for money, and consider ways to improve.’
NHSBT has previously been accused of racist practices and attitudes.
In October last year, Melissa Thermidor, a marketing executive who worked for NHSBT, revealed she was suing the service for constructive dismissal.
She claimed she was subjected to racist stereotypes such as being a ‘shouty’ and ‘aggressive’ black woman.
Ms Thermidor also shockingly claimed that colleagues used a disparaging term of ‘Tesco donors’ to refer to black people who donated blood because that’s where colleagues allegedly said black people were most likely to shop.
And in 2020, an independent report was leaked which claimed there was ‘evidence of systemic racism’ at an NHSBT site.
The body’s six-figure cash splash comes as other parts of the health service in England have been told they can cancel elective care appointments to help balance their budgets.
A wave of unprecedented industrial action by staff created £1.1billion financial black hole, as hospitals had to pay ‘premium rates’ to for other workers to cover the strikers.
Health bosses had hoped to recoup the funds from Government, but Downing Street only gave them £800million.
This led to NHS England telling trusts to scale back routine care for the rest of the year in a bid to ‘achieve financial balance’.
NHSBT is a special health authority sponsored by DHSC, meaning it is separate from the general umbrella of NHS England and other national bodies.
Organ and blood donation rates from minority groups in Britain has lagged behind national averages for years.
The latest data from NHSBT, for 2022/23, shows only 4 and 2 per cent of deceased donors were from Asian or Black backgrounds, respectively.
In contrast, people from Asian backgrounds accounted for 19 per cent of the transplant waiting list, and for Black Brits this was 11 per cent.
Blood donation also lags behind need, with only 1 per cent of active blood donors being Black.
This is despite 55 per cent of Black people having a blood type that can help treat patients with the blood disorder sickle cell anaemia, a condition that disproportionately affects Black Brits.
In comparison, just 2 per cent of the general population have the Ro blood subtype that patients with sickle cell need.
- Military building defended nation during the First and Second World Wars
- Martello tower like structure on a spit of land called ‘a first’ by auctioneers
A 168-year-old gun tower that sits in the river with the address No One, The Thames, is up for sale.
The military building defended the nation during the First and Second World Wars, from the mouth of the River Thames in Kent.
Estate agents Savills are now promoting it as a ‘a unique and peaceful position with far reaching sea and coastal views’.
The ex-army site is only accessible twice a day, at low tide via a causeway and owners and guests will have to use a boat at any other time.
Auctioneers expect the Martello tower-like building will fetch £150,000. They added the property, on a spit of land between the River Thames and River Medway, ‘is a first.’
It was the last gun tower of its kind to be built, constructed to protect the nearby military dockyards against French invasion.
Anglo-French tensions ran high in the 1850s and the nation feared a naval attack.
The tower guarded the key link between the Thames and Medway rivers, which led to Royal Navy Dockyards in Sheerness and Chatham.
However, artillery technology quickly improved and the construction became obsolete in the mid-19th century, almost immediately after it was completed.
By the end of the century it was transformed into a defence against raids by fast torpedo boats.
Decades later it was altered again – new, quick firing guns were added during World War I and World War II.
The property off the Isle of Grain, built in 1855 was decommissioned in 1956 and will go under the hammer on September 20 this year.
It is around four-and-a-half miles from the nearest train station of Swale but any potential buyer would need to spend a large amount to repair and return it to its former glory.
The new asking price is a significant drop from when it went on sale nearly three years ago for £1.9 million, having previously sold for £500,000 in 2014.
Savills Auctions Director Jeremy Lamb said the sale is rare adding: ‘There is always excitement when unusual lots come along as they have a special power to capture the imagination.
‘We’ve had water towers and military sea forts in our sales in the past, but this gun tower is a first.
‘A blank canvas with heaps of history and phenomenal sea views, not to mention its coveted No. 1 the Thames address.
‘Historically, rare lots like this have seen significant interest in our auctions.
‘Last summer the hammer came down on Bull Sand Fort in the Humber Estuary at nearly 10 times guide price after attracting bids from around the world and the year before that we auctioned a water tower in Essex which has since received permission for residential use and a chance to design a once in a life time property.’
A spokesperson described the potential buy as ‘atmospheric.’
They said: ‘The tower occupies a unique and peaceful position with far reaching sea and coastal views. The village of Grain is approximately one mile to the west.
‘The tower is atmospheric internally with a series of rooms, exposed brick work and concrete.
‘Of interest to developers and occupiers, the tower represents a unique opportunity with potential for alternative uses or development subject to the necessary consents.’
- A previous owner squeezed the bath tub into the hallway, the estate agents said
An estate agents admit that even they were ‘shocked’ to be tasked with advertising a ‘cramped’ London flat for almost £500,000 – with a bathtub in the hallway.
Prospective buyers were shocked to find the tub exposed and only yards from the front door in the near half-a-million-pound flat, located in Kentish Town in North West London.
Some even claimed they felt sorry for people trying to get on the London property ladder and joked about how having a bath in your hallway summed up the size of flats currently on the market in the capital.
From the estate agent’s photos, the interior of the house seems like a normal flat with a bedroom, shower room, kitchen, dining room and outside decking area.
It is only after entering the property through the front door that house-hunters discovered the sneaky tub squeezed into a white tiled area in the hallway.
The flat was listed on Rightmove by Burghleys Estate Agents for £475,000 and is being advertised as a ‘unique’ one-bedroom garden flat with shower room and ‘extra’ bath.
Ashley Gendler, the director of the company, said they were shocked to find the tub in the hallway of the property but says it hasn’t put prospective buyers off viewing the one-bedroom flat.
Ashley said: ‘There have been remarks about it as it’s not something you would usually see.
‘It was an architecturally designed conversion not by the current owner but by the previous owner who we know nothing about, so we don’t know the reasons why he did this.
‘It may well be that he lived there on his own and no one was coming into the flat so he put a bath there because he couldn’t fit one into the shower room so that was the next available place to put it.
‘There have been a few raised eyebrows, people commenting saying it’s odd and a few double takes.
‘It’s quite simple to take the bath out and replace it with storage cupboards in that area if you wanted to.
‘We have the eyes and ears of the general public when they are out viewing properties and we were quite taken back as well.
‘But when we first viewed it, this area was filled with junk.
‘We didn’t even know there was a bath there. It had to be pointed out to us so it was even more of a shock to us.
‘There are plenty of flats being sold just with shower rooms and not with baths. Whoever converted the flat several years ago didn’t have to put a bath in there.
‘The property is getting a great deal of interest at the moment. I think people who have the common sense to either leave it or take the bath out and replace it with storage cupboards.
‘People are not being resistant to viewing it because there is a bath in the hallway.’
On social media, users were quick to comment on the odd placing of the family ‘bathroom’.
One user said: ‘Have a nice hallway bath and then get into your crawl space.. Bliss.’
Another said: ‘Why even bother with the bath just have a shower not as if having a bath adds to the property.’
A third added: ‘I feel so bad for the normal people of London.
‘How are you ever supposed to get any kind of housing security with rents rising at instance amounts and you can’t even get a mortgage for a flat where you need to have a bath in the hallway.’
A fourth commented: ‘I’d invite you in but the missus is having a bath.’
Another said: ‘So pretty much half a million pounds for a cramped space in a converted house with a ‘garden’ that is smaller than my parking area and then you have to pay ground rent on top because it is a leasehold.’
By Miles Dilworth In Val Verde County, Texas, For Dailymail.Com
Updated: 14:48 03 Sep 2023
- David Frankens, of Lufkin, East Texas, has sparked fury among local ranchers after he sold swathes of land to Sun Guangxin, a former Chinese military captain
- Local realtors claim Frankens made ‘millions of dollars’ in profit from the trades, in which he would buy the land before selling it on to Sun within the same day
- The Texan businessman has since been accused by one of his former ranch managers of cornering him in his office and punching him in the head
A Texan real estate mogul allegedly made ‘millions of dollars’ by selling vast swathes of local farmland to a Chinese billionaire with close ties to Beijing.
David Frankens, from Lufkin, East Texas, scored the ‘deals of the century’ when flipping the land at around twice its market value to Sun Guangxin, a former captain in the Chinese military, local realtors told DailyMail.com.
The trades have sparked fury among ranchers in Val Verde County, where Sun bought more than 130,000 acres of farmland for an estimated $110million between 2016 and 2018.
A report written by former CIA officials, seen by DailyMail.com, suggested the Chinese billionaire could be considered a national security risk by US authorities due to his extensive links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
One local landowner described the Frankens’ actions as ‘treacherous’.
DailyMail.com can also reveal that the Texan businessman has since been accused of assault by a former ranch manager.
Coincidentally, the alleged incident occurred around the time it had been announced a Chinese firm was taking over the ranch.
Frankens’ relationship with Sun has put him at the center of an ongoing controversy over the billionaire’s Texan land grab, which saw the Xinjiang-born businessman claim 7 percent of all land in Val Verde County between 2016 and 2018.
The former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) captain hit the headlines when he tabled plans for a 46-turbine wind farm on a 15,000-acre ranch he bought from Frankens in 2018.
Opponents said the project would provide Sun – and by extension the Chinese state – access to the state electric grid.
It prompted Governor Greg Abbott to pass the Lone Star Infrastructure Act in 2021, which banned businesses from ‘hostile nations’, including China, from accessing state infrastructure.
Locals left baffled at how a Chinese billionaire had come to own such a vast portion of land in a county known for its wild and desolate landscapes soon found their answer in the larger-than-life Frankens.
Land deeds show the realtor bought properties from existing landholders and then ‘flipped’ them to GH America, a subsidiary of Sun’s Guanghui Group, on the same day.
In one instance, he bought one parcel of land at 11am and had sold it to GH America at 2pm that afternoon.
Local realtor and ranch owner James King told DailyMail.com that Frankens flogged the land to the Chinese at twice the market rate, raking in millions of dollars in profit.
King suggested Frankens had taken advantage of the foreign investors’ naivety.
‘The Chinese weren’t smart,’ he said. ‘But it’s buyer beware. That’s how Texas real estate is.’
King said he watched on in amazement as Frankens sold one parcel after another to the Beijing-backed group.
‘You could call it the deals of the century,’ he said. ‘I would go “wow”, he got that deal done and then it was just one after another after another.
King, who founded the Lower Pecos Landowners Group in opposition to the proposed wind farm, suggested Frankens likely used money he made from his initial deals with GH America to buy more land to sell on to the company, while ‘hiding’ his profits.
‘I wouldn’t say it’s a very honorable way to make a living, because it’s sneaky,’ he added. ‘But people do it.’
A source familiar with the relationship between Frankens and Sun said it was the Texan who pitched the idea of a wind farm in Val Verde County.
Frankens had in fact been touting the idea of such a project on his Rocksprings property as early as in the 1990s, the source claimed.
Sun’s close ties to the CCP are documented in the book Eurasian Crossings: A History of Xinjiang, by Georgetown University professor James Millward.
The book claims Sun opened a branch of the CCP within his own company during the 1990s and poached a party secretary away from a state-owned firm to lead it.
His political connections helped him acquire state-owned enterprises, but have also triggered warnings over his potential threat to national security, including by Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
King said locals had reacted angrily to Frankens’ role in bringing a potentially hostile foreign actor into the heart of their community.
‘It’s, you know, “how dare you bring this man into our neighborhood of really solid landowners who care about the land and where some families have spent six generations out here”,’ he said.
Kyle Bass, a businessman and Val Verde County ranch owner, said Frankens’ dealings with Sun were ‘treacherous’.
Frankens, who comes from a Pentecostal background and brings a religious advisor to all important business meetings, flaunts his wealth on social media.
His Facebook is littered with photographs of his Blue Hole cabin in the Piney Woods of East Texas.
He is also an avid Donald Trump supporter and has held rallies supporting the former President on his sprawling estate.
King, who has met Frankens on several occasions, described him as an ‘intimidating’ figure.
‘He is huge, one of the biggest men you’ll ever meet.
‘He doesn’t come across mean or angry or anything. It’s just you are a little intimidated by the mere size of the guy and the bigness of him.
‘He is an East Texas country, good ol’ boy and he sounds like it, he looks like it.’
Frankens now finds himself in hot water after one of his former ranch workers filed a lawsuit claiming that he was cornered in his office by Frankens and two colleagues and ‘beaten about the head with fists causing serious bodily injury’ in September 2021.
The rancher, Eric White, claims to have suffered a traumatic brain injury and was ‘forcibly removed from his job’, The Kerrville Daily Times reported.
Frankens filed a response denying the accusations and asserting ‘the affirmative defense of self defense’.
He did not respond to a request for comment by DailyMail.com, but he has previously told Forbes that his first deal with GH American came by accident as he sold the property via a broker and did not know who the buyer was until the contract came through.
He declined to comment on the subsequent deals, or how much money he had from them, citing non-disclosure agreements.
Frankens did, however, deny allegations of treachery, describing them as ‘based on fear’. He added: ‘In my dealings with [Sun Guangxin], he has always done exactly what he said he would do and has shown himself to be a generous, hospitable man.
‘I have visited the property on several occasions and have never seen any indication of any nefarious or questionable activities. I consider him a friend.’
- Wigmore Castle comes with 30 acres of land, including a moat and jousting field
- Sale includes permission to convert a workshop into a two-bed house
Property hunters are being given the chance to live like a king – or queen – after a castle that is almost 1,000 years old went on the market for £500,000.
Wigmore Castle in Herefordshire sits on a huge 29.84-acre plot and has been labelled as one of the UK’s ‘most remarkable ruins’ by English Heritage.
Potential lords and ladies will be able to snap up the 956-year-old fortress as well as its sprawling grounds, which boast a moat and, of course, a jousting field, for the price of an average UK detached house.
There is one catch that buyers of a typical standalone house won’t have to contend with, however: the grounds must be open to the public, as English Heritage maintains a right of way for a pathway to the castle.
By law, any property under the guardianship of the Secretary of State must be open to the public – meaning locals and tourists have access to the grounds.
But the small sacrifice of letting locals explore what is in essence your garden is a small price to pay in exchange for bragging rights on a Grade I-listed castle, which still sports the remains of several turrets and key walls.
Planning considerations have also been taken care of – permission has already been secured to convert a workshop into a two-bedroom house, if the draughty ruins of the castle aren’t ideal sleeping quarters.
And the castle itself is conveniently close to the village of Wigmore, which has two pub/restaurants, a community shop, a mobile post office service, primary and secondary schools and an active village hall.
The town of Ludlow, about eight miles away, sits directly on the Manchester to Cardiff railway line, and is a stone’s throw from the A49 for travel elsewhere.
Much of the castle is overgrown, and is kept as ‘managed wilderness’, but has become home to a range of rare plants and wildlife.
Estate agents Sunderlands describe the castle as a ‘unique and rare opportunity’ to own a piece of English history.
The agency said on its listing for the sale: ‘A unique and rare opportunity to acquire the historic Grade I Listed Wigmore Castle and grounds with a planning consent to convert an existing workshop into a two bedroomed dwelling.
‘The property extends in total to about 29.84 acres (12.07 hectares).
‘The Castle boasts a rich history and was a major centre of power for over 500 years hosting several kings and queens.’
They added: ‘Wigmore now has an overgrown appearance that once characterised many ruined sites.
‘English Heritage describes the remains of the castle as ‘among the most remarkable ruins in England.’
Wigmore castle was founded in 1067 by William Fitz Osbern, the Earl of Hereford and has close ties to William the Conqueror.
The castle was once the stronghold of the infamous Mortimer family who held it from about 1075 to 1425 when it was passed to the royal family.
It was widely used throughout history by a variety of kings and queens before being dismantled by parliament forces during the Civil War to prevent its use.
It also has links to the War of the Roses because it was inherited by Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, who returned to Wigmore in 1455 to gather a large army for the battle of St Albans against Henry VI’s forces.
When conserving the site in the 1990s, English Heritage deliberately retained its wildness, as the castle had become home to rare and unusual species including lesser horseshoe bats.
The asking price is exactly £500,000 – just above the average house price for a detached home in England of £480,620, according to official Land Registry data.
- House hunters in Derby were gobsmacked to find the shocking listing
- The home was a cannabis farm back in 2019, housing more than 500 plants
- Snaps showed plants, pots, fans and other remains of growing paraphernalia
Estate agents have faced online mockery after advertising a family home for sale using pictures from when it was a cannabis farm.
House hunters in Derby were gobsmacked to find the listing of the five-bed family home included photos of large plants, pots, fans and the remains of other industrial-sized indoor growing paraphernalia throughout the property.
The Derbyshire property was listed for sale on Rightmove by estate agents Bagshaws Residential for a ‘bargain’ auction guide price of £150,000 to £200,000 on 6th July.
However the listing went viral when people spotted the shocking images.
It turns out that the home was a cannabis farm back in 2019, with police snaps showing it housed more than 500 plants across the 12-room dwelling.
The photos showed reflective silver material peeling off the walls, accompanied by what appears to be large carbon filters among many entangled wires.
Panicked estate agents quickly hid the ‘incriminating’ images.
The ‘indoor gardening’ equipment can be seen within several rooms, with standing fans littered across the attic floor and more than 16 substantially-sized plant pots filled with soil stacked up in the kitchen.
There are little signs that it was a liveable space other than a small toilet, several discarded mugs and a clothes hanger in the kitchen.
Estate agents Bagshaws Residential’s listing described the three-storey home as in need of ‘a full scheme of renovations’.
The listing also warned that ‘currently no internal viewings are available’.
Meanwhile, stunned viewers online took to social media share their bewilderment as to why the estate agents would use photos that showed its previous history so plainly.
The Derby property is currently sold and under offer, while another local commenter claiming online that it sold for £210,000 at auction on August 1st.
Sequence Auctions, part of the Sequence group along with Bagshaws Residential, explained it was ‘vital that selling agents ensure the state of repair of the property is transparently shown so buyers can make informed decisions’.
However they did not clarify why the images appeared to afterwards be removed.
One person online commented: ‘Can’t believe the estate agents have uploaded these photos’.
Another said: ‘I’m literally two mins away from that house and I’m baffled how it was used for what it was being next to a primary school.’
A third joked: ‘Some serious indoor gardening going on there,’ with another adding ‘a bargain is a bargain in this economy.’
Someone else added: ‘It sold for £210k via auction, that surprised me. Thought it’d be more. No doubt it’ll be flipped and back on the market for £800k in a year though.’
The Facebook page for Derbyshire Constabulary’s Safer Neighbourhood Policing Team for Normanton and Rose Hill posted about the repossession of the home back in May 2019, writing: ‘Well as the late great Freddie Mercury once sang.. ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST.
‘Officers from Normanton SNT have located yet another Cannabis Grow with in excess of 500 plants in the Normanton area.. (plant emoji)… Currently gathering evidence and continuing with enquiries to identify the offenders..
‘We’ll keep you posted. £upinsmoke.’
Derbyshire Police confirmed that a cannabis grow was found at the property in May 2019, but that no arrests have been made in relation to the investigation.
Bagshaws Residential said it was a matter for Barnard Marcus Auction House to respond on – both are part of the Sequence group.
Chris Glenn, divisional managing director for Sequence Auctions, said: ‘Landlords that have had a difficult experience managing a property may have gone through months or even years trying to reclaim them and will quite often enter them into an auction for an efficient sale.
‘However, following the pandemic the auction process has somewhat changed and many auctions are not back in the room.
‘They have remained largely digital with many investors buying properties online without seeing them.
‘This makes it vital that selling agents ensure the state of repair of the property is transparently shown so buyers can make informed decisions.
‘This is especially true in auctions as the sale is a legally binding exchange, often on the day, compared with a private treaty sale which will take a number of months.’
The sorority recruitment process – which has a cult following and become an online sensation – ended with students running to sorority row from Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Photos and videos obtained by DailyMail.com show the moments that excited women obtained their bids from one of the University of Alabama’s 17 sororities.
Recruiting is a big deal on the historic school’s campus as more than 36 percent of the student body is involved in Greek life.
According to AL.com, of the 2,549 women who enrolled in Open House events – the first round of recruitment – 92 percent received bids, or 2,335 women.
That number is down ever so slightly from 2022 which saw 2,345 women receive bids – approximately 91.6 percent of the women who started the process.
Bid Day starts with the students showing up and being handed envelopes with their prospective houses inside, only to be opened when officials countdown.
After being given the all clear, the anxious and excited students rip open their envelopes to discover which sorority house they were admitted to.
After the moment of glee – or heartbreak in some cases – the young women begin the short journey to sorority row where their ‘sisters’ welcome them.
In the photos from this year’s Bid Day, girls dressed in plain tops – a requirement for the festivities – could be seen running toward their new homes.
The young women ran and walked together while onlookers watched the events unfold from just outside the Tuscaloosa football field.
Grouped together by their new houses, the students can be seen holding up the Greek letters signifying their houses as they travel to the mansions.
The process became an overnight phenomenon on TikTok in 2021 with pledges sharing their outfits, ‘get ready with me’ videos, and ultimately their placements.
It also sparked a 2023 documentary on HBO’s streaming platform MAX which explored the ins and outs of the system and the process itself.
The sensation was back in full force in 2023 with pledges sharing behind the scenes looks at the process for each day of recruitment.
The events unfurl over the course of a week and include each woman meeting with her prospective new sisters under a variety of situations.
Each day has a different theme and different dress code which TikTok users have taken a particular interest in.
DailyMail.com shared how some of the sorority pledges have forked out tens of thousands of dollars on their outfits in a bid to impress Greek house officials.
Their videos on TikTok quickly exploded, and many people on the web became enthralled with watching the lengthy process play out.
Since then, every time August rolls around, #BamaRush goes viral once again, as a whole new set of freshmen attempt to join the school’s coveted Greek houses.
This year Bama Rush kicked off on August 12, and many of the hopeful pledges showcased the pricey outfits that they wore throughout the process to TikTok.
From a $7,950 Louis Vuitton bracelet and a $2,080 Cartier ring to $1,700 Prada sneakers and a $4,110 Tiffany & Co. necklace, the women attempting to join the sororities this year pulled out all the stops.
A TikTok account with the username @BamaRushTok1 rounded up some of the most expensive ensembles that the students have worn – and Bama Rush pledge Bri McCurdy took the lead with a ‘fit that totaled a whopping $22,535.
Bri, 18, originally from New York, opted for a University of Alabama Panhellenic top, which she paired with a Burberry pleated cotton skirt, which costs $300, on Bama Rush day three.
She completed the look with the brand’s Salmond Check Low Top sneakers, priced at $570, and a matching Burberry headband, which was $170.
She accessorized with a slew of lavish jewelry pieces – including the $2,080 Cartier Love Ring and the $7,350 Cartier Love Bracelet.
The 18-year-old also wore a $395 David Yurman sterling silver Cable bracelet with 18-karat yellow gold finishing, a $275 Kendra Scott 18-karat gold Vermeil Cuff bracelet, two $65 BaubleBar 14-karat gold Pisa bracelets, a $11,200 Rolex watch, and a $65 letter B pendant necklace, also made by Kendra Scott.
‘Although the outfits and shoes are cute it’s a lot more than that,’ Bri insisted in the video she shared detailing her outfit.