Fenland man collapses as his home is demolished by bailiffs
EXCLUSIVE Report by John Elworthy Photos: Brian Purdy PARADEMICS rushed to a Fenland village today (Tuesday) as a 53 year-old man collapsed with suspected heart problems as bailiffs demolished his home. It was the culmination of a four year battle by Ray
EXCLUSIVE Report by John Elworthy
Photos: Brian Purdy
PARADEMICS rushed to a Fenland village today (Tuesday) as a 53 year-old man collapsed with suspected heart problems as bailiffs demolished his home.
It was the culmination of a four year battle by Ray 'Spud' Griffin and his wife Jill who had fought, unsuccessfully, to stay there.
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Mr Griffin recovered sufficiently to stay watching as storage containers on the site were uplifted, and then their mobile home demolished.
"I can't bare to see it, yet I can't bare not to see it," he said. "To my dying day I'll never know what we did that was so wrong."
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They bought the land some years ago from Jill's elderly parents who live next door and after being refused permission to build their own bungalow, moved a mobile home onto the site.
The couple received a letter from Fenland District Council last week telling them bailiffs would arrive this week but right up until the final hours they hoped they could win a stay of execution.
"We phoned Malcolm Moss, our MP, at the weekend and he promised he would do what he could," said Mrs Griffin. "He was confident the bailiffs wouldn't be here this week and planned to visit us later in the week to see what could be done. It's all too late, now."
Council enforcement officer Steve Robshaw arrived at the Griffins' home shortly after 8am with two police officers and a team of bailiffs from Constants. Plumbers and electricians were also on hand to dismantle services, and heavy duty lifting equipment arrived by lorry.
As Mr Robshaw filmed the eviction on behalf of Fenland Council, the Griffins' family and friends rallied to help them pack.
Ironically the massive storage units Mr Griffin kept on the site at The Holt, Begdale Road, Elm, were moved just a few yards by the bailiffs to a haulage depot next door- which contains hundreds of similar storage units all sited there legally.
"It just seems bizarre to me," said Mr Griffin. "And it will seem that way I'm sure to many others."
Earlier this year Mr Griffin spent a night in hospital after swallowing a handful of anti-depressants after a visit by bailiffs and council officials to discuss eviction.
Mrs Griffin concedes the battle is lost (a recent appeal to the Planning Inspectorate also found in Fenland's favour) but she is determined they will one day return to their land - and live there legally.
"There's building all around us," she said. "I have never ever understood what we did that was so wrong. All the neighbours support us- all we ever wanted was to be left alone."
Her husband added: "I think they wanted to make an example of us. If that's so they've done a bloody good job of it.
"All I want is to build a bungalow on this land so I can die in it."
Ironically Mrs Griffins' elderly mother, Betty, who lives next door is preparing her own battle against enforcement officers.
"They say they want us to remove a small fence and put a hedge back in its place," she said. "For goodness sake haven't they got anything better to do?"
She is raising support from neighbours to keep the fence but added: "My husband has lived in this area for 75 years, and has never got so much as a parking ticket. Well the fence is staying - and I don't care if they get a JCB to knock it down. They'll send me to prison before I'll allow that."
Mr Robshaw, who had dialled 999 after seeing Mr Griffin collapse, declined to comment on either case and referred inquiries to the council's press department.
A council spokesman said Mr and Mrs Griffin had been "frustrating council efforts to prevent the unauthorised occupation of the land."
He said they had "flouted the planning laws for seven years" and had failed , for years, to comply with an enforcement order.
It was time, said the spokesman, "to take action."
Mr and Mrs Griffin said they had no idea where they would now live.