We've Lost Our [Pounds Sterling]70,000 Home to Titles Raider; COUPLE FORCED OUT AFTER LOSING LEGAL BATTLE OVER AN ANCIENT LAW

Article excerpt

Byline: KEITH MCLEOD

NESTLING in a Scottish village, it was the picturesque home John and Isabella Baxter had always dreamed of, the place they planned to grow old.

But after 16 years in the former school house the elderly couple were yesterday packing their bags, effectively evicted by a man who is using ancient Scottish law to claim their house.

Property speculator Brian Hamilton, already known to many across the country as Raider of the Lost Titles, has demanded they give up their home to him after he bought its ancient title deeds.

The Baxters bought the property at Auchenheath, just off the M74, near Lanark, in 1983 for a knockdown price of [pounds sterling]9,000 from Strathclyde Regional Council. But under archaic property law the lease belongs to the Blackwood Estate, which is owned by Mr Hamilton, and he has now demanded it back.

'We never thought it would come to this,' said Mr Baxter yesterday. 'To say it is a shattering blow is putting it mildly.' In recent years Mr Hamilton, a former welder in North Sea installations who is now based at a country house hotel in Dumfriesshire, has amassed a small fortune by buying up feudal superiori-ties and demanding that his vassals pay thousands of pounds under ancient clauses in title deeds or face losing their property.

The Baxters are believed to be the first family to actually lose their home. Mr Hamilton's activities, all within the law, have led to calls for action in the Scottish parliament to reform lease-holding rights, some dating back hundreds of years.

Yesterday 63-year-old Mr Baxter and his wife agreed to leave their home voluntarily to avoid an eviction after admitting defeat in their long legal dispute with Mr Hamilton. The property is now valued at around [pounds sterling]70,000 and the couple have started legal action against their original lawyers, who handled the purchase, on the grounds of 'quality of advice'.

Insurers for the lawyers made an offer of settlement to the Baxters but this was not enough to meet their legal costs and buy the title from Blackwood Estate. …