They're the Villains; Baron Hardup Accuses Villagers Facing Eviction of Acting like a Mob

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES MILLS

LANDLORD Richard Marker was struggling to shake off his image as a pantomime villain yesterday.

The man who once played the Sheriff of Nottingham in a village production, but who is now trying to evict 17 families, accused residents of vandalism and behaving like a mob.

'If they have a problem, they should come and see me,' said Mr Marker. 'My door is always open.

Instead, they have got together in a mob and defaced the village.' The businessman was referring to graffiti daubed on the village bus shelter saying 'It's mad' and 'Marker scum' - which the vast majority of law-abiding villagers had no part in.

The Combe Estate in Gittisham, Devon, has been in the landlord's family since 1846 and he inherited it 22 years ago.

He is selling off most of the properties to raise up to [pounds sterling]7million and this week served eviction notices on the occupiers, giving them three months to leave.

'The whole thing has been misinterpreted,' said Mr Marker. 'I am merely trying to bring the village into the 21st century. How many villages are owned by landlords these days?

'This is giving them the opportunity to buy their own homes. They should be grateful.' His remarks outraged householders, who insist their protests have been dignified.

Parish councillor Ken Hopkins, a 55-year-old signmaker facing eviction from his [pounds sterling]275,000 two-bedroom cottage, said: 'We have not been a mob. …