The owners of Knockderry Castle at Cove on the Rosneath Peninsula overlooking the Firth of Clyde have been evicted after a 22-year battle against losing the property.
The long-running legal wrangle over £3m Knockderry Castle near Kilcreggan ended when sheriff officers took control of the property on behalf of trustees.
Businesswoman Marian Van Overwaele was made bankrupt in 2000 and went on to make numerous appeals against eviction. The 71-year-old’s bid to have her case heard at the Supreme Court in Londson failed in January. Ms Van Overwaele was not there when the eviction took place.
But her brother George Amil was seen at the A-listed castle in Cove on Wednesday ahead of the sheriff officers’ arrival. He was still making calls to the Court of Session before the eviction took place. He told the BBC: “They are saying they are coming today to evacuate us.”
Asked if he intended to leave, he said: “No. This is our house. I paid for it. I worked hard in this house. This decree is not against me.”
Workmen kicked the door open before sheriff officers and two police officers went inside to remove the family.
Mr Amil left the property along with his wife. He said: “We just ended up homeless, I don’t know where we are going to go now. And the kids finish school at three o’clock.
“It is a giant miscarriage of justice, someone has been sequestrated for £230 that was already paid, but the whole matter is a conspiracy and a cover up. It is so bad and a shame. We are going to keep fighting.”
The family insists they paid the original bill after Mrs Van Overwaele was sequestrated and their business was also sold.
From a £230 unpaid bill to the loss of a £3m castle
Mrs Van Overwaele had allegedly refused to pay a £230 factor’s bill relating to a bridalwear business she owned in Helensburgh in 1997. She claimed the bill had nothing to do with her.
The bill and the subsequent legal costs saw the debt soar to a reported £30,000 and in 2000 Mrs Van Overwaele was sequestrated – the Scottish legal term for being made legally bankrupt. Her finances were taken over by an insolvency practitioner.
The Belgian family fought the sequestration and mounted various legal actions including claims of assault, theft and destruction of property against an accountant. Mrs Van Overwaele at some stages represented herself in court.
In August 2021, the Court of Session refused a “reclaiming motion” against Mrs Van Overwaele and Mr Amil which had ordered the siblings to vacate the castle. They argued their human rights had been breached after the decree had been granted in their absence.
At this stage the court ruling stated that creditors’ claims were now in the region of several hundred thousand pounds. In January this year, Mrs Van Overwaele lost a bid to take her case to the Supreme Court.
Mrs van Overwaele had previously transferred ownership to Mr Amil and continued to live at the castle with her brother and his family.
Trustees have been trying to evict the family so that the castle can be sold to pay creditors.
Despite Mrs Van Overwaele raising legal motions in all courts available to her, her trustee George Lafferty said all legal routes were now exhausted.
The replacement trustee was appointed five years ago. He refused to comment directly on this case, only to say he accepted this appointment in good faith, having no conflict of interest to act.
He added that he had utilised the powers of the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985 to secure the assets in this appointment and intend to realise these for the benefit of creditors.
Speaking to the BBC via Facetime, Mrs Van Overwaele said: “This happened in Dumbarton. It happened at Court of Session. All the time, there has been a miscarriage of justice. My evidence has been overlooked.”
Rosneath Peninsula pictured from Helensburgh by Bill Heaney