By Bill Heaney
A controversial Scottish castle worth more than £1 million has been snapped up by the US prosecutor behind efforts to extradite fugitive Nicholas Rossi over rape charges.
Utah attorney David Leavitt has said he and his wife, Chelom, were “drawn in” by the historic Knockderry Castle, formerly in Dunbartonshire but now due to local government boundary changes, in Argyll and Bute when they first saw it in July 2022.
The pair now plan to restore the property and its surrounding estate back to its “former glory”.
Knockderry was built in the mid-19th century for James Templeton, the famous Scottish textile and carpet manufacturer connected with the People’s Palace at Glasgow Green, and stands elevated nearby the village of Cove.
The Victorian mansion sold for more than £1.25 million after its former owners were evicted in 2022, following a 22-year legal battle.
Mr Leavitt first came into the spotlight after filing charges against Nicholas Rossi as a suspect in the 2008 rape of a 21-year-old woman, alongside other sex attacks.
The story moved to Scotland in 2021, when he was arrested at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow – having attempted to fake his own death in America.
He claimed his name was Arthur Knight, insisting a case of mistaken identity, but US authorities were certain he was Rossi.
A judge in Edinburgh last year rejected his claims of mistaken identity, ruling that he is indeed Rossi, and extradition proceedings are expected to follow.
Mr Leavitt has stood down as Utah county attorney, and him and wife Chelom will now “accomplish the dream of owning and restoring a castle”.
On a blog dedicated to documenting the restoration effort, he wrote: “It’s going to be a roller coaster ride. I’m sure there’ll be highs and lows, moments of confidence and doubt. But we will have done it!
“Thank you, Chelom, for being bold and brave. I can’t wait to see what we create together!!”
A listing by sellers Shepherd Chartered Surveyors said the main property contains an entrance hall, four reception rooms, multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, and extensive ancillary accommodation.
The castle is set within gardens with mature trees, a terraced area immediately adjacent to the castle and provides views over Loch Long and the surrounding area.
Gary Louttit, head of hospitality and leisure at Shepherd, said: “We are delighted to have been instructed to sell such a stunning building and to have completed the sale of Knockderry Castle after going to a closing date on behalf of our clients.”