STRETCHED between rows of ancient trees and sprawling over green fields, this is the so-called Ghost House of Sussex – a massive £40million ($57m) mansion left incomplete after work first began in the 1980s.
Property baron Nicholas Van Hoogstraten, who began the construction of Hamilton Palace, near Uckfield in East Sussex in 1985, has long since left British shores to further his business interests in Zimbabwe.
The controversial businessman, who was once jailed for paying thugs to hurl a grenade into a rival’s home, started building the home – complete with its own mausoleum – in order to house his vast art collection.
It’s not clear if Hoogstraten still owns the property – he long ago claimed to have transferred many of his assets into his children’s names.
However, a local resident has now complained that construction work on the property stopped long ago and it is simply going to waste, The Mirror reported.
Neighbour Richard Baxter told the paper: “With all the housing problems we have in this country surely the building can be put to good use. It’s a disgrace that it is just going to ruin.”
Hoogstraten made his fortune as a slum landlord in Britain but is better known for his court case regarding the gruesome gangland slaying of a business rival, who was stabbed five times before being shot in the head.
Van Hoogstraten was exonerated of any blame in the killing.
Once described by a judge as a ‘self-imagined devil who thinks he is an emissary of Beelzebub’, Hoogstraten was born in Bognor in 1946 and as an 11-year-old schoolboy started selling stamps to noted collectors.
It later transpired that the young Hoogstraten, who claimed to have a stamp collection worth £30,000, had hired classmates to steal the stamps for him from specialist shops.
By the time he was 14, he had taken to wearing a suit to school and would excuse himself from lessons to sit in an empty classroom, where he would read the Financial Times and attend to business deals.
As a teenager, he started a loan-shark business that saw him take property deeds as collateral for loans. He also ran nightclubs in Brighton and once called Rod Stewart, the rock star, a greedy ‘little runt’ in a row over takings.
He also picked up a conviction for organising a henchman to throw a grenade at a priest, as well as the 2002 conviction for manslaughter for the killing of that business rival.
The verdict was overturned on appeal, but he was ordered to pay the victim’s family £6 million (US$8.6m) in a civil case in 2005.