Action fails over cause of damage to 'disappeared' house

 

A MAN whose holiday home on Tory Island allegedly “disappeared” while he was abroad and became a car park for an adjoining hotel may have a claim for unjust enrichment by the hotel, a High Court judge ruled yesterday.

Film-maker Neville Presho (61) has brought an action against hotelier Patrick Doohan and his hotel, Ostan Thoraigh Comhlacth Teoranta, alleging ongoing trespass and physical damage to his holiday home on Tory Island.

Mr Presho bought the house in 1982, and left for New Zealand in 1986. When he returned in 1994 he was “astounded” to find a car park of a hotel belonging to Mr Doohan in the place where his house once stood.

In a ruling yesterday, Mr Justice Roderick Murphy said Mr Presho had not succeeded in proving the cause of the damage to the house. However, there may be a case against the hotel for unjust enrichment.

The judge said he wanted to hear submissions from the parties on that issue before giving a final judgment, and he adjourned the matter to next month.

He said it was clear the hotel had benefited from the demolition of the house and the clearing of rubble. The clearing of the rubble, described as a danger to children, was done by Mr Doohan with the authority of Donegal County Council.

The judge said he would, as part of submissions on the issue of unjust enrichment, invite the parties to deal with any award of damages that may follow.

The case, heard in a High Court sitting in Letterkenny, centred on what happened to the 150-year-old two-storey house which had been boarded up for eight years after Mr Presho moved to New Zealand.

The court heard that sometime between January 1993 and May 1994, the house suffered damage before it burned down and was later demolished. It was then used as a car park and a septic tank for the hotel was also put on it.

Gardaí found no evidence to substantiate criminal charges the fire was malicious.

Mr Presho had at one point written to gardaí asking for the case to be dropped because he had forgiven all those involved. He later made a complaint to the Garda Complaints Board about the Garda investigation, but this was dismissed by the board.

Mr Doohan told the court the house had become unsightly and dangerous following the fire. It fell apart quickly as it had been only supported by wooden planks. When contacted by council engineer Charlie Cannon to move the rubble from outside the house, he had asked for the matter to be sent to him in writing via fax.

Mr Doohan denied a claim by a contractor, John McGinty that Mr Doohan had offered him €1,000 to demolish the house.