Harry spurns £2 million for shack in exclusive suburb


An Irish emigrant living in a shack for the past 18 years has said he will not try to claim the £2 million that could be on offer for land on which he is entitled to claim squatters rights.

Harry Hallowes (68), who left Co Sligo for London nearly 50 years ago, has been living in on the edge of Hampstead Heath in a 12ft by 8ft shack surrounded by a 90ft by 90ft garden.

The land is part of Athlone House nursing home, which has recently been sold by Kensington and Chelsea NHS Hospital Trust to property developers Dwyer International. The property firm intends to turn the former nursing home into luxury flats.

The plot is just a few yards from the exclusive Bishop's Avenue where houses can sell for up to £30 million.

A spokesman for Taylor Gibbs estate agents in Highgate said: "Potentially it could be worth up to £2 million, subject to planning permission.

"It is in a prime location surrounded by some of North London's most expensive roads and the Heath is an attractive proposition for many people, having it right on the doorstep you could be talking millions."

Despite such valuations, Mr Hallowes says he will not be pursuing the potential fortune through the courts.

"To go and claim the place as my own would seem to me to be a very mean thing to do. I do not care about the financial implications.

"When you haven't any money it's better, you have the whole of nature around you as opposed to some dreadful bed-sit. It's a good old-fashioned way of life.

"If one is fit and healthy that is the most important thing," Mr Hallowes said.

With only a radio for company he said he often tunes in to the news and sport. "I don't like the modern world of computers and television. I do have a radio and I listen to the news every night, and the rugby matches, and I enjoy Wimbledon in the summer," he said.

To claim the land lawfully Mr Hallowes would have to go to court with two witnesses swearing on oath that he has lived there for more than 12 years. But the Sligo native, who survives on food hand-outs and by doing odd jobs, has refused to go through the simple court procedure.

He said he has never claimed benefits since setting up in the squat 18 years ago, but under pressure from Social Services he now receives a weekly pension.

Mr Hallowes, who came to went to England when he was 20, said he would like to stay on at his adopted home but may find himself forced to move into a property provided by Social Services.

Mr Hallowes says he feels very fortunate to have been able to live rent-free for so long. However he said he would not be averse to receiving a small consideration. "If they want to offer something to me I would take it but I am not chasing anything," he said.