A Northern Ireland filmmaker has won euro46,000 ($69,000) in damages after a judge ruled that his Irish island home was transformed into a parking lot while he was overseas for six years.
The case of 61-year-old Neville Presho captured national
attention because of the apparent callousness of his treatment at
the hands of the insular 170-strong community of remote Tory
Island. Police investigating the vanished house found only a wall
Presho successfully sued developer and hotelier Patrick Doohan
after he returned from New Zealand to find no trace of his
six-bedroom property beside the island's harbor. In its place stood
a septic tank and parking lot for Doohan's newly built 12-room
hotel, which remains the only one today on Tory.
Presho said Tuesday that his mid-19th century stone-built home
had become "a car park surrounded by boulders to prevent
inebriated drivers from driving into the harbor."
High Court Justice Roderick Murphy ruled that he couldn't
determine who set fire to Presho's property in 1993 or knocked down
its stone walls in the following months while Presho, his wife and
two children were living 11,600 miles (18,700 kilometers) away.
Presho said he resettled in New Zealand in 1988 but returned
after getting a 1994 letter from Donegal County Council - the
nearest local authority for a northwest island that famously bills
itself as a self-governing kingdom - warning that his Tory property
had suffered mysterious damage.
Presho recalled how, as the passenger ferry arrived from the
Irish mainland, he searched in panic but couldn't see his home at
He soon learned that a neighbor with whom he had entrusted a key
had permitted Doohan's construction workers to live in his home
while the neighboring hotel was being built.
While gathering testimony from March to July, Murphy determined
that the workers left behind flammable materials in the property
and the blaze was deliberate, but he couldn't reach a conclusion as
to who ignited it. Nor could he be certain who knocked down the
shell that remained, although he noted that Doohan owned the only
heavy construction equipment on the island.
The judge said police could not get island residents to
cooperate with the investigation into the house's gradual
disappearance over a nine-month period, an event that "should have
been obvious to all."
The Associated Press left telephone messages for Doohan and his
lawyer, John Cannon, but they were not returned. Cannon told the
court Monday his client planned to appeal rather than pay.
Presho never achieved fame as a filmmaker - but produced,
directed and co-wrote one that uncannily foreshadowed his own
experience. His 1981 film "Desecration" told the story of an
amateur archaeologist on an Irish island who toils to preserve its
medieval castle, but his restoration work is destroyed by other
islanders determined to develop a mine there instead.
Presho spoke wistfully Tuesday of his lost island retreat, where
he could sit on his front doorstep watching the fishermen come and
go in the harbor and the panorama beyond of the wild Atlantic and
But Presho said he doesn't expect to live there again. Even if
he does receive his court-ordered euro46,000, that's less than a fifth
of the average house price in Ireland.
"You could build a really nice chicken coop with that sort of
money," he quipped, "but you'd have no money left over to buy the