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FAKE LORD AND LADY OWE US ALL A PILE; Taxman and Customs chasing cash from couple in the castle.

A COUPLE posing as aristocrats ran up thousands of pounds of debt after buying an historic, 17th-century castle.

Robert Lucas-Gardiner, 49, and wife Ewa, 50, bought the titles of Lord and Lady Marr off the peg and paid pounds 350,000 for the 64-room pile.

But they are now being chased by the Inland Revenue and have been banned from selling their home after having been accused of vandalism by the castle's previous owner, Jonathan Hyslop.

The couple moved to Scotland from Hull and opened Dunans Castle in a quiet glen near Dunoon, Argyll, as a lavish bed-and- breakfast hotel, conference centre and wedding venue at the beginning of the year.

And today, the Sunday Mail can reveal the couple, who faked their own coat of arms on letterheads and business cards, will be quizzed by Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue.

Sunday Mail investigators uncovered a trail and deceit and debts involving local businesses, their own employees and Mr Hyslop.

The former castle owner is suing the couple for pounds 10,000 after a long-running battle. Last week, he slapped an inhibition order on them after a year of fighting to get money he claims he is owed.

An inhibition order is a legal judgment that bans the sale of property until a debt is resolved.

The businessman, who still owns almost all of the land surrounding the castle, has also reported the couple to the police for vandalism and theft.

He claims they vandalised a vehicle belonging to him that was on his land, and alleges that they also stole a trailer.

Mr Hyslop said: "The money is for carpets and curtains and other fittings as well as wrangles over the land.

"These people pretend that they don't realise they are doing anything wrong, but they know exactly what they are doing."

Meanwhile, local businesses say they will no longer deal with the pair.

Quarry merchants Bonars admitted they had to send a number of letters before they got their money for a large quantity of gravel for the castle drive.

Company boss Alex Bonar said: "We had to threaten them with collection agencies before we got the pounds 700 we were owed."

One businessman - who did not want to be named - said that he was still owed several hundred pounds by the couple and was desperate to get his cash.

He said: "They are ignoring my letters and sticking their heads in the sand. Like everybody else, I was impressed by the titles, the castle and all their fancy talk."

The castle opened its doors to the public at the beginning of the year after the pair moved from Hull.

Public relations boss Chris Hewitt paid pounds 10,000 for a two-day company get-together at the castle in July, but was astounded when the couple demanded an extra pounds 3,000 for "staff wages". He said: "We suspected they were not a real Lord and Lady when we arrived. Many of us felt that things were not everything they seemed.

"But we had a superb weekend, until we were asked for the extra pounds 3000.

"When we queried the bill, Lady Marr, or whatever she is called, said the extra sum was to pay staff overtime.

"Having organised these things before, we felt that was included in the price we had agreed. But we refused to pay it."

Tariffs for the pounds 90-a-night luxury hotel before September show VAT at 171/2 per cent on every booking.

But their company, Dunans Castle Ltd, which was set up in July last year, was VAT de-registered by the couple in July this year.

It ceased trading two months ago after Ewa resigned as director, leaving Robert as company secretary.

With only one director, the company - which had not filed any accounts - could no longer trade as a limited company.

However, this does not prohibit the Lucas-Gardiners, from still trading as a hotel.

Customs and Excise are set to investigate whether the company has paid all its VAT. Meanwhile, the Inland Revenue is chasing Robert for thousands of pounds in unpaid tax dating back four years.

Locals said the couple, who bought the former Fletcher Clan castle last September - were at first welcomed with open arms. One said: "We were delighted the castle was being restored and many of us around here in the glen were overawed by them.

"They were full of great ideas and plans for the estate.

"But it was only a few weeks before the rot set in. When people heard they weren't a real Lord and Lady, locals didn't say too much, but when businesses couldn't get paid, things changed."

Staff, including their bookkeeper and several estate workers, have walked out.

Even Ewa's ageing housekeeper, who has been with her family for over 20 years, left after a series of rows. Ewa, who calls herself Countess Zelenska as well as Lady Marr, is also in hot water after also using the name of a top woman lawyer.

Adverts about the castle ask would-be guests to call Amanda De Winter.

Now the real Amanda De Winter, a Hull barrister, is taking legal action.

She said: "I have met this woman's former husband, but I certainly don't know her."

Ewa's ex-husband, top Harley Street consultant Marek Korab-Karpinski, claims that she has no rights to the countess title.

The surgeon - who is fighting a custody battle with Ewa over their young son - would not comment.

But a family friend said: "She was born in Leicester to poor Polish parents and had no claim on any title. When she was married to Marek, she would call him Count, which he is adamant he is not.

"Ewa is desperate to be seen as somebody. Since she and Marek split up, her life has been one big fantasy."

The fake title was bought last year from the Great Manorial Society, who sell worthless honours for cash.

Ewa also paid for a certificate, displayed at the castle entrance, which claims she has the Freedom of the City of London.

Neighbour Norman Innes, 49, said: "They have brought nothing but misery to the area with their lies. When I saw her certificates on the wall, I was so impressed. I can't believe I was taken in."

Chef Norman said that he even considered taking up the offer of a job at the castle.

He said: "She was full of plans for a top restaurant and we had talked things over when she told me out of the blue she'd changed her mind.

"But we were still friends. My wife and I looked after her son, listened to her problems and felt sorry for her. There always seemed to be a family crisis and she regularly said she had chucked Robert out.

"Once they disappeared, saying her mum was ill, when they had six guests booked into the castle that night."

Norman saw red after he was named as the castle chef on the company's 10-page web site. "I was horrified," he said. "I was very concerned about my reputation."

The Dunans Castle website boasts a wealth of facilities, including clay pigeon shooting with Scottish internationalist and referee, Mervyn Stuart.

But experts at the world-famous Jackie Stewart school at Gleneagles have never heard of him.

Last year, we revealed the couple's dodgy titles and their confusing backgrounds.

Robert claimed they had been married "for a while" and had two children, but they wed only last December.

Meanwhile, Ewa, a former JP, is named in Who's Who 2000 as the wife of surgeon Marek Korab-Karpinski.

They married in 1977 and have three children, but split after Ewa met Robert through a dating agency.

Last year, Robert, an ex-Navy engineer, told us he was raised near Loch Lomond. Yet no-one in the village he named, Dores - actually near Loch Ness - has ever heard of the Lucas-Gardiners.

Scotland's highest heraldry court say it is an offence to use bought-off-the-peg titles.

Sir Malcolm Innes, the Lord Lyon, said: "To call yourself a Lord or a Lady, you must have a peerage. These days, the law is not pursued and people get away with doing this kind of thing."

Last night, a furious Ewa claimed she used a number of names because she had been married several times.

She said she was unaware of any investigation, but admitted the company was de-registered for VAT in July.

Ewa went on: "I'm not telling you why, that's up to you to find out. I don't know about any debts. I don't know what you are talking about."

She claimed she was keeping back cash from Mr Hyslop because she believed the small piece of land he sold her did not belong to him.

But Mr Hyslop said: "That's utter nonsense. I have the deeds and dispensation which clearly proves I am the owner.

"They claimed they had a map which said I did not have ownership, but they have yet to produce it."
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Author:Hughes, Lorna
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 1, 2000
Words:1493
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