HE’S the controversial car dealer wanted by hundreds of people in Australia – as well as dozens of angry customers in Hampshire.
Richard Burbage had been un-contactable for days after the Daily Echo lifted the lid on the sudden closure of a city dealership – where he worked – leaving furious customers demanding refunds amid claims of faulty cars.
But finally the elusive salesman has broken his silence and agreed to be interviewed for the first time to have his say on the claims made about him both here and Down Under.
Mr Burbage, a 40-year-old dad-of-three, agreed to meet our reporter at a friend’s office in Fareham for a one-on-one interview in which he shed light on why he left Australia two years ago.
He claims he suffered death threats following the collapse of his company, known as We Buy Any Car but not linked to the UK firm of the same name, where he was co-director.
As previously reported, the business had an official title of Kar Land Pty Ltd and operated across Australia, based on obtaining vehicles from customers but not paying them for them until they had been sold.
But in 2012 the business collapsed, and according to the most recent liquidators reports, the firm still owes more than £6m.
Yesterday, Mr Burbage claims he was not responsible for what went wrong Down Under, which saw him banned from being a director for ten years.
And then he further distanced himself from any blame surrounding the controversy involving Woolston Car Supermarket, which left dozens of customers complaining of allegedly dodgy cars and bouncing cheques.
Mr Burbage was linked to the Hazel Road dealership where he was involved in the sale of vehicles with owner Stan Rudgley until it mysteriously closed less than two weeks ago – before reopening under a new name of Fort Wallington Car Sales just 12 miles away in Fareham.
It was there that the pair were captured on a secret video camera by one angry customer to whom threats were made when he went to ask for his money back.
Dressed casually in shirt and jeans yesterday, Mr Burbage insisted that the finger is being pointed at him because of what happened to his company in Australia. He said: “Where this all stems from is Australia. It has all been blown up and blown up.”
Mr Burbage told how he thought his business there was doing well. However, he says, in 2012 stories about unpaid customers started to appear in the media, which he said scuppered a multi-million pound deal to sell the company that would have financially secured him and his family for life.
Mr Burbage said he had been too busy to supervise the company’s finances as he jetted about Australia running his nationwide business which at its peak employed 100 people.
He said: “I was thinking everything was rosy.” With hundreds left out of pocket across the country, he claims to have understood the havoc being wrought on people’s lives by the failure of his company.
He said: “I was devastated when it all went wrong – and for those people not to have been paid for their cars. They are just normal people that really did not deserve it. I mean that sincerely.”
Mr Burbage said he and wife Lorraine and their three children took the decision to quit their Brisbane home and returned to the UK – but admitted his decision to leave Australia was made because things turned ugly.
He said: “I had a nervous breakdown when all this happened. The death threats, the trauma, the media. “I can understand they wanted to report it. But when you are having a nervous breakdown you are not in the position to speak to the media.
“I was not running away. I still have a lot of friends in Australia. It was the fact I had to protect my family.
“I have had people at my house at all times of the night. I had death threats and people at my house.
“We had people putting bricks through the windows – cars vandalised.”
Appearing to hold back tears, Mr Burbage – who the New South Wales Government issued a warning about doing business with – added: “I had a complete major breakdown. You’ve got to understand that I am thinking I have financially secured myself and my children and my life and all of a sudden this has happened.
When asked if he understood the anger of people in Australia, he said: “100 per cent. I would be the same and I feel for them.”
He denied claims that he was involved in the running of Hampshire Vehicle Sales, Woolston Car Supermarket or Fort Wallington Car Sales. When asked if he was ever a business partner of Stanley Rudgley, the last listed director of Woolston Car Sales, he told us: “Not at all, not whatsoever. I never set up any company with Stan Rudgley.”
Mr Burbage said he had fallen out with him for “personal reasons” and had parted ways after Woolston Car Supermarket shut – refusing to shed any further light on the matter.
He said: “If there are any customer complaints, then they need to be directed to the people and person that is obviously involved, which I believe is Stan.
“At the end of the day, Stan has made a statement to you that he would resolve any issue with the customers. Ask them to go back to Stan and I am sure he will get it done.”
After being confronted about the footage where, along with Mr Rudgley, he threatens a customer from behind his desk, he said that he had felt threatened himself by the situation. Mr Burbage also dismissed claims he used the name of David Spearing.
“Go and have a look down on the site, he has a guy working for him [Mr Rudgley], bald and about my age. He may be David Spearing. He is very similar to me. I don’t know. But I am Richard Burbage.”
Last night Mr Rudgley was unavailable when the Daily Echo approached Fort Wallington Car Sales for a comment from him.