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'We want our money back after Prospect Auction Rooms closure'
TO some they were heirlooms that would have helped provide a needed financial legacy for grandchildren.
But now Hampshire families who handed over goods to sell at an auction house fear they will not get any of their money back.
Among those who lost out after the business collapsed are families who say they are owed thousands of pounds.
Now they are calling for an investigation after a Daily Echo inquiry revealed that the boss of the auction house is planning to start up a similar business ten miles away.
It comes after the Prospect Auction Rooms in Alresford closed with the manager Charlie Evans saying he was not to blame and that the receivers are due soon to work out the debts.
But when approached by the Echo yesterday the Southampton-based Official Receiver said it had no knowledge of the firm.
It has also emerged that Mr Evans has submitted plans to Winchester City Council for a change of use of the Furniture Warehouse in Easton Lane, Winnall, to expand the firm.
In his application Mr Evans said: “I started the auction house in Prospect Road three years ago and I have outgrown the premises.”
He added that he intends to employ 15 people, an increase on the ten at Alresford and take on a ten-year lease.
The building was being marketed for an annual rent of some £60,000. The Alresford base is believed to have cost £8,500 a year.
News that Mr Evans plans to start a new business while owing thousands has angered creditors.
Susanna Lyle, of Canon Street, Winchester, said she is owed £20,000.
Mr Evans sold belongings from her mother’s home after her death, including a set of Waterford glass worth about £12,000.
She said: “He cleared the house and said ‘don’t worry’.
This is part of the grandchildren’s inheritance. It is monstrous that people can do this.
I’m really upset.
“My father was Maurice Jones, chairman of Hampshire County Council, who in the Second World War was a Japanese prisoner of war.
“These possessions were from someone who did good for Hampshire.”
Another, owed around £700- 800, who asked not to be named, added: “It is going to be very difficult for him to start another auction business if he still owes a lot of money. We will do whatever we can to stop that.”
Meanwhile, Barbara Plant, of Sarum Road, Winchester, said: “An awful lot of my things have been sold and I have no money to show for it.”
And Patrick Edworthy, 74, of Ropley, said he was owed around £300 for china that had been sold.
He said: “Looking back I should have taken my things to a charity shop.”
Also angry is Joan Davis, of Fleming Road, Weeke, who handed over a 75-piece Royal Worcester china collection.
It sold for £190 but she has not seen her money.
The warehouse in Prospect Road, Alresford, was reopened last Friday to allow people to retrieve unsold goods.
Mr Evans was not present – he told the Daily Echo last month that he was “too unwell”.
He said it will be opened again between noon and 2pm tomorrow.
Prospect Auction Rooms also ran a house clearance business, called C&G Clearance.
The latter is run by Mr Evans with Gemma Sharp, who according to Mr Evans is the owner of the auction house. Mr Evans describes himself only as the “manager”.
Ms Sharp has been unavailable for comment.
Neither Companies House nor the Official Receiver has any record of Prospect as it is not a limited company.
A Companies House spokeswoman said issues with “sole traders” were handled by Trading Standards.
City council records show that he first discussed the plans for Winnall with Simon Finch, head of planning, in late September.
Hampshire Trading Standards has received complaints but would not confirm if it is investigating.
Police said that at the moment it is a Trading Standards matter.
Since the planning application was submitted two weeks ago Mr Evans has been unavailable for comment.
But when news of the closure of the auction house was revealed he said: “I am so sorry it has not worked out, but it is not my fault that receivers will have to come in.”
He said he was unaware of how much he owed: “I will have to sit down with my accountant.
I am trying to pay people off. If I had the money I would do.
“I feel absolutely sick about it.”
Are you owed money from the auction house? If so, let us know. Contact Andrew Napier at the Daily Echo on 01962 860836 or email firstname.lastname@example.org