Financier who threatened to kill neighbour’s cat over tiny washing machine cupboard wedged between their exclusive Knightsbridge homes WINS furious £100,000 row
- Anthony Knight, 72, feuded with Lyudmil Zyapkov at Ennismore Gardens Mews
An elderly financier who threatened to kill his neighbour’s cat over a tiny washing machine cupboard wedged between their exclusive Knightsbridge homes has won a furious £100,000 row.
Financial consultant Anthony Knight, 72, called Dr Lyudmil Zyapkov a ‘nasty little man’ and warned not to let his cat out of his Ennismore Gardens Mews home otherwise ‘I will kill it’, as a heated dispute over who owned the spider web-filled cupboard got out of hand.
Mr Knight placed his smelly bins at his neighbours’ patio door with Bank of America market analyst Dr Zyapkov becoming ‘obsessed’ with hanging onto the one metre square cupboard, which ‘housed very neatly (his) washing machine and dryer’.
But a judge ordered the cupboard be returned to Mr Knight telling the pair their passions had got ‘out of proportion’, and told Dr Zyapkov to pay his neighbours’ legal costs of more than £50,000, as well as his own £52,000 bill.
Mr Knight and his 69-year-old wife Angela had owned the undecorated storage area, accessed via an outside door, since they moved into their home near Harrods in 1995.
The couple had used it to store their children’s sports equipment but it became unused in 2010 once their offspring had grown up.
But eight years later they discovered it had been secretly bricked up from the inside by a previous owner and turned into a utilities space for the neighbouring flat, now owned by Dr Zyapkov and his naval engineer wife Juliana Grigore.
Financial consultant Anthony Knight, 72, threatened to kill his neighbour’s cat in a heated row over who owned a tiny cupboard wedged between their exclusive Knightsbridge homes
Bank of America market analyst Dr Lyudmil Zyapkov and his naval engineer wife Juliana Grigore outside Central London County Court
The two couples went to war at Central London County Court, with Judge Jan Luba KC saying it was accepted that a previous owner of the flat had carried out the ‘land grab’ by bricking up the Knights’ cupboard, but that Dr Zyapkov and Mrs Grigore have no rightful claim to keep it.
Dr Zyapkov and Mrs Grigore sued in a bid to have the cupboard declared part of their property by way of adverse possession, also known as ‘squatters’ rights’.
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They claimed it had been used for more than 25 years by owners of their flat and argued that they and previous owners had ‘reasonably believed’ it was theirs.
They also claimed damages for harassment and nuisance over Mr Knight’s conduct, complaining that as well as threatening their pet he had taken to leaving his smelly bins at their patio door, which faces the Knights’ house.
The Knights countersued for a declaration that the cupboard remains part of the title to their home.
The mews, where houses sell for over £3million, was originally built to provide stables and coach house accommodation for large houses on nearby Ennismore Gardens.
Dr Zyapkov and Mrs Grigore bought their neighbouring flat – part of the house which was the final home of actress Ava Gardner – in November 2018.
The disputed cupboard had been accessed by the Knights via an outside door on a communal courtyard between their house and the neighbouring flat, their barrister Gerard van Tonder told the judge.
It was only while being shown around their neighbours’ new home that they discovered it had been ‘unlawfully incorporated’ into the flat by a previous owner.
Without opening the outside door, which remained padlocked, a previous owner had smashed through the party wall, annexed the cupboard, bricked it up from the inside and decorated it, he said.
The highlighted disputed spider wed-filled tiny cupboard between the homes in Ennismore Gardens Mews, London
‘If you open the door externally, you would now be confronted by a brick wall,’ said the barrister.
The two couples tried to settle the issue amicably, but ’emotion defeated reason’, said Judge Luba, and a vicious neighbours’ war erupted over ownership of the space.
Explaining the importance of the tiny area to Dr Zyapkov and Mrs Grigore, their barrister Tim Becker said: ‘It is a small space – about one metre square – but it houses very neatly my clients’ washing machine and dryer.’
Giving evidence, Mrs Grigore told the judge she bought the flat ‘in the state that it was’ and that the two couples had been on good terms until the row over the cupboard erupted.
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‘Our relationship changed because of the ugliness created by the cupboard issue,’ she said.
The judge was shown videos which they claimed backed their claim of harassment against Mr Knight.
In one, he can be heard warning Dr Zyapkov that taking the case to court could end in his ‘ruin’ and losing his job at the Bank of America.
‘You have occupied my cupboard and won’t give it back,’ he says. ‘You are a crook…You are a nasty little man.’
He then adds: ‘Don’t let the cat out here. If I see it, I will kill it.’
Commending the two wives for not getting involved in the worst of the row, the judge blamed the two men for its heat.
‘Passions have been raised by the two gentlemen out of all proportion to the subject matter,’ he said.
‘From the Knights’ point of view, the dispute was about an old unused storage cupboard.
‘On the claimants’ side, it was about a tiny utility area.’
He said Dr Zyapkov had become ‘obsessed’ by the cupboard issue, losing all ‘insight and subjectivity’ on the situation, calling police on his neighbours on multiple occasions.
Mr Knight had shown himself ‘unable to restrain or contain himself’ once annoyed, he added, describing the stand-off which culminated in him threatening to kill the cat as ‘awful’.
However, he said that was the only incident which Dr Zyapkov and Mrs Grigore had highlighted which could constitute harassment, and so could not be said to be a ‘course of harassment,’ because the law requires at least two incidents.
He said Dr Zyapkov and Mrs Grigore had ‘fallen short by a country mile’ of proving the space had been used by owners of their flat back to the 1990s, as they claimed.
Their case was not so much an attempt at ‘making brick from straw’ but ‘making brick from wisps of straw,’ he said, adding that the claim was ‘so weak it probably shouldn’t have been brought.’
The mews, where houses sell for over £3million, was originally built to provide stables and coach house accommodation for large houses on nearby Ennismore Gardens
He said the evidence suggested that the cupboard had probably been annexed and bricked up in a clandestine ‘land grab’ by a previous owner of the flat around 2011.
‘The best inference is that the leaseholders in 2011 made a land grab of the cupboard space, which was not authorised and they knew wasn’t authorised,’ he said.
‘Leaving the door in situ and blocking from the inside was consistent with this work being done surreptitiously and with no true belief in ownership of the cupboard.
‘I don’t accept that Dr Zyapkov and Ms Grigore could have the reasonable belief that the area of the cupboard was incorporated into the flat.
‘It is quite obvious to me that the attempted acquisition of the cupboard was carried out clandestinely.
‘What else could possibly be the explanation for leaving in situ the external door, appearing to manifest that nothing had happened when in fact there had been the insertion of a brick wall, blocking access to what had been the cupboard?
‘Something had obviously gone on.’
He found that the cupboard remained within the title to the Knights’ house, which is owned by Mrs Knight, and rejected the harassment and nuisance claims brought by Dr Zyapkov and Mrs Grigore.
Had the couple simply arranged a surveyor’s report before buying their flat, they would have known there was a problem with the cupboard and it was a ‘serious error of judgment’ not to obtain one, he said.
Concluding, he added: ‘One very much hopes that the parties will be able to move forward.
‘As with every neighbours’ dispute, everyone enters the court door thinking they’re going to win and at least one goes out having lost.
‘But in reality, they have all lost because although they must go forward with their relationship coloured by this judgment they must live cheek by jowl with each other.
‘One hopes this will be an opportunity for a fresh start by these neighbours.’
He made an order that the cupboard be returned to the Knights and that their neighbours must foot the lawyers’ bills for the dispute.
They have to pay £18,000 up front towards the Knights’ bills, which are estimated to be over £50,000, on top of their own costs of around £52,000.
For the losing couple, Mr Becker said that they may now be selling up and leaving.
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