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'We haven't given up' - Campaign to save pub caught in international property web will continue

PUBLISHED: 14:03 01 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:28 01 August 2019

Villagers at the Marquis Cornwallis pub and (inset) owner Steven White appears in court Picture: CMCH/KENYA CITIZEN TV

Villagers at the Marquis Cornwallis pub and (inset) owner Steven White appears in court Picture: CMCH/KENYA CITIZEN TV

CMCH/KENYA CITIZEN TV

The owner of a pub at the centre of a community takeover bid claims criminal charges he was facing in Kenya have been dropped.

The Marquis Cornwallis in Chedburgh Picture: CMCHThe Marquis Cornwallis in Chedburgh Picture: CMCH

Campaigners trying to buy the Marquis Cornwallis pub in Chedburgh had been shocked to learn its owner, Steven White, attended a Nairobi courthouse in June, accused of assaulting his fiancée.

MORE: Fears for future of historic pub as owner arrested in Kenya

The group, which recently missed a £100,000 fundraising target towards saving the pub, had been in dispute with Mr White who wanted to sell it for housing.

His two planning applications to West Suffolk Council, however, were rejected on grounds the pub was still viable and a community asset.

But soon after Chedburgh Marquis Community Hub (CMCH) Ltd made its final and unsuccessful Crowdfunder appeal in June, news emerged of Mr White's arrest.

Mr White, 64, was accused of assaulting his Kenyan fiancée Peris Njambi, 28, whom he met on Facebook in 2017 and got engaged to the following year.

Kenyan television filmed Mr White at a Nairobi courthouse on June 24, describing the case as a disagreement over a "business deal gone wrong". He was due to return on July 22 - but the case was rescheduled until August 22.

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Mr White has since claimed his fiancée had dropped the case - while Ms Njambi confirmed "we might sort this outside the court".

Although Mr White said previously he may sell the pub to CMCH; when asked about it this week he said the group had missed its fundraising target.

CMCH said while the funding campaign was not successful and money would be returned to donors "that doesn't mean we have given up". The group is exploring other funding options and recently received a grant to prepare costing for refurbishment.

"We are still trying to raise the money to save our pub and we are still hopeful that in time we will be able to come to an agreement with the owners to buy it," a spokesman added.

Land around the pub, which had been used for its carpark, has already been sold. Land Registry documents show it was first transferred to a company called Durian Property Ltd and then sold for £30,000 to a David Eric Shipp.

Despite the sale, Mr White kept listing the land on Ebay, asking for £475,000 or an exchange for "a property or land overseas or motor yacht". The sale was recently listed as having ended. But other exotic properties, including a five acre Masai Mara game reserve plot, remain on his Ebay page.

Visit CMCH's website for updates on the fundraising.

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