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Auction of garden items was 'mayhem'

A PUBLIC auction for a closing down sale of thousands of items of stock from a gardening and decor centre turned into a "free-for-all" because of lack of proper supervision, the High Court heard.

People were walking out with goods under their arms from Fountains and Décor, formerly on the Naas Road in Dublin, and had to be challenged to put them back, owner Albert Crowley said.


Others were loading up wheelbarrows and trolleys "taking anything they could", he said.

"Mayhem had broken out on the day of the auction".

Mr Crowley and his wife Helga are suing Wilson Car Auctions, Newtownabbey, Co Down, for negligence and breach of duty over the lack of organisation and supervision at the auction in the gardening centre premises a few days after it had ceased trading in February, 2004.

Wilsons deny the claim and have counter-claimed that the Crowleys are liable to them for clearing out the property, re-installing CCTV security equipment which should not have been removed, and wrongful retention of certain items from the centre.

The court heard the Crowleys had agreed to sell their business, along with their adjoining home at Kingswood, for €4.75m to Wilsons. The sale went ahead by private treaty and the business was later relocated to Monasterevin in Kildare.

As Wilsons were in the auctioneering business, they suggested, and it was agreed by Mr Crowly, the stock should be sold at auction by them (Wilsons), along with the contents of the Crowley home.

The stock consisted of thousands of gardening items including expensive granite, terracotta and wooden furniture.

The Crowleys claim much of it was sold for well below the minimum 50pc of retail price agreed with Wilsons.

James Dwyer SC, for the couple, said their side was claiming the auction should have realised €620,000 and Wilsons had only paid €170,000.

The case continues before Ms Justice Marie Baker.