Bailiffs shop at Harrods for £130,000 debt

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The Independent Online
Bailiffs normally have a sordid, even risky job. Yesterday three sent by the High Court had the equivalent of a game-show win, when they were sent to take their pick of goods to settle a bad debt run up by Harrods, writes Stephen Ward.

The trio, officially "sheriffs", clearly relished the unfamiliar surroundings of Knightsbridge, south-west London, and demonstrated eclectic taste.

Their task was to serve a warrant of execution gaining "walking possession" of goods worth £130,000, in settlement of a debt owed to a school.

In effect, this was a shopping list - the sheriffs had to earmark what they wanted, then give the store a week to pay the money before they seized the items.

To the probable chagrin of Harrods, they ignored the price tags on the goods, and valued them as if they were found in a warehouse and flogged at public auction.

First on the list were eight Chesterfield suites in red and green leather, estimated at £6,000 each. Other items chosen included four suits of armour at £1,000, a Kawasaki jetski at £2,000, 18 saddles at £100 each, a kidney- shaped side-table at £4,000, and a Chippendale desk which they reckoned would fetch £10,000.

They ended their shopping with a trip to the computer department, and demonstrated how hard it is to shift hi-tech equipment without a guarantee by valuing keyboards and VDUs at only £50 each, and disk drives at no more than £200 each.

Harrods owes the money to Sir Alford Houstoun-Boswell, the proprietor of the private Harrodian School in Barnes, south-west London.

Ever-jealous of its name, the store had taken the school to court in an attempt to stop the school using it. But the court found in favour of the school, and awarded costs against Harrods, which had failed to produce anyone who had been confused.

Harrods said that it was planning to go to the Court of Appeal.