Jaguar club split by law of the jungle

THE Jaguar Drivers' Club, one of the motoring world's most respected refuges for car fanatics, is to hire private detectives in a bid to track down the author of a series of poison pen letters.

In the latest twist in a 10-year saga of intrigue and in-fighting, the 12,000-member club has asked lawyers to act over allegations that pounds 131,000 of members' funds has been wasted.

The allegations - disputed by the club - were made in a two-page unsigned letter circulated to senior members several weeks ago in advance of the club's anual meeting on 15 October. It is the latest in a flurry of letters sent anonymously over the past five years. All previous circulars have been ignored, but the club's lawyers said that an agency was likely to be engaged to track down the author of the latest.

Unknown to most motoring enthusiasts, including the majority of its own members, the club has been a hot-bed of political in-fighting for years. Since 1984, there has been the breakaway and formation of another club, the Jaguar Enthusiasts' Club, a series of acrimonious High Court actions and libel suits, and the arrest of a former employee amid allegations of a pounds 100,000 fraud. Criminal charges never materialised, but the employee is still facing a civil action.

When set against the open hostility among senior members of the Jaguar club scene and claims by a number of people that they have been subjected to death threats by unnamed third parties, the poison pen letters appear to reinforce a pattern.

Beginning "The monkeys are running the zoo...", the latest piece of vitriol makes allegations against Graham Marr, the club's chairman for the past decade, directors and advisers.

The club was so incensed by what it considers unfounded slurs that it put the letter in the hands of its solicitor, Nicholas Drukker, with instructions to find the culprit. "We have had a number of these letters, some to members, some to outsiders, and until now no steps have been taken to find the author," said Mr Drukker.

"But this time the club thought enough was enough and measures will be taken to find out who is writing them. They are dripping in libellous remarks."

Mr Drukker is preparing to write to members - including a number of suspects - telling them of the proposed action.

The letter makes three core allegations relating to the alleged wasting of money. The first involves a five-year libel case instigated by Tony Dance, a Scotland-based member who was attacked in the club's magazine, Jaguar Driver.

He was criticised for helping another club organise an event and had his membership rescinded. The letter says he was finally paid pounds 41,000 - a figure confirmed by the club - but it says he would have settled for nothing more than an apology and the return of his membership. It criticises Mr Marr for letting the litigation drag on.

Mr Marr has declined to comment, but the club says it couldn't accept Mr Dance's offer to settle because it was coupled with the condition that he would be allowed to pursue the magazine's former editor, John Owen, separately. The club's heirarchy thought it would be unfair to let Mr Owen stand alone.

The second allegation relates to the installation of a computer system. It claims pounds 25,000 was lost because the system was unsuitable. The club said the problems were caused by a former employee, not by Mr Marr.

The third core criticism relates to the sacking of a former advertising manager who, the letter alleges, took legal action to recover pounds 40,000 in unpaid commission. The club said the manager was paid pounds 23,000.

The Jaguar Drivers' Club (JDC) was formed with Jaguar's support in 1956. A rift developed in 1984 when the Jaguar Enthusiasts' Club (JEC) was formed by disgruntled former officials of the JDC. Anna Dansey, a former board member, resigned, urging Mr Marr to stand down. She was infuriated by an editorial written by him in Jaguar Driver which was to have congratulated the rival JEC on its 10th birthday.

Things went wrong, however, when Mr Marr used the opportunity to allege that Nigel Thorley, a senior JEC member, personally owned it. Mr Thorley does not and issued a writ against the JDC. Jaguar Driver subsequently printed a retraction.

"At a meeting in April, 20 representatives supported my call for Mr Marr to resign," said Mrs Dansey. "Our message to the JEC was meant to be conciliatory but Mr Marr made it offensive. The club needs someone else at the helm."

Mrs Dansey and a number of other members are planning to ask some searching questions at the annual meeting but, according to Mr Drukker, no motions were lodged by the deadlinecalling for Mr Marr to stand down. Nevertheless, Mr Drukker said: "Mr Marr may decide, given the publicity, that someone else should be chairman from now on."

The author of the letter may yet have it their own way.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test