Flemings win in battle of legendary families

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The Independent Online

Together with their own case costs and £9,000 in damages, the fugitive peer's descendants now owe about £200,000. They are being forced to sell the property at the centre of the feud to settle the debt.

The case at Oxford county court was over rights to a 5ft-wide strip of land between the Flemings' Nettlebed Estate in Oxfordshire and neighbouring Kiln Cottage, bought from the Flemings in 1960 by the family of Lord Lucan, who vanished mysteriously in 1974. The cottage is reputed to be where Fleming dreamt up the idea for his first Bond novel, Casino Royale.

After yesterday's hearing, Lord Lucan's cousin Victor Bingham, 40, said he would appeal. The publishing director from Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire said: "This is like playing a game of poker at the Casino Royale.

"The Flemings are a family of bankers and they are trying to use their dynasty money to up the stakes and force us away from the table, but we are staying the distance. We are going to go to the Court of Appeal."

Until last year, Mr Bingham's aunt and co-defendant, Rosemary Mackenzie, 63, was living in Kiln Cottage. At the start of last year, as part of a £150,000 renovation to prepare the property for sale, Mr Bingham chopped down trees on the contested strip of land.

But the Flemings claimed that the trees were not his to chop and won an injunction banning both Mr Bingham and his aunt from setting foot on the muddy strip.

However, Mr Bingham continued to fell the poplars and last month Recorder Guy Hungerford ruled in the Flemings' favour, granting £9,000 in damages to fund replanting the trees.

At yesterday's costs hearing Mr Hungerford agreed that nearly all the Flemings' bill - £88,000 - should be met by Mr Bingham and his aunt. But the recorder excused the Binghams from paying £13,000 of the Flemings' fees. This was after he ruled that a district judge, Richard Matthews, had acted unlawfully by imposing the initial injunction which banned the Binghams from the strip. It is this point on which Mr Bingham said he planned to mount his appeal.