What's a man's life worth? More than £1m, it seemed, when bidding began for all of Ian Usher's worldly goods, plus his friends and job. But when the gavel went down in cyberspace yesterday, ending one of the world's most unusual auctions, the English expatriate's life was snapped up for a more modest £192,000.
Heartbroken after his wife, Laura, left him for another man, Mr Usher came up with the idea of making a clean break and auctioning his entire life on eBay.
Everything in his airy three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in Perth reminded him of Laura, he declared. So he would sell it all, and walk out with only his wallet and passport, and the clothes on his back. As of yesterday, the open-plan house in a leafy suburb – along with Mr Usher's Mazda car, Kawasaki motorbike, jetski and parachuting gear – belongs to a mystery bidder. The buyer, who uses the name "mslmcc" on the online auction site, lives in Australia and is bona fide, unlike some hoaxsters who made bogus bids of up to $2.2m (£1.06m) last week.
Mr Usher, 44, originally from Darlington, Co Durham, was not too disappointed with the outcome of the week-long auction, notwithstanding the false bids – the result of a fault on eBay's system, which briefly allowed non-registered buyers to participate.
"Little alarm bells went off at the back of my mind, telling me not to get too excited," he explained, adding that the final price was "pretty good". He said: "I thought it might have gone a bit higher at the end. But I've no regrets. What's done is done, and I'm looking forward to sorting this all out."
In truth, Mr Usher had hoped to sell his life for around half a million pounds. He and Laura, who met in the UK, emigrated together after falling in love with Australia during two trips down under. They got married in 2000, sold up and moved to Perth in late 2001. She was "the best girl in the world ... I loved her with all my heart and she loved me too," he recounted on a website he set up to promote the sale.
Then the marriage fell apart. Mr Usher has not disclosed exactly what happened, but it culminated in Laura walking out two years ago. The lovelorn former carpet salesman decided he could not continue living in the home they had set up together. He wanted a new life.
Along with the house, which is equipped with an indoor spa and home entertainment system, he sold his furniture, clothes, DVDs, and all the accessories of a sun-drenched Australian lifestyle, right down to the barbecue. Also included was a trial run for his job as sales assistant in a rug shop, and an introduction to his friends. Mr Usher was waiting to speak to the buyer last night beforerevealing his identity.
He plans to use some of the proceeds of the sale to travel overseas, before returning to Australia to live. "I've got some ideas," he said. "Once it's finished and confirmed, I'd like to do some travelling. I'd like to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower – it's one of a huge list of things I want to achieve."
Mr Usher said: "It's been a pretty crazy week, but quite entertaining." Last night television crews from the Australian networks were camped outside his house in the suburb of Wellard. The buyer of Mr Usher's life can expect the same treatment, once his identity emerges.