A FATHER-of-three who invested almost £130,000 in what he thought was a luxury studio apartment has spoken of his despair.

The investor, who lives outside of the UK and has asked to remain anonymous, says he was shown a brochure filled with images demonstrating how the apartments inside Windlestone Hall, near Rushyford, would look and promised a ten per cent return on his investment year on year.

But when his first scheduled payment was late and communication with Carlauren, the property owners, became increasingly vague, he became suspicious.

“I was told Windlestone Hall was a historical building in the UK and that the owners had bought it at a very good price,” he said.

“They showed me a brochure and pointed out which flats were available and which were not. They said I would need to decide quickly because some of the studios had already been purchased.

“It was a very attractive investment for me, firstly because it was in the UK but also because the returns were extraordinary.”

The Northern Echo revealed in July that Windlestone Hall was sold off as individual luxury apartments for more than £6m, despite no work being carried out on the building, which is currently derelict and covered in scaffolding.

The property is part of the Carlauren Group, founded by Sean Murray in 2015,which announced a multi-million pound makeover of Windlestone last July.

Work was due to be completed by the end of this year. However, Carlauren never applied for planning permission from Durham County Council, which sold the once grandiose country mansion to William Davenport for £241,000 in 2011.

Davenport was jailed for fraud in 2016 after pretending to be an American tycoon to secure a mortgage on Windlestone, and the hall was repossessed by Barclays bank before being purchased by Carlauren.

According to Land Registry, a total of 37 studio apartments were sold between January 2018 and March 2019 for sums totalling £6,047,710, and Carlauren has since gone into administration.

The investor said: “When the first payment was late I knew something was wrong. This is the first time I have invested in the UK and there is no way I would invest there again.

“Between this and Brexit I feel like it is not a good idea to invest money there. I am not a rich man, I have worked extremely hard to save this money and when your hard-earned money is being misused it is very sad and also very worrying.

“I had hoped that this investment would be there for my children in the future but we have been told that our investment is at significant risk. I just want my money back for my family.”

The Northern Echo attempted to contact the Carlauren Group for a comment.