Hackney's 'mole' man dies leaving £408,000 council bill

Image caption,
Mr Lyttle was evicted from his home in 2006 "for his own safety"

A 79-year-old who tunnelled under his east London home has died leaving a £408,000 bill for the council.

William Lyttle, nicknamed "mole man", failed to pay Hackney Council £293,000 for repairs to the house in Mortimer Road, despite a court order.

The council then spent £115,000 on maintenance and putting him up in a hotel for three years. He died in early June in a flat where he was rehoused.

Hackney Council said it was trying to recover taxpayers' money.

A spokesman for the council said: "We are sorry to hear of Mr Lyttle's death.

"The council will continue the legal process to recover taxpayer's money spent in relation to this matter."

Tons of debris

Mr Lyttle was evicted from his 20-room detached house in 2006 for his own safety after the council discovered the labyrinth of tunnels he had dug over a 40-year period.

In 2008 the High Court ordered him to pay the £293,000 repair bill and banned him from going near the property.

Image caption,
The 20-room house could be worth £1m after renovation

Following his eviction the council put up scaffolding and filled the cavity with foam concrete to prevent the house from collapsing. Further maintenance has cost the council £70,000 since 2008.

Following his eviction the pensioner was put up in a hotel for three years while the council found accommodation for him. The hotel stay cost the council £45,000.

After being rehoused in a flat in St Lawrence Court in de Beauvoir Estate in June 2009, Mr Lyttle continued his activities and it is believed he left a hole in a wall within the flat.

Police found his body in the flat on 7 June.

The council estimates the Mortimer Road property, which the pensioner inherited from his parents, could be worth up to £1m after renovation.

Once the court grants the council an order to sell the house the unpaid £293,000 could be recovered and the rest will go to any next of kin.

The council is also seeking legal options to recover the additional £115,000.

At least 33 tons of debris, including three cars and a boat, were removed from the property and garden areas.

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