£8.5million Chelsea mansion that collapsed is owned by family of Hollywood film mogul


The £8.5million Chelsea mansion which collapsed during construction work to build a mega-basement is owned by the family of a Hollywood film mogul. 

Neighbours reported hearing a thunderous thud late last night at the mid-terraced house in exclusive Chelsea, west London. 

At least 40 people were evacuated from surrounding buildings by firefighters. The collapsed home in Durham Place belonged to the family of film executive Arthur Abeles – who founded United International Pictures in the late 1960s.

His wife Audrey, a former model, died earlier this year.   

Emergency services frantically worked into the early hours of Tuesday morning to secure the building and adjoining ones. The area is home to a number of celebrities, including Mick Jagger and Roman Abramovich and boasts some of the capital’s highest property prices.

Mr and Mrs Abeles began an affair while Mrs Abeles was still married to her previous husband, causing something of a scandal in early 1950s London.

The mid-terraced houses were completely razed to the ground in the middle of the night in upmarket Chelsea 

Met Police said they received reports the buildings had collapsed last night and crews have been working to secure the scene

Met Police said they received reports the buildings had collapsed last night and crews have been working to secure the scene

The scene in Durham Place in Chelsea, west London, after two mid-terrace houses collapsed

The scene in Durham Place in Chelsea, west London, after two mid-terrace houses collapsed

The collapsed home in Durham Place belonged to the family of film executive Arthur Abeles (pictured with his wife Audrey) - who founded United International Pictures in the late 1960s

The collapsed home in Durham Place belonged to the family of film executive Arthur Abeles (pictured with his wife Audrey) – who founded United International Pictures in the late 1960s

Mr Abeles, who went on to jointly found Film Marketeers, which helped develop Britain’s first multiplex theatre, the Point in Milton Keynes, died in May 2000.

The ruined house – which was owned by Mrs Abeles before her death, along with her children, Angela Ashcroft and Hong-Kong based businessman Michael Hanson-Lawson – was being refurbished on behalf of British Virgin Islands-based firm Seabrook Properties.

When contacted by MailOnline, Ms Ashcroft refused to comment.

Richard Anooshian, of the South Kensington Residents Association and Onslow Square Residents Association, said he heard the building collapse.

He said: ‘There was thunder this morning and then we heard a massive thud.

‘People are getting approval all the time from the council and whenever you hear there’s a basement being built you have to ask, is this a smart thing to do? Can they handle it? You hear stories of them collapsing and it just makes us sad.’

Reports suggest the £6 million properties were being converted into one home and construction work was ongoing

Reports suggest the £6 million properties were being converted into one home and construction work was ongoing

Plans showed the owners wanted to extend the basement three metres further and add a new upper terrace, shown in black

Plans showed the owners wanted to extend the basement three metres further and add a new upper terrace, shown in black

New steps from the new basement to the garden and then to the upper terrace were also shown in the new design drawings

New steps from the new basement to the garden and then to the upper terrace were also shown in the new design drawings

First and second floor plans said brickwork was to be repointed and replaced where necessary and new window sashes in

First and second floor plans said brickwork was to be repointed and replaced where necessary and new window sashes in

Another neighbour told how he was woken in the early hours of the morning by what he thought was a loud thunderclap.

He said: ‘There was just a huge thud. I thought it was thunder but there was only the one loud thud. It wasn’t until the morning on my way to work that I saw the building had collapsed. There were lots of police and the road was sealed off.

‘Workmen have been there for weeks excavating a basement. I don’t think anyone was in the property at the time, but it is going to be very expensive to fix.

‘The roof has just collapsed inwards and taken down the whole of the inside.’

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said building work was taking place after planning permission was granted for a three-metre extension to the lower ground basement of the house, along with a new upper terrace.

The devastation of the multi-million-pound property minutes after it collapsed into the ground early this morning

The devastation of the multi-million-pound property minutes after it collapsed into the ground early this morning

Emergency crews lit up the property after it fell into itself in the early hours of today with rubble and wreckage strewn aside

Emergency crews lit up the property after it fell into itself in the early hours of today with rubble and wreckage strewn aside

It said the permission did not include any work to extend the basement downwards.

A spokesperson for Kensington and Chelsea Council said: ‘Council staff and emergency services attended a partial building collapse in Chelsea last night. Our team worked through the night, opening an emergency rest centre for those affected and assessing the safety of surrounding buildings.

‘Thankfully no-one was hurt, and residents were able to return safely to their homes at 3am. The reason for the collapse is being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive.’

The fire brigade confirmed the two mid-terraced houses of four floors were under construction when they collapsed to the ground but said that nobody was injured. 

The neighbourhood has been home to super-rich businessman and celebrities as Roman Abramovich, Amanda Eliyash and Mick Jagger.

Pictures of the devastation show the huge mid-terraced house reduced to rubble behind a cordon set up by police. 

Another neighbour said they heard a ‘huge crash’ and ran out of their flat to see the building next door had collapsed.

She said:  ‘We were still up and just heard a huge crash . We ran outside and the building next door had disappeared.

‘We knew it was empty but called the police. Lots of police and ambulances turned up, but no one was injured.

‘A few hours later and there would have been 10-15 builders inside.’ 

A planning application, approved last year, had been granted for works to the lower ground floor and terrace above.

The back of the property showed the terrible damage done to the building caused by the collapse earlier this morning

The back of the property showed the terrible damage done to the building caused by the collapse earlier this morning

Two mid-terraced homes in Durham Place, Chelsea, have been completely destroyed after they collapsed late last night

Two mid-terraced homes in Durham Place, Chelsea, have been completely destroyed after they collapsed late last night

It also mentioned a rear extension to lower ground floor with terrace on upper level.

The application added: ‘All box sash windows to be replaced with painted timber, with double glazed sashes. ‘Timber glazed bi-fold doors to upper ground floor level. Reinstatement of pitched roof and 8 no. conservation rooflights. Brickwork replaced.’

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea had warned at the time ‘Advice should urgently be sought if a problem occurs during approved works’. 

One man, who was evacuated last night but had come back today to look at the damage, said: ‘I was in the house next door and at about 11:30pm last night we heard it coming down.

‘At first we heard what I assume to be the scaffolding and the rest of the building.

‘We ran outside and I was left standing outside in my pyjamas with just my phone.

‘We had to get out and weren’t allowed back in. We don’t know when we can come back in. I think it’s going to be a while until we can. It was derelict and under renovation.’

Homes in Durham Place, a short distance from the Royal Chelsea Hospital, sell for over £10m. Many of the four-storey homes overlooking a private green are converted into flats.

The fire brigade have confirmed the two mid-terraced houses of four floors were under construction when they collapsed to the ground.

The Brigade’s Urban Search and Rescue crews worked to make the scene safe until 2am and there are no reported injuries at this stage. 

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