Jump to content

Is the Beckhams' house haunted?


Recommended Posts

On a warm spring morning earlier this week, a burly English labourer cut an unlikely figure as he stood in front of the high, wrought-iron gates of a French country estate.

Hands in pockets and cigarette hanging from his lower lip, he shook his head as he surveyed the broken letterbox, malfunctioning intercom, crumbling walls and rusting wire fence.


Further up what was once a splendid half-mile driveway, terraced gardens lay untended, sculptured fountains were switched off and what should have been a vast swimming pool was slowly stagnating into an oversized green-brown pond.


The Italianate-style buildings were similarly neglected and empty. There was just an eerie silence, punctuated only by the occasional clatter of odd-job men carrying out basic maintenance.


Clearly, Domaine Saint-Vincent, once one of the most impressive estates in the Var-Provence region of the South of France, is now a pale shadow of its former glory.


For anyone with some knowledge of the area's proud history this would be sad enough, but considering the current owners of the 19th-century manor are David and Victoria Beckham - together worth an estimated £78 million - the neglect appears unpardonable.


It is exactly three years since the couple paid £1.5 million for the property after "falling in love" with it on a flying visit in 2003.


Yet since then, they have not spent a single night there. On their visits to the South of France they stay at the home of Elton John in the hills behind Nice.


What is it about the Domaine Saint-Vincent that has made the Beckhams stay away? Could it be that the couple - as locals believe - are simply frightened to stay there?


Violent death


For what David and Victoria did not know when they bought the property was the extraordinary story of the violent death of its previous owner, and that his ghost is said to haunt the house.


Leslie Duck, a former European Union diplomat, and his Swiss wife Catherine De Tscharmer bought Domaine Saint-Vincent in 1986.


The retired couple, then in their 60s, divided their time between the South of France and their main home in Geneva. Estate agent Jean-Louis Lagadou, who is based in the nearby village of Bargemon, sold them the property and 250 acres of forest and meadow.


He said: "They maintained it beautifully. I sorted out a geological survey for them which revealed there were five separate mineral water sources on the estate, which they used to create beautiful pools and fountains.


"They had friends and family visiting them all the time. Their style was very upmarket. You'd always hear classical music and interesting conversations going on, just as you would have done at Saint-Vincent throughout the centuries.


"Leslie was an Ernest Hemingway-type character who had travelled all over the world. Like Hemingway, he had a big, bushy white beard and used to sit in the cafes of Bargemon sipping Pastis.


"He told extraordinary stories, often about Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, the French admiral at the Battle of Trafalgar, who also came from this area. Leslie said he felt close to him as a historical character."


Vice-Admiral Villeneuve's family home is less than an hour's drive from Bargemon, at Tourette-sur-Loup. Humiliated at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 by Nelson's smaller British fleet, Villeneuve was shipped to Britain as a prisoner-of-war but later returned to France.


Took his own life


It was in the Hotel de Patrie at Rennes in April 1806 that Villeneuve took his own life with his naval dagger.


Duck was particularly impressed with the sense of honour which prompted Villeneuve to kill himself after the shame of his defeat. But there was nothing to suggest anything similar would darken his own life - after all, as the couple's lawyer Godfrey Sparks said of Leslie and Catherine: "They were comfortable and happy at Domaine Saint-Vincent."


But then Duck - who was a keen swimmer and walker, and used to go hunting in the nearby fields - fell victim to a muscle-wasting illness.


A neighbour said: "He believed in the Greek ideal of a healthy body leading to a healthy mind. Accordingly, any kind of physical illness affected him enormously. It was all too much.


'Catherine told us that his body was deteriorating and we all assumed he had multiple sclerosis. He was in a very bad way at the end and couldn't take much more."


Local estate agent M. Lagadou added: "Leslie's mind was as alert as ever, but his body was not what it was. He became very frustrated and upset that he could no longer do the things he once had."


One day in 2001 - perhaps inspired by his hero, Villeneuve - Duck retired to his book-lined study with his shotgun and killed himself.


A close family friend said: "Like Villeneuve, Leslie saw suicide as an honourable end to it all. He was suffering from a crippling disease and didn't want to become a burden on anybody, least of all his wife, and just thought it was the right thing to do."


As Domaine Saint-Vincent was a place where Leslie had once been truly happy, Catherine interred his ashes in a wall of the estate's private chapel. Over the ensuing months, she found the mansion increasingly lonely and was seen there less and less.


Then rumours began to circulate in the village of an apparition.


A local said: "It was just a few months after Leslie's death that the reports of his ghost wandering around started. He would never harm anybody - he just mumbles a bit, going on about naval battles and other historical events which he was passionate about.


"A couple of French estate workers have seen the white-bearded apparition. Leslie was unmistakable, so it would certainly have been him.


"As well as a diplomat, Leslie was a keen historian and he was always trying to find a link between Villeneuve and Bargemon. He is sure Villeneuve used to spend time here in between wars. It was perhaps Leslie's great unfinished work, which is the reason he's such an unsettled spirit."


However, the rumours clearly didn't reach the Beckhams. By 2003 the property was on the market, and the pair made a flying visit and paid the full asking price.


Certainly, at first glance, Domaine Saint-Vincent appeared to be the ideal holiday home for the Beckhams (David was then still playing for Manchester United before his move to Real Madrid).


Made up of two separate 2,500sq ft buildings separated by a 30ft pool, the main residence is a manor house with four bedrooms, a loft conversion, a living room and dining room (both with open fires) and a fully fitted kitchen, all "packed with original features".


The second building is a four-bedroom barn conversion.


Dense woodland surrounding the house is populated only by roe deer and wild boar, ensuring that prying eyes can be kept well away. The land also borders the Canjuers military base, which has a training ground where live ammunition is used, making it even more unattractive to potential intruders.


Despite being just 20 miles inland from the Cote d'Azur resort of St Raphael, the countryside around Domaine Saint-Vincent is a world away from the Ferrari and Porschepacked coastline beloved of supermodels and racing drivers. The tree-lined hills of Var-Provence are better known for their poets, writers and retired diplomats.


A medieval fortress town, Bargemon (population 1,228) has just a handful of traditional French restaurants. There are certainly no casinos or nightclubs and only one clothes shop, Petit Provence, which does not stock a single designer line, specialising instead in T-shirts and staid lace tops.


M. Lagadou said: "Victoria fell in love with the property the moment she saw it. She insisted they sign the paperwork straight away. Sadly, none of us have seen her or David since. We've been waiting for a party at Chateau Beckham from day one."


A source close to the couple admitted that they found out about the haunting only after they had completed the purchase. "Victoria's seriously spooked and can't bear the place now," said the source. "She likes things to be neat and in their place. She loves buying property as much as Dior handbags, but ghosts don't fit into her view of the world."


Since hearing about the ghost story, David and Victoria have spent all their Riviera holidays at Castel Mont-Alban, Elton John's £5 million "Pink Villa" near Nice.


Apart from the disappointment of the villagers of Bargemon that their famous neighbours have never stayed in their own house, there is also growing anger at the suggestion that Victoria is bringing in a team of British workers to renovate Domaine Saint-Vincent before sellingit.


M. Lagadou said: "This kind of work should be going to local tradesmen who have been working on these kinds of houses all their lives. We are all very worried about what she's doing to that lovely estate."


Asked about future plans for Domaine Saint-Vincent, the labourer seen wandering around its grounds this week would only say: "There's a lot of work to be done, but everything is in hand. I'm sure people will be happy enough when they see how it all turns out."


But Leslie Duck's lawyer Mr Sparks believes the Beckhams' retreat may need spiritual as well as physical renovation. 2Maybe they need to bring in an exorcist," he says.


Daily Mail

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On a warm spring morning earlier this week' date=' a burly English labourer cut an unlikely figure as he stood in front of the high, wrought-iron gates of a French country estate. Hands in pockets and cigarette hanging from his lower lip, he shook his head as he surveyed the broken letterbox, malfunctioning intercom, crumbling walls and rusting wire fence. [/quote']


What was Gary Neville doing missing training?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...