DISGUST and horror has greeted the latest shocking twist in the saga of the picturesque Fremington Quay Café after it was found wrecked by vandalism and abandoned on Monday. Police are investigating the damage inside the café, heritage centre and warden s

DISGUST and horror has greeted the latest shocking twist in the saga of the picturesque Fremington Quay Café after it was found wrecked by vandalism and abandoned on Monday.

Police are investigating the damage inside the café, heritage centre and warden's living quarters after pictures were torn down, furniture overturned, fittings ruined, obscenities scrawled on the walls and rubbish strewn everywhere.

Tenants Tony and Sue Harty - who leased the business and adjoining Curlew Cottage from Fremington Parish Council - had apparently left with their family and the premises cleared of all personal belongings.

A letter signed "Susan Harty" and addressed to "all members of Fremington Parish Council" was left along with the building's keys at the nearby home of council chairman Cllr David Jury.

Councillor John Gill, chairman of the council's quay landlord committee, which is inviting tenders for a new lease, said he was shocked at the devastation that greeted him when he arrived at the café with parish clerk Clare Dalley on Monday morning. "It looked as is there had been a students' party and they had decided to trash it," he said.

Barnstaple Sector Inspector Toby Davies said the matter was being investigated by police as a burglary because there had been reports of damage and theft from the property.

"As part of our investigation we will be looking to speak to the tenants and work closely with the parish council," he said.

Mrs Dalley said the café had apparently been open on Sunday when a note on the door said it would close for stock taking at 3pm.

"It's very disappointing and saddening to have to address this type of situation," she said.

"The council will do everything it can to restore this and bring Fremington Quay back to its former glory.

"We'll also pursue whoever is responsible because at the end of the day it's tax payers' money."

The council yesterday (Tuesday) released the contents of the letter on paper headed The Quay Café and apparently signed by Mrs Harty. Part of it tells the council:

"You have won. I have finally had enough of your corruption, bullying, lying and cheating. I have endured 10 years of harassment and torment at the hands of Fremington Parish Council and this last year has been unendurable.

"The threat of losing my home and livelihood and everything I have worked so hard for has been so stressful that last week I was contemplating suicide.

"I have taken both the legal and medical advice given to me last week and I am going to disappear. You have destroyed my home, my garden, my family, my business and everything I have made of this place through sheer determination and hard work.

"You will not take my health and life too. I am getting out before it is too late."

In response, Clare Dalley said the council had always acted as a responsible landlord.

"The allegations that have been made are unsubstantiated, no evidence has ever been provided and the parish council wholeheartedly refutes any such allegations," she said.

"The council has been for the past four years a Quality Council and has always and will continue to ensure it is clear and transparent in all its business and operates within the legislative and regulatory framework.

"The council has had no issue releasing this letter into the public domain and by doing this it demonstrates the council's wish to remain transparent at all times."

The current cafe lease, which included the position of quay warden, was due to expire in January and the council had put it out to tender, receiving a number of sealed bids.

But Mrs Dalley said none of these had been opened and it was being put out to tender again following legal advice.

Attempts by the Gazette to contact Mrs Harty proved unsuccessful at the time of going to press.