A builder accused of using a digger to cause up to £4 million of damage to a row of newly-built retirement homes has appeared in court.
Daniel Neagu, 30, was charged with criminal damage after five McCarthy and Stone homes worth approximately £800,000 each were wrecked in Buntingford, Hertfordshire.
Neagu, who had performed work for the firm, did not enter a plea during the hearing at Hatfield Magistrates’ Court where he appeared via videolink from police cells on Monday.
Sitting on an estate still under construction, the homes in Ermine Street had external walls torn out, leaving debris littering their gardens. A turquoise digger stood beside the devastation.
McCarthy and Stone said owners were due to move into the unoccupied bungalows within weeks.
Hertfordshire Constabulary said officers arrested a man at the scene after being called at about 5.40pm on Saturday.
The Romanian national living in Athelstone Road, Harrow, north-west London, was not employed directly by McCarthy and Stone and was instead working for subcontractor Fenton, the McCarthy and Stone spokeswoman said.
“We are now awaiting a structural engineer’s report, so we can plan the work required to repair or rebuild these properties,” she added
“We are absolutely devastated for the purchasers affected and our priority is to continue to stay in close contact with them and their families, and to ensure that any disruption is kept to a minimum.”
Neagu, who spoke in court only to give his particulars and state his desire not to enter a plea yet, was charged with one count of criminal damage to the value of £4 million on five houses belonging to McCarthy and Stone.
He was remanded in custody to enter a plea at St Albans Crown Court on September 10.
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Nearby residents said they ran out of their own homes to confront him.
Resident Elaine Francois, 61, told The Sun: “It looks like an earthquake or bomb struck.
“He was laughing and taking photos of the damage. When police got here he told them he wasn’t paid and that’s why he did it. He was totally calm.”
Another neighbour, and former bricklayer, William Griffiths, 67, said: “He said he wasn’t dangerous but hadn’t been paid.
“He got out of the digger and I thought, ‘Great, he’s stopped’. But he got back to carry on. He seemed happy.
“When police took him away in cuffs he caused no trouble.”
Neighbour Patricia King, 60, said: “He’s destroyed the lives of people who were going to move in.”