This is the couple who were left ‘devastated’ after their sprawling £1.2million home was left looking like a ‘war zone’ when a group of children tore through the Grade II property wielding chainsaws, hammers and axes.
Joanna and Matt Pittard’s six-bedroom house on the Isle of Wight was left in tatters after the group of ‘evil’ children, between the ages of 11 and 15, smashed its windows, flipped over antique furniture and covered the house in paint.
Mrs Pittard’s beloved wedding dress was even destroyed in the chaotic raid which left ‘hardly anything untouched’, as a court heard as the seven ‘mindless’ youngsters were each slapped with a £1,500 fine.
The vandalism has caused the property value to decrease by up to £300,000, the court was told, despite the family splashing out tens of thousands on repairs.
Recalling the horrific incident, neighbours told MailOnline today that the group of smug children walked away smirking just moments after police were called on them.
Joanna and Matt Pittard’s six-bedroom house on the Isle of Wight was left in tatters after the group of ‘evil’ children, between the ages of 11 and 15, broke in and vandalised it
The six-bedroom home in a town on the Isle of Wight, was targeted by the ‘mindless’ youths who smashed antiques, ornate stained-glass windows and chopped down a palm tree
The couple said their £1.2 million home on the Isle of Wight was left looking ‘like a war zone’ following the children’s spree
One neighbour – who wishes to remain anonymous – said: ‘We’re the ones that actually notified the police but we heard nothing from them.
‘We were in the garden and we heard breaking glass so being a very close neighbourhood, my husband went across with another neighbour and he could see things being thrown through closed windows.
‘He shouted up ‘We have called the police whoever you are’ and I phoned the police and described everything that happened.
‘My husband saw the young people leave and he said they had a smug look on their faces.’
The neighbour’s husband added: ‘The one thing that did surprise me was that when I went round there and shouted to them they walked out and walked right past me and just smiled as if to say ‘What are you going to do about it?’
The Pittards currently live on a two-acre £1.5m farmhouse on the outskirts of Newbury, Berkshire close to a small business park they own and run but had planned to move to their island property with their two daughters.
Their dream was shattered, however, when they found out the home had been ‘absolutely trashed’ by the ‘disgraceful gang’, which included two girls.
A relative of the Pittards told MailOnline: ‘They are absolutely devastated at what’s happened to their beautiful home.’
The vandalism has caused the property value to decrease by up to £300,000, the court was told, despite the family splashing out tens of thousands on repairs
Speaking of the havoc which took place in the second home between May and June last year, one neighbour said she had noticed ‘stuff being thrown through the window’ so alerted the police.
She said she was ‘surprised’ that the group of youngsters – who they said were known to the police – were local and said they walked away with a ‘smug look on their faces’ as if to say ‘what are you going to do about it?’.
The couple who called the police said they were surprised the young vandals were local, and thought they’d come over from the ‘mainland’ instead.
‘When we did describe them to the policeman on the phone, he said ‘I know who you are talking about’,’ she said.
‘I was surprised they were so local – I thought it could be people coming from the mainland.’
The neighbour said that after being alerted, the Pittards came back and then went out again before police turned up. However, in their absence the gang returned to the property and were arrested.
The neighbour revealed: ‘The police had come to speak to the owners who had popped out to get supplies. [The kids] went back that day and the police caught them.’
Another neighbour – who also wishes to remain anonymous – said his mother bumped into the shocked couple after they returned to their house.
He said: ‘My mum was outside and she was saying they were in shock and telling my mum what happened. They were just in shock about the whole thing – as you would be.’
Mrs Pittard’s beloved wedding dress was even destroyed in the chaotic raid which left ‘hardly anything untouched’
He added: ‘It’s terrible for them. All I have heard is that it was some kids as young as 11. It’s a bit outrageous – they have made £200,000 worth of damage and they’ve only been fined £1,500.’
Last week, the seven perpetrators – who are now all aged between 13 and 16 and cannot be named for legal reasons – admitted criminal damage to property at Isle of Wight Magistrates’ Court.
The youngsters, who are now all aged between 13 and 16 and cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted criminal damage to property at court where they were each fined £1,500.
Another neighbour was woken up by the noises of the vandals one evening however said she was initially unsure what was causing the sound.
She said: ‘The night that it happened we heard these bangs and we thought it was a gun but apparently it was them jumping on the wardrobes.
‘We heard a bang but we didn’t take much notice. That’s all we heard because it’s so isolated.’
The couple were then away from the house for around a month, the court heard.
According to neighbours, the home is not often in use and is a second home mostly used during the summer holidays by Mr and Mrs Pittard and their two daughters.
Another neighbour said: ‘All I know is that the people that lived there didn’t live there much at all.
‘It was always in disrepair – derelict. I just think, look at the state of it and nobody seemed to come in and sort it. Since it all got trashed, we have heard a lot of repairs going in.’
Prosecutor Ann Smout told the court this week that the offences took place at at the ‘substantial’ building in a town on the Isle Of Wight.
‘Joanna and Matt Pittard were in that address over Easter in April 2022,’ she said. ‘They had a week there and left the property clean and tidy and in very, very good order.’
But on June 3, the gardener alerted them there ‘may be some damage’ to the property and they returned the next day to ‘banging noises’, as it became clear ‘something was going on’ and youths were leaving the address.
The court heard the youngsters were eventually identified but it had ‘taken some time’ to investigate.
Recounting the extent of the damage, Ms Smout told the court Mrs Pittard had been ‘scared’ by noises she heard when she got to the address.
An ornate stained glass window was ‘fully smashed’, along with 22 other windows, a double glazed conservatory door and numerous other handmade hardwood doors – some of which were over 100 years old.
During the weeks of the chaos the children, between the ages of 11 and 15, damaged a wrought-iron chandelier, flipped over antique furniture and even destroyed the homeowner’s beloved wedding dress
Ms Smout said the garage had been broken into and chainsaws, axes and sledgehammers could be found in ‘every bedroom of the property’.
Inside the house there was ‘significant damage’, which included a grandfather clock being pushed over and ‘completely smashed’ as well as a 5ft-wide wrought-iron chandelier.
In a statement read to the court, Mrs Pittard said: ‘The whole of the property had been damaged. It is mindless and looks like a whirlwind has been through the property.’
The court heard ‘every item of furniture’ had been smashed or damaged in some way and oil and tomato ketchup ‘squirted everywhere’, as well as paint, creosote and bleach.
Paintings hung on the wall had also been broken up and left on the floor, while messages were carved into mahogany window sills and the bannister had been destroyed.
Bathroom taps were pulled off and water was gushing everywhere – meaning Mr Pittard had to turn off the water supply as soon as they arrived to try and limit the damage.
The couple found glass scattered ‘everywhere’, graffiti scrawled on walls and ‘hardly anything untouched’.
‘Violated’ Mrs Pittard was horrified to find her wedding dress ‘destroyed’ after being covered in oil, nail vanish and footprints.
Ms Smout told the court the work required was ‘complex’ given the property’s listed status and the need for ‘specialist work’.
A court heard chainsaws, axes and sledgehammers were pinched from the garage and used in ‘every bedroom of the property’
The couple have now had to splurge £35,000 on repairs but said it is still ‘absolutely nowhere near finished’.
The court heard carpets needed replacing, as well as a ‘vast amount of electrical work’ and water damage that was ‘much worse than first thought’.
An estate agent said damage to the property had ‘seriously reduced’ its market value by between £250,000 to £300,000.
The couple had hoped to restore antique pieces of furniture and other old items, but an expert said they were ‘so badly damaged’ many were ‘beyond the point of repair or restoration’.
In her statement, Mrs Pittard said the damage was ‘heartbreaking’ and recounted the ‘horrendous’ experience of filling skips with their own belongings.
‘They maliciously chopped down our palm tree and tried to chop down our cherry tree – it looks like a war zone,’ she said. ‘From being a beautiful, historic building, it is a derelict shell of itself.’
After finding a tractor-mower had tried to be set alight, she added: ‘We are horrified at the evil vandalism and attempts at arson at our property.
‘It will take a long time time to recover financially and emotionally from this event.’
In a more recent statement, Mrs Pittard said the now boarded-up house was still ‘in chaos’ and felt she would ‘never fully recover from the experience’.
In interviews with police, the youngsters admitted to various degrees of involvement in their ‘impulsive’ damage, with one revealing they had created a ‘slip and slide’ in the bathroom.
Ms Smout told the court the offence would be treated as ‘joint enterprise’, meaning they are all equally responsible for the ‘vast damage’ that was done to the property.
‘This is one of the most serious cases of this kind I have dealt with,’ Ms Smout added. ‘The full financial cost in damage will never truly be known.
‘The property was effectively absolutely trashed. This was mindless destruction which has rendered the property practically uninhabitable.’
In mitigation, the court heard the teenagers had expressed their ‘regret and remorse’ for what happened and had all had ‘improvements’ in their behaviour and attitude since.
Magistrates chairman Keith Jones said he was ‘lost for words’ at their ‘disgraceful’ behaviour which had an ‘horrendous’ effect on the family.
Addressing six of the teens, after one’s case was adjourned for a later date, he said: ‘Your behaviour has been appalling and an absolute disgrace to all of you.
‘We will never know who did what or exactly what happened – you are charged as joint enterprise so you are equally responsible. It is a poor reflection on the six of you.’
The teenagers were handed a 12 month referral order and ordered to pay £1,500 compensation for the ‘very personal impact on the family involved’.
‘This is imposed on your parents, but you owe that figure to your parents,’ he added. ‘We certainly don’t want to see any of you back here again.’
Other people living nearby have now questioned whether the couple will be selling the £1.2 million house.
They said: ‘They have done a lot of work and they have had a lot of security. I don’t know if they are going to sell the house.’
Neighbours said the property is featured in the Ghosts of the Isle of Wight book and the property is a stopping point for ghost walks in the area.
One neighbour said: ‘They had a window blocked off.
‘I have heard stories of builders who were in there that were so scared by the atmosphere that they refused to work there.’
Another neighbour said: ‘There’s a ghost of some woman that’s suggested to be up there. It was an old rectory.’
The house was trashed in the summer of last year and an estate agent said damage to the property had ‘seriously reduced’ its market value by between £250,000 to £300,000.