BRITISH MILLIONAIRE, Freddie Packham, a man who once owned Tin Pan Alley, a famous recording studio, and worked with the Bee Gees and Black Sabbath, among others, is now fighting to save his luxury villa in Livramento, Tavira, from being “made worthless for the second time in two years” – a situation he blames on Tavira Câmara.
His story sounds more like a far-fetched film script than the tale of an expatriate seeking an uncomplicated life in the Algarve. Freddie tells The Resident: “Over the last two years, I’ve found myself in court, falsely accused of trying to run down a man with my jeep, forbidden to leave my home for more than five days at a time and had my family torn apart due to fear of living at our Tavira home.” The drama doesn’t appear to be over yet though…The Resident reporter Caroline Cunha investigates.
Two years ago, after numerous complaints to the police and Tavira Câmara, Freddie Packham engaged a lawyer to contact the Ministry for the Economy and Ministry for Towns, Planning and the Environment to investigate a bottled gas depot in the residential village of Livramento, licensed by Tavira Câmara. Six months later, the gas depot was closed down. However, the process was not as simple as it sounds…
According to the Packhams, who have lived in the Algarve for 18 years, thousands of bottles of gas were being unloaded and loaded onto unsafe looking vehicles in the middle of a narrow road running outside their villa. Traffic jams were apparently being caused and the Packhams feared an accident.
Bottles were piled up in an unprotected yard across from their home in a residential area. “There were three options,”explains Freddie. “We were either going to be poisoned, burned or blown up, and everyone in the village was worried.” The Packhams doubted it could be legal for gas distribution and storage to be carried out under such conditions.
Too scared to complain
Freddie claims his neighbours were “too scared to complain” about the “mountain of gas” at the makeshift depot, which suddenly appeared in June 2003, because he says they feared its owner, a man also living in the village.
After calling the GNR on July 14, 2003, to come and see a delivery of gas, Freddie, who was at the scene with his 14-year-old daughter who speaks fluent Portuguese (The Resident was asked not to print her name), witnessed the depot’s owner being asked to produce his licence. He did not present one, was cautioned and the GNR apparently asked the Packhams to report any further deliveries.
Then, on July 16, 2003, the gas deliverymen reappeared. Freddie asked his daughter to telephone the GNR and then took a decision he would perhaps later regret. Together with his daughter, he drove down the road to confront the deliverymen and warn them that police were coming.
Freddie told The Resident there was a large group of workers including the depot’s owner. Disgruntled at the interference, the men apparently became abusive and the boss said he’d report Freddie Packham to the police. Freddie said he then drove home because he didn’t want his daughter exposed to the “verbal insults”.
Asked why he decided to take it upon himself to speak to the men, Freddie told The Resident that he “wanted to see the deliveries stopped and the men arrested by the police”.
The GNR arrived and called at the Packham’s home. A policeman apparently gave Freddie a copy of a licence, valid from July 16 2003, authorising the storage and delivery of the gas bottles. The policeman informed Freddie’s daughter, in Portuguese, that her father was in trouble — an offence connected to his jeep.
Freddie Packham has supplied The Resident with a copy of the licence that was issued to the company running the gas depot. At the top of the licence is a fax header showing that a post-dated licence of July 16 seems to have been faxed on July 15 2003 from Tavira Câmara (Vereador do Urbanismo e Obras Municipais) directly to the Commandant of the Tavira GNR.
A ‘fast track’ licence?
Freddie finds it extremely disturbing how the licence could have been issued in just one day (one day following the GNR cautioning the depot owner) because he feels that such processes at the câmara normally take more time. He also questions if it is a routine occurrence for a licence to be faxed directly from the câmara to the GNR.
Soon afterwards, Freddie Packham received papers in the post asking him to report to the police station. He was being accused of “attempted qualified physical aggression”. The gas depot owner claimed “Freddie attempted to run him down with his jeep” and had presented four sworn witnesses.
Freddie waited 18 months for the case to come to court and was forbidden to leave the area for longer than five days at a time without advising the courts. The Packhams explained to The Resident that the pending trial caused them an enormous amount of stress and anguish. If found guilty, Freddie Packham would be required to serve a three year prison sentence. The Packhams also say that such was their daughter’s fear of the man who was accusing her father, that she refused to continue living at the family’s home, opting to board with one of her school teachers near the international school she attended.
The couple also explain that due to being a witness in the case, the worry affected their daughter’s schoolwork. However, despite this setback, she achieved top marks in her GCSEs and is apparently now on course to study at a top university. The Resident asked the couple if they regretted involving their daughter in the dispute. “I just don’t understand how such an innocent thing got so big,” said Linda, Freddie’s wife. Freddie maintains that his daughter “enjoyed helping writing the letters and making the phone calls”.
Case thrown out
As it turned out, the criminal case against Freddie Packham was thrown out by the court in February this year, with the judge ruling that “the version presented by the accuser and the testimonies of the witnesses, present many contradictions”. The accuser was given a month to appeal, however, no appeal was presented.
Claim for damages
Freddie issued a counterclaim for perverting the course of justice along with a huge claim for damages, which is now progressing through the courts.
The gas depot remained in operation for six months until December 2003, when Tavira Council ordered the cessation of activity and clearance of the land. This closure apparently came about because the Packham’s lawyer contacted the relevant government ministries pointing out that the gas depot did not comply with the safety regulations liquefied oil gas bottles (GLP) laid down by the portaria no. 451/2001 of May 5.
After several attempts to get a response to questions sent to Tavira Câmara, The Resident received a reply from Fernando Viegas, head of the public relations office, a couple of hours before this edition was due to go to press.
“In 2003, authorisation was given for a maximum of 60 days for deliveries to be made on the land. In 2004, the gas company owner asked for permission for a depot to be installed. The Câmara Municipal stated that this license was dependent on papers being requested from the Comissão de Reserva Agrícola do Algarve for the impermeability of the land. Nothing has been received to date.”
Life was getting back to normal but, in September this year, the Packham family were dismayed to see 1,000 tons of building sand dumped on farmland at the bottom of their garden. The Packham’s villa is up for sale and they want to move into Tavira centre in the New Year. Now, however, Freddie tells The Resident that “the sand could affect a potential buyer’s decision”.
Despite several complaints in writing and visits to Tavira Câmara, as well as “broken promises”, to date the sand is still there. Freddie has “run out of patience” with his local câmara – hence his decision to contact the press. “I got rid of the BP gas and now I have to get rid of a ‘new beach’ on my doorstep – and I am having to do it on my own. While the villagers are totally supportive of me, they are petrified of the local bureaucracy. The Mayor’s mere presence, even within his own offices, evokes terror,” says Freddie.
When asked to comment on the sand situation, Tavira Câmara say: “In 2005 a request for authorisation to deposit sand on this land was received and the câmara notified that this matter depends on the Comissão Regional de Reserva Agrícola do Algarve.”
Freddie is a man possessed, there is no other word to describe his current state. The issues relating to his life in Livramento over the past two years have consumed him, and continue to consume him. His wife, Linda, admits that her husband “thinks about little else” and the pending court case and sand issue are “on his mind 24 hours a day”.
Will this man ever be happy? Perhaps not in the immediate future, but Freddie Packham is prepared to wait.
He once won a Grammy award, but his only joy for now seems to be collecting cars (a 1955 Citröen 11B is parked in his driveway). What does appear clear though is that there are obviously no barriers in terms of financial resources, time and volition preventing Freddie Packham achieving what he considers to be peace in the sun.
• The name of the gas depot owner and his company have been omitted from this article due to the ongoing litigation proceedings.