THE man found dead in a storage unit behind a Reigate shop yesterday has been named locally as the former shop owner.
The body of 50-year-old David Marks was found in a storage room behind the Bell Street furniture shop where his lease was terminated last year.
When two of his former tenants took on Upstairs Downstairs, later renaming it The Magpie House, Mr Marks became locked in a bitter dispute with them, complaining they and the landlord had forced him out unjustly, something they vehemently deny.
He launched a series of protests before and after he was evicted, including standing outside the shop wearing a judge’s wig and approaching passers-by, and repainting the shop’s sign one night.
Mr Marks, recently of Kings Avenue, Redhill admitted he had broken the terms of his lease, including living on the site illegally and without any sewerage, and sub-letting the premises to others. But he argued there was a moral case to allow him to stay.
He lost a civil action against the new leaseholders Keith Hall and Tony Payne last year. In November, he was convicted of threatening to “put a hammer through" Mr Hall's head and sentenced to a 12-month community order.
Police and the fire service were called to the shop at 2.20pm yesterday (Tuesday). An hour later, upon the discovery of a body, two ambulances were also scrambled, but he was declared dead at the scene.
Police don’t believe there was any third party involved in his death, but are still treating it as “unexplained”.
A member of staff at the shop said fake business cards bearing Mr Hall’s and Mr Payne’s names above defamatory statements about the two men had been distributed to businesses across the town centre on Monday night.
When the owner of the neighbouring barbers arrived for work yesterday, they could detect a strong smell of petrol.
Staff at The Magpie House later found piles of old bedding and five large cider bottles in the yard to the back of the shop.
“We just thought someone had dumped them there at first,” a staff member told the Mirror.
“Then we went out there again and we could smell petrol. It turned out those five bottles were filled with petrol. We called 999. The police and fire service were there in a shot.
“A firefighter noticed a window pane was broken on a storage unit.
“He went up a ladder and found a body slumped in the corner surrounded with bottles of pills.”
“From the description we gave the fireman, it sounded like David.”
No formal identification has yet taken place.
A post mortem is due to be scheduled.