And neighbours in Hollywood Estate on Cork’s northside have turned on Richie Hewitt and his partner Laura Burke, branding their claims “a scam”.
The stand-off has resulted in a three-bedroom Cork City Council house lying vacant for almost six months at a time when there are 8,000 people on the city’s housing waiting list.
“The council can only deal with complaints on issues that it can investigate. We have no real way of determining the veracity of this complaint,” senior housing official Damien O’Mahony said.
“The council has offered to make whatever repairs are necessary to allow the family move back in.”
But he warned that under the lease terms Richie and Laura have effectively abandoned the property and the council has for some time been legally entitled to repossess it.
“We don’t want to take this property from them. If they wish they can surrender the property, but the council will not be providing them with another property,” he said.
Richie and Laura made headlines last March when they claimed they were forced out of the house by an “evil spirit”. Laura said she was distraught by strange activity which included:
* Her son Kyle being thrown out of his bed and thrown across the room.
* Keys or clothes going missing.
* The cooker switching itself on.
* Cushions flipping over on the couch and glasses flying off the kitchen work-top.
* Cupboard doors opening and closing and contents flying across the room.
Gardaí were forced to patrol the area after the claims sparked a flood of “ghost tourists”. A Shamanic healer also cleansed the house.
Despite continuing to pay rent, the couple, and their two children, Kyle and Caitlin, are refusing to return to the house and have been staying in Laura’s parents’ home since.
It also emerged yesterday that they have had a housing transfer request turned down.
Richie told the Neil Prendeville Show on 96fm that he returned to the house recently to collect some property but was shocked to find extensive damage inside.
He said he saw vertical scratches on the internal walls, a mattress was ripped apart, as if by a razor blade, and the kitchen cupboards were open and cups and plates had been smashed.
But John, who lives across the road, said locals have had enough.
“Let’s face it – it’s bull, it’s a spoof,” he said. “This is a scam for people, trying to get publicity for their own reasons. It’s a load of crap, digging up old bad news.
“The residents don’t believe it, I personally don’t believe it, and a lot of people could do with this house and would move in there in the morning.”