Ensconced, no doubt, in a low-rent celestial duplex, Robert Maxwell must be laughing fatly. In life, he persuaded Oxford City Council to provide him with the world's most glamorous council house, Headington Hall, on terms that might euphemistically have been called "favourable". In death, he is contriving to run rings around the same council again.
In among acquiring its various newspapers, yachts, football clubs and other bric-a-bric, the floating Czech's private company, Headington Holdings, paused to pick up seven houses in Oxford's Botley Road. Now Botley Road may not be chic but its position on the ring-route to Swindon lends it a certain undeniable charm, commercially speaking. As time went by and the houses stood empty, it became clear that they had not been bought as weekend bijoux for Kevin and Ghislaine: indeed, the cynical began to suspect that their appeal lay in their proximity to an 11-acre, £12 million site already owned by Maxwell pere. Although no-one knew his precise plans, Oxonians, already short on housing, feared the worst. Led by Oxford West MP, John Patten, Maxwell's planning application for the site was made the subject of a public inquiry.
Without speaking ill of the dead, let us merely say that the results of the late captain's nocturnal swimming habits were greeted in Oxford with something approaching celebration. But no sooner had the last cup of liebfrauchmilch been downed than Arthur Andersen, administrators for Headington, announced that the entire Botley Road site was to be sold, houses and all, to the highest bidder. This means office development, which in turn leaves the house under threat of demolition. Mere death, it seems, can not stop the Maxwellian juggernaut. Somewhere on the Mount of Olives, someone is chuckling.