A huge fire has erupted at a state-of-the-art mansion owned by the widow of a former Georgian billionaire just a day after the completion of a three-year renovation.
Owner Inna Gudavadze, the widow of Badri Patarkatsishvili, hoped to move into the £10million property in Surrey imminently but was said to be devastated after a blaze tore through it two weeks ago, according to reports.
All that remains of the home now are charred walls and foundations reduced to rubbles.
Eight fire crews from Surrey Fire and Rescue Service rushed to the property in Leatherhead, Surrey, to bring the fire under control at around 6.10pm on September 23. The fire was tackled and crews started leaving the scene at around 11.40pm, but the mansion could not be saved.
The three-floor, nine-bedroom property – which had just been renovated – was completely destroyed in a few hours. The cause of the blaze is so far unknown.
The owner was reportedly planning to move from London to Surrey with her daughters Liana Zhmotova, 43, and Iya Arkadyevna Patarkatsishvili, 40.
Project manager Dean Windebank told MailOnline: “Inna – like the rest of us – is crushed. This really was a labour of love and I think she was hoping to be moving in in a few months. I think this was going to be her dream house. But if there’s one positive to take away from this is that nobody was inside at the time and nobody was hurt.”
The now-destroyed mansion had been fitted with a cinema, a family room, and a lift down to the £1million basement, which included a wine-tasting and dining area.
The construction, estimated to have cost at least £5million so far, was temporarily halted while an investigation is carried out.
Mr Windebank said: “It’s hit everyone very hard, a real punch in the gut after all that work and money spent. We were there practically there; the house was almost finished. The superstructure was up, we’d just put in the belvedere tower a few weeks before, the lift shaft was in and we were starting to take down the scaffolding.”
He said the property had been built using a timber frame – and explained that while this material can catch fire easily, the blaze would have been as devastating even if more traditional materials had been used.
Following the fire, the project manager said the structure would have to be flattened and construction would have “to start over from scratch”. He added: “Only the basement – we hope – can be saved.”
Mr Patarkatsishvili, Georgia’s richest man with an estimated £6billion fortune, amassed his wealth during the privatisation of state industries in Russia in the 1990s. He was once an ally of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, but over time he became one of his fiercest critics.
He was 52 when he was found dead in February 2008 at a manor house on the estate, where he had been in exile since 2001.
Shortly before, he had spoken of fears for his life after an alleged plot to murder him in London was uncovered.