Belfast Telegraph

Debt-ridden Dunlops in desperate bid to save their home

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

The family of one of Northern Ireland's most famous sporting stars, motorcycle road racer Robert Dunlop, are in a battle to save their home because of huge debts he accumulated prior to his death.

The father-of-three (47) lost his life in 2008 after suffering fatal chest injuries during a 160mph crash during practice at the North West 200 – an event where he held the record for most wins.

Mr Dunlop, younger brother of Joey, who was killed in Estonia in 2000, had racked up substantial debts, thought to be hundreds of thousands of pounds.

A huge fundraising effort is currently under way with friends of the star desperate to raise enough money to prevent the Dunlop family having to sell the property he built in 1996.

His widow Louise and two of their sons, Michael and William, still live in the property, which is situated just outside Ballymoney, Co Antrim. It is currently for sale with an asking price of £395,000.

An auction of motorcycle memorabilia was held on the Isle of Man last Sunday as part of the campaign to keep the property within the family.

It is understood Mr Dunlop had invested heavily in numerous doomed schemes.

They included one run by a former Presbyterian Church elder who stole £1.4m while working as an insurance broker.

In 2011 Darren Johnston, a father-of-eight from Inverary Heights, Larne, was jailed for eight years at Antrim Crown Court after being convicted of 50 counts of theft and fraud.

Among victims affected by the four-year deception was Mr Dunlop, who, at the time he died, had invested around £400,000 in now-defunct Portrush-based brokerage firm Brian McGee Investments and Pensions.

When sentencing Johnston to seven years in prison and handing out a one-year custody probation order, Judge Corinne Philpott QC said there was little chance that the money would be recouped.

A golf day also took place on Thursday, which was organised by Martin Marlow, long time family friend of the Dunlops.

Mr Marlow said: "Time is running out for the family. Robert fell victim to an alleged con and the family home is at risk.

"The boys have put all their energy and earnings into trying to save the family home.

"They have been working day and night to try to raise money.

"This has been devastating for them."

BACKGROUND

Motorcycle legend Robert Dunlop died when his engine seized at over 150mph during a practice session for the North West 200 road race in 2008. He was thrown off and then hit by a another bike. His son Michael went on to win the event his father died practicing for days later. The 47-year-old was a father-of-three. Brother Joey Dunlop died while competing in a race in Estonia in July 2000.

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