Panic rooms and gun safes on rise in London luxury homes

Thu Aug 30, 2012 11:36am EDT
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By Tom Bill

LONDON (Reuters) - Panic rooms, gun safes and machinegun-proof doors are increasingly appearing in London homes as super-rich foreign newcomers bring their security fears to the UK capital.

Many wealthy homebuyers are drawn to the political stability of London and the buoyancy of its property market. But concerns about the kind of lawlessness typical of their home countries or fears of reprisal from business or political opponents mean they demand the most hi-tech security systems around.

"I recently showed a property to a billionaire eastern European and when he walked outside I presumed he had gone to look at the wonderful garden," said Andrew Langton, managing director of high-end estate agent Aylesford. "He was actually inspecting the buildings that overlooked it."

Overseas investment in top London homes used to be dominated by Middle Eastern oil money and U.S. bankers, but the current financial crisis and political tensions in areas like North Africa and Russia mean over 100 nationalities now park money in top London property, said property agent Savills.

The capital does not have the same reputation for danger as cities like Cape Town or Rio de Janeiro, but incidents in recent years demonstrate overseas residents are not necessarily safe from their foes in London.

In 2009, former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was killed with radioactive polonium in London. In March this year, a Russian banker was shot five times and badly injured, later claiming his former business partners were behind the attack.


Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, a Kremlin insider-turned-critic now based in London, told Reuters: "There is no place safer than London from Kremlin bandits or from Russian or international criminals. But that of course is no guarantee they won't get you.   Continued...

The full moon is pictured through trees as it shines over the Big Ben clock tower in London January 18, 2011. REUTERS/Paul Hackett