Whilst “animal lover” Esmond Gay claimed to be an “obsessed millionaire eccentric,” others branded him “just some kind of nutcase.” This Lamborghini driver – whose payment of £35,000 for the title ‘Lord Gay’ resulted in much ridicule – lived in the village of Husborne Crawley, Bedfordshire with 200 animals in the early 2000s.
Aside from spending ten years ‘creating’ a £100,000 Bengal leopard cat named Zeus, Gay kept a 23-foot long python in a Jacuzzi and a paralysed duck in a bathtub. Nicknamed ‘Catman’ and ‘Dr Doolittle,’ this bizarre character also employed a young girl in a pinny named ‘Pippa the Maid’ to care for his dogs, goats, ocelots, parrots, peacocks, raccoons and wallabies. He supposedly financed his vast menagerie by selling Bengals to amongst others Lord and Lady Archer, the Sultan of Brunei, Sir Richard Branson, Rolf Harris, Esther Rantzen and Jonathan Ross.
Of him, former neighbour Phil Gooden remarked: “This guy is a huge problem. There’s been nothing but trouble since he moved in” whilst another, Kathy Reddick, added: “What chance do [my children] against one of these huge animals?” In response, Gay remarked: “My cats are my life. I live for then… I will leave everything to my cats… I prefer cats to people… They are my family… These people are just jealous.”
Gay and his partner supposedly retired to Latin America in 2004 and when his former home, Church End Farm, was sold in 2014, all traces of ‘Catman’ had long since been sent to the animal hospital in the sky.