Monday, August 20, 2012

Court tells Aussie 'Robinson Crusoe' to leave island

Aug 20, 2012

By jonathan pearlman

SYDNEY - After living alone on a remote tropical island for almost 20 years accompanied only by his dog Quasi, David Glasheen is usually referred to as the Australian Robinson Crusoe.

Since losing his fortune in the 1987 stock market crash, Mr Glasheen, now in his late 60s, has lived off fish, crab, bananas and coconuts. He grows his own vegetables and brews his own beer. "I am contented and happy, and in the modern-day world that's a precious thing," he has said.

But his days of solitary idyll may be over. An Australian court has ruled that Mr Glasheen must leave the island.

The latest court order is one of several key differences between Mr Glasheen and his literary forebear.

Mr Glasheen has encountered no native cannibals, though he has been visited by yachtsmen and kayakers passing his small island in the Great Barrier Reef, about 2,000km north of Brisbane.

And Mr Glasheen has not yet found a companion - a "Friday" - though he did make international headlines several years ago by placing an advertisement on an online dating agency. "It gets lonely out here," he told a reporter at the time. "My only hope is for a mermaid to turn up on the beach."

The long-haired frequently bare-chested isolato, who has access to a solar-powered Internet connection, received hundreds of responses. Sadly, he had no luck. "Half of them were crazy," he said.

Finally, unlike Crusoe, Mr Glasheen was not shipwrecked and is in no hurry to escape.

He decided to move from Sydney to the 40ha Restoration Island in 1993 after losing A$10 million (S$13.1 million) in a single day of share trading and then losing his marriage and his homes. He initially moved to the island with a girlfriend, but she found life there too difficult and left.

He still receives visits from his son and still flutters on the stock market using an online trading account. But he shows no regret for his decision to leave behind his fast-paced city life.

"I was in the office before my children woke up and I was home when they were asleep," he told an Australian reporter in 2009.

Mr Glasheen said he revels in the tranquillity and privacy and has described himself as "the luckiest bloke in the world".

"I suppose I am a hermit, just because I live here on my own," he said last year. "I see myself as a social hermit, and I've played host to all sorts of interesting people from all over the world here."

The former businessman and a business partner had been subleased 15ha of public land on the island on condition that he build a resort.

According to a 43-year lease which commenced in 1996, he is supposed to develop tourist accommodation and fishing facilities valued at least A$200,000.

But the Queensland Supreme Court has ruled that he has not taken steps to develop the resort and that the land should be repossessed. On his website, Mr Glasheen claims he has received approvals to develop a resort and invites investors interested in funding a project which could include private guesthouses and a health spa.

"There is nothing more exclusive and sought after in the world than having your own private island," says the website. But with no resort in sight, the court ruled that Mr Glasheen and his business partners were "trespassers".

"The development was never materially advanced beyond the preparation and planning stage," the court said. "The defendants have wrongly deprived the plaintiff of its asset for over a decade during which time they have enjoyed its benefits."

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