Auction derailed by web bidder

AN auctioneer is threatening legal action against NHS chiefs, after a mental health patient successfully bid on £35,000-worth of lots at his sale via the internet.

Jim Railton, who has a saleroom at Narrowgate in Alnwick, says the woman bid on 200 separate lots during the auction in March.

But when he tried to track her down for payment, it emerged that she was a patient at St George’s Hospital in Morpeth and had no means to meet the enormous bill.

Mr Railton has since had to face the wrath of those sellers whose goods will have to be resold at a future auction. However, a number have withdrawn their lots.

“This person had previously bid for £1,500-worth of lots at an earlier auction and had paid in cash, so there was no reason to suspect anything was amiss,” he said. “She registered with us online and gave her credit card details.

“She spent six hours non-stop, logically and decisively bidding on lots – 200 of them, one-third of the whole sale, to a value of £35,000. At one point we did stop the sale to check with her on the amount she was spending.

“We subsequently discovered that she had been sectioned and was a patient at St George’s. It was a bit of a blow. In over 30 years as an auctioneer, I have never experienced anything like it.”

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He added: “I am very concerned that the hospital could have allowed this to happen. A third of that sale is not actually sold. One seller had £7,000 worth of goods up for auction, which was going to pay for her son to go through university. Sadly, she was one of those affected. A lot of people are very angry.

“Legal action is something I’m now seriously considering.”

No one at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust was available for comment.

Mr Railton has another auction taking place at the saleroom on Saturday, with viewing open to the public today and tomorrow.