'We can't work it out how a cleaner binned £700,000 of Beatles memorabilia'
By Christopher Hope
A cleaner threw out £700,000 worth of original pictures of the Beatles including the only surviving copy of the photograph on their breakthrough album Please Please Me, according to a legal action filed at the High Court.
The only surviving copy of the photo on this album was binned
EMI, the record giant, and the Beatles' music publisher Apple Corps, is now suing the cleaner's employer Crystal Services after the pictures were sent to a waste compactor and lost forever.
The photographs were taken in 1963 at EMI's former head office in Manchester Square, central London, by the late Angus McBean, whose work was the subject of a four-month exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery last year. One was used as the cover shot for Please, Please Me which still holds the record for the longest continuous stay at number one in the album charts. Another from the same session was used as the cover of the Beatles' "Red Album", a compilation of their early hits which was released in 1973. The writ describes the photographs as "historically important and valuable".
EMI and Apple claim in the writ that seven Beatles photographs, along with another 452 transparencies and negatives, were in three cardboard boxes in the office of John Mouzouros, the head of EMI's photographic office, in 2001. The plan, according to the writ, was to transfer the boxes to the company's archive in Hayes.
On the night of Jan 30, the writ claims, Mr Mouzouros left a note on the boxes "Not Rubbish - Do Not Remove" before leaving at 5pm, locking the door behind him. Both sides agree that later that evening a cleaner employed by Crystal entered Mr Mourzouros's office and started to clean. What happened after that is disputed. EMI and Apple claim in the writ: "The cleaner removed the photographic material and disposed of it by placing it for compaction in a waste compactor and collection by refuse collectors.
"The compacted waste was removed by refuse collectors and despite EMI's best efforts the photographic material was irretrievably lost."
The writ claims that David Rees, the managing director of Crystal, told EMI's head of facilities and administration Jacqueline Butcher the next day that the cleaner, who was inexperienced, had only just been hired by Crystal and had removed the boxes. Further, the writ says Mr Rees told EMI that Crystal had dismissed the cleaner as a result of the incident and the company had agreed to pay the costs of obtaining replacement material.
However, according to Crystal Services's defence, the company disputes most of the claims by EMI and Apple, including that the boxes were in the office with a note saying not to remove them. Crystal admits that Mr Rees spoke to EMI the next day, but he admitted no liability. Rather, Crystal says: "Mr Rees was apologetic. EMI was the company's customer and he responded to the complaint sympathetically.
"However Mr Rees had no personal knowledge of the incident and was accordingly incapable of making the alleged or any admissions in respect of it on behalf of Crystal. The cleaner subsequently resigned from Crystal's employment of her own accord because she was so upset by the complaint. She was not dismissed."
No one at EMI could be reached for comment yesterday. Crystal declined to comment.
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