“I remember once seeing a photo of Muammar Gaddafi’s master bedroom,” wrote the Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland in the foreword to Dictators’ Homes, a book by cultural commentator Peter York that conclusively demonstrated the link between megalomania and a penchant for leopard skin and other big cat motifs. “It was in TIME or Newsweek,” Coupland added, “and it showed a circular bed with black silk sheets, black headboard—black everything really, including above the bed, a set of black panther figures of the sort won at a transient funfair arcade.”
The squatters who occupied Saif Gaddafi’s London home today have yet to provide a similar level of detail about the furnishings but they did report that the house, in exclusive Hampstead, reflected the tastes of someone who had “spent £10 million of blood money” on the property. And their aim is to return that blood money to the Libyan people.
The group, calling itself Topple the Tyrants, released a statement:
“We didn’t trust the British government to properly seize the Gaddafi regime’s corrupt assets so we took matters into our own hands. In the meantime we want to welcome refugees from the conflict in Libya and those fleeing tyranny and oppression across the world. We stand in solidarity with the Libyan people.”
That last point may be literally true if many more people accept the invitation to move in. For the moment, said one squatter, “the house isn’t occupied but there are things to sit on.”
As my colleague Eben Harrell explained last month, British law is notoriously soft on squatters. It seems the Gaddafis have now ceded more territory, and where they least expected to do so.