‘I only came to Highgate so I could live for free’

AN Eastern European artist who has been occupying empty properties in Highgate has revealed that he moved to Britain to take advantage of squatters’ rights.

Jason Ruddick said he was encouraged to move to London from Latvia a year ago when he heard about the legal protection offered to squatters in the UK.

The 21-year-old, who has struggled to find work, admitted he would be arrested if he was caught taking over a property in his own homeland.

He said: “I knew before I came that people live in squats – that’s one of the reasons I came – and have some legal protection and get a lot of things for free.

“You even get food for free. We go to Iceland and get all the good food from the rubbish bin. It’s frozen so it’s ok and we always have a full fridge.”

Since moving to England the 21-year-old said he has lived in a string of dilapidated homes.

But two months ago he decided to upgrade and set his sights on an historic 18th Century pub named The Bull in Highgate, which had been empty for more than six months.

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After entering the Grade II-listed building on North Hill through a window, he advertised for room-mates on the website ‘Advisory Service for Squatters’.

Scores of occupants eventually joined him at the former gastropub, which, when open, had employed head chef Jeremy Hollingsworth, who gained a Michelin star for Marco Pierre White’s Quo Vadis in 1997.

But last week Mr Ruddick was forced to move out when he and his fellow squatters were served an eviction notice.

Reluctant to leave Highgate, which he describes as the “best place” to live, he has now ensconced himself in a vacant 10-bed house worth several million pounds in nearby Broadlands Road.

“I wanted to live in Highgate, that’s why I was looking for properties there,” he said.

“I really like the area – it’s the best area to live in. I found a lot of empty properties in Highgate and I’ve been checking them to see if anything’s changing.”

He also acknowledged that it would be impossible to enjoy his current living arrangements without squatting.

“It’s really expensive to live in such a big house if you have to pay for it,” he said.

Mr Ruddick has already posted another internet notice advertising the benefits of his new place for anyone interested in moving in.

It reads: “There are three bathrooms with bathtubs and showers, kitchen with all the cooking facilities, heating, all the utilities are on. The place was open just a few days ago and we need more people to join.

“The place in question is in Highgate, which is in north London. It’s about five minutes from Highgate tube station.”

The owner of the pub building was unavailable to comment.