A teenage girl’s sleepover cost her parents £300,000 in their row with England footballer Daniel Sturridge who had been renting their £6million mansion.
Sturridge and his partner Jamilla Ferreira rented an £18,500-per-month mansion from Alan O’Neill and his wife Katie in October 2018, during the footballer’s six-year stint at Liverpool.
Correspondence between the families had become heated after the O’Neill’s pursued Sturridge in court for £67,000 of unpaid rent, saying he breached the lease by moving out five months early.
Alan, 50, and Katie, 47, from Mere, Cheshire East, now say that, unbeknown to them at the time, their 17-year-old daughter visited the property with three of her friends and the group stayed overnight.
But when Sturridge discovered about the visit, which happened after he moved out but was still technically an occupant, he claimed for return of the rent, which was granted by a judge who found the teenager was ‘taking repossession’ of the home.
Sturridge had paid the rent in July 2019 but then also filed a different claim for damages ‘in respect of the defendants’ discrimination against them and/or harassment on the grounds of their race’.
Daniel Sturridge and his partner Jamilla Ferreira (both pictured) rented an £18,500-per-month mansion from Alan and Katie O’Neill in 2018, during the footballer’s six-year stint at Liverpool
The rented home in Cheshire, pictured above. Alan, 50, and Katie, 47, from Mere,now say that, unbeknown to them at the time, their daughter visited the property with three of her friends
Less than two months after they moved in, the couple had discovered a profile called ‘n*****’ when they accessed the O’Neills’ Netflix on their Apple TV account.
Mr O’Neill told The Times: ‘We had no idea she was going to have a sleepover, she had gone to see if there was any damage.’
The digital transformation consultant added: ‘It wasn’t a wild party or anything. She was in the middle of her A-levels and they all left the following morning.
‘The family has suffered huge anguish over the past two years. It has taken its toll on us financially and emotionally too.’
Sturridge and his partner previously demanded £100,000 of damages for ‘discrimination’ and ‘harassment on the grounds of their race’.
However, a judge dismissed the claim and said Mrs O’Neill made ‘a genuine attempt to apologise’ for the account – which belonged to their 11-year-old son.
The mansion where Sturridge and his partner were staying, pictured. When the footballer discovered about the visit, which happened after he moved out but was still technically an occupant, he claimed for return of the rent, which was granted by a judge
Sturridge (pictured above) has played 26 times for England and 116 league appearances for Liverpool. Sturridge also filed a different claim for damages ‘in respect of the defendants’ discrimination against them and/or harassment on the grounds of their race’
Judge’s full rulings over Sturridge case
The judge rejected Sturridge’s claim for racial harassment, saying there was not sufficient evidence to prove that O’Neill was aware of the ‘n*****’ username and the caricature of a black person.
But he ruled in favour of the footballer in five or the six key issues analysed during the case.
The judge rejected –
- O’Neill’s argument that Sturridge’s claim for racial harassment could not be heard because of time limitations.
- O’Neill’s demand that Sturridge owed additional rent for the period after he had left the property and it was reoccupied by the owner’s family.
- O’Neill’s claim for the cost of returning from California to deal with the issue.
And the judge backed –
- Sturridge’s claim for a full refund of his deposit.
- Sturridge’s claim that the statutory demand and threat of making him bankrupt initiated by O’Neill was unlawful.
He said there was not sufficient evidence to prove that O’Neill was aware of the ‘n*****’ username and the caricature of a black person.
But Judge Platts did find in favour of Sturridge over five of the six key issues dealt with in the case.
He stated: ‘There is no doubt, and it is not disputed by the defendants, that the claimants found the Netflix profile to be deeply shocking, disrespectful, and offensive’.
Court documents reportedly showed that the O’Neills – who had moved to California with their children – ‘profusely’ apologised and said they were not aware of the account.
They said their son was was a fan of black music, especially rap, and would have heard the term while listening to it.
The O’Neill’s went on to change the account’s username as well as the profile picture – but the tenants moved out on February 14.
They had intended to stay in the property until July 2019.
Sturridge and Ms Ferreira sent Mr and Mrs O’Neill a letter on December 10, stating that their older children were in the wrong if they had ignored the existence of the account.
The letter read: ‘Your son can play act this word, but at the end of the day he goes back to his privileged ‘white skin’ existence.’
Judge Platts said that the letter was ‘an attempt by them to explain their position to the defendants’, it ended up causing ‘deep upset to the defendants and their family’.
Just days before the discovery of the account in November, Sturridge had been charged with allegedly breaching FA betting rules.
He was slapped with a £75,000 fine and was banned for six weeks – but four of the weeks were suspended.
Sturridge’s legal team said: ‘Regardless of the legal position; arguably there is a bigger picture consideration, namely, that in 2021 nobody should be exposed to a caricature of a black person, alongside the ‘N-word’ under any circumstances, in any civilised society.’