Man wins suit to sell house occupied by sect

A FORMER Singapore Airlines pilot yesterday won a court order to sell a $1.8 million house in Sembawang, in which several members of religious sect House of Israel have been staying.

Mr Steven Joshua, 56, who co-owns the 792.8 sq m place with four others, had sued former wife Deborah Steven Joshua, 55; his sister, Madam Rachel Jacob, 50; and three other couples staying there.

He has been trying to sell the place since he left the group in 2001 and moved out.

However, the sect members claimed there was a property covenant that entitled them to live there.

They now have up to mid-November to move out of the Sembawang Place bungalow.

Mr Joshua had also sued another sister, Mrs Rebekah Isaac, 47, and her husband, Mr Isaac Benjamin, 49, who left the group in 1993.

They did not contest the suit as they too wanted to sell the property. They will be given a 20 per cent share of the proceeds of the sale.

Mr Joshua, his ex-wife, his two sisters and Mr Benjamin bought the house for $700,000 in 1986 and registered it in their names.

At the time, they belonged to the religious group, which hit the headlines nine years ago when three of its members lost a libel suit against The Straits Times for describing it as a 'sect'.

Yesterday, Justice Tan Lee Meng threw out the defendants' counterclaim, saying they had not proven their case.

The net proceeds of the sale of the Sembawang home have to be distributed among the co-owners, said the judge, with Mr Benjamin and his wife getting 20 per cent and the other three - Mr Joshua, his ex-wife and Madam Jacob - sharing the remainder according to the proportion they paid for the property.

Mr Joshua, who also won on costs, was represented by Mr James Ponniah.

Mr Daniel John acted for all the defendants except Mr Benjamin and his wife.