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Sunday, 14 January, 2001, 17:32 GMT
Police probe castle fire
Firefighters were called in the early hours
Police have said they are treating as suspicious a fire which caused extensive damage to a luxury castle in Scotland.

The statement comes as unconfirmed reports emerge that the owners of Dunans Castle, in Glendaruel, Argyll, had received threats that the building would be burned down.

About 50 firefighters were called to the converted hotel, which is 60 miles north west of Glasgow and one of the properties sounded out by Madonna when she was looking for a venue in Scotland to marry.

Owners, Lord and Lady Marr, along with 12 residents, left the castle shortly before 0400GMT on Sunday.

Clan Fletcher badge
The castle is home to the Clan Fletcher
The 19th-century property is run as a five-star hotel.

At 1330GMT, firefighters were still tackling the blaze.

The first and second floors and the attic have been destroyed, but the west wing was unaffected, according to the brigade.

A spokeswoman for Strathclyde Police said forensic teams were beginning a search through the retreat in a bid to establish if the fire was started on purpose.

"We are treating it as suspicious until we have established exactly what happened," she said.

"A fire brigade team is also assisting in the investigation."

Police would not confirm rumours that the owners had been threatened last year.

Complete privacy

But the spokeswoman added: "Everything that is relevant will be considered."

The castle is originally the seat of the Clan Fletcher and is described by its owners as "the perfect location for a discreet retreat or top management meeting facility".

"Complete privacy" is guaranteed, according to the marketing pitch.

Madonna in Dornoch
Madonna approached Dunans Castle
The castle is said to be virtually the only significant example of Franco-Scots Baronial architecture in the west of Scotland.

It fell into disrepair as the Fletcher family's size and fortunes diminished and was sold after the death of Colonel Fletcher.

He is said to have been one of the "models" used by author Ian Fleming for his James Bond character.

Since 1999, the castle, which stands in 27 acres of ground, has been restored to its original use as a family home and a working house.

Dunans is one of the few castles in Scotland which has its own private family chapel.

Last year, Madonna's agent in New York sent Lord Marr a fax making discreet inquiries about whether or not it could host the star's wedding.

Lord Marr is understood to have believed the approach was not genuine and disregarded it.

Madonna and Guy Ritchie subsequently wed at Skibo Castle in Dornoch on 22 December, raking in an estimated 2.5m for the Sutherland economy.

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04 Nov 00 | Scotland
Theatre producer's home gutted
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