Dorset

Lapland New Forest Santa 'had three-hour queues'

Victor (left) and Henry Mears
Image caption Brothers Victor (left) and Henry Mears deny all the charges against them

A Hampshire woman told a court how families queued for three hours to see Santa at a Lapland-themed attraction.

Angela Barnes, of Southsea, Hampshire, said it was "heartbreaking" to see people with their children waiting in the cold at Lapland New Forest.

The park closed days after opening in 2008 following hundreds of complaints.

Brothers Victor Mears, 67, of Selsfield Drive, and Henry Mears, 60, of Coombe Road, both of Brighton, deny misleading thousands of customers.

The brothers face five charges of engaging in a commercial practice which is a misleading action and three charges of engaging in a commercial practice which is a misleading omission.

They deny all the charges.

'Wasted money'

Mrs Barnes told Bristol Crown Court she spent £60 on tickets to visit the attraction at Matchams Leisure Park on the Hampshire-Dorset border.

She said: "The 'magical tunnel of light' attracted me as did the 'bustling Christmas market'."

But when she arrived at the park with her husband she was disappointed.

She said: "I was sad because I persuaded my husband to go because I got excited by these things, because I felt I had dragged him along to something that was a waste of money."

Image caption Prosecutors say the brothers were set to make £1.2m from the park

On Wednesday the court heard the Mears brothers may have made more than £1m.

With visitors paying £30 a ticket and with up to 10,000 advance bookings online, the brothers were set to make £1.2m, prosecutor Malcolm Gibney said.

He told the jury that, following complaints, two trading standards officers visited the park and were concerned with what they found.

The court also heard that Victor Mears, the company's sole director, was being assisted by his younger brother, who was managing the attraction and was responsible for its promotion.

The company behind the theme park, Lapland Newforest Ltd, went into liquidation, jurors heard.

The trial continues.

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