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Listen: The full, bloody saga of rogue landlord Thomas Flight and the closure of Hidden Corner cafe

When a millionaire, yacht-owning rogue landlord evicted the owners of a well-loved St Paul’s cafe, it sparked protests. Two years on, a clearer picture of the messy situation has finally emerged.

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Hidden Corner was a popular cafe and bookshop in Portland Square, St Paul’s. So when its owners were turfed out in 2021, its doors bolted shut with heavy chains by the building’s landlord – millionaire businessman Thomas Flight, now notorious for the dodgy ways he dealt with his tenants – there was an uproar. Protests were staged outside Flight’s yacht, moored in Bristol’s Floating Harbour.

But what happened in the days before the eviction of Aaron Onoura and Sophia Khan, the couple who ran the cafe, and the extent of the illegal practices their landlord deployed against his various tenants – this remained a mystery, confined largely to rumours. Those directly involved remained tight-lipped.

It’s taken two years and two criminal trials for the truth to come out – two years of working to expose a man who took advantage of often young, first time renters; a man who hid behind fake names and addresses to deceive them, and who bullied and threatened them into paying unreasonable fees and fines.

Flight relied on a veil of secrecy that made it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for his tenants to make complaints, or seek help with their unreturned deposits. But in January 2023, his “web of deceit” unravelled in court, as he pleaded guilty to several charges of trading standards offences.

And a week before Aaron and Sophia were locked out of their cafe – punches were thrown, noses were broken and their landlord was knocked unconscious – his forehead pouring with blood. The landlord told police that he and his husband had been the victims of a savage and unprovoked attack at the hands of Aaron and his dad, who both faced trial for assault in October. But considering Flight’s reputation for deception – would you believe him? 

This is the full, bloody story behind the closure of Hidden Corner cafe, and the dodgy dealings of the man who shut it down.

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