Vandals have destroyed the land surrounding Richard Branson's English mansion after running amok in the entrepreneur's fleet of diggers and rollers.

Around $95,000 (GBP50,000) of damage was caused when the criminals hot-wired Branson's heavy machinery and went on the rampage in the grounds of his 200-acre (80-hectare) Kidlington, Oxfordshire, estate.

The troublemakers crashed into each other, dug a giant hole, uprooted trees and drove into a bridge.

Virgin boss Branson is currently in South Africa, so he wasn't at home when the night-time attack occurred.

His gardener IAN PEARSON says, "It's a mess. It is heartbreaking - the machines can be replaced, but they've just trashed a lot of tress. You cannot buy back ten years of tree growth."

Police have described the damage as "extensive".

12/05/2005 08:57