Weekend flashback: Life of Lyon

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Mountain Scene digs into its archives following the 15-year prison sentence handed to former millionaire property developer high-flyer Mark Lyon.

December 5, 2002

In-the-news millionaire Mark Lyon has cashed in his fire-damaged Queenstown retreat for almost $3 million – ending several years of bizarre behaviour in the Wakatipu by the Auckland property developer.

Lyon has been national news since October when fires broke out at three properties linked to him – one destroying a renovated barn at his Mooneys Road estate near Arrowtown.

Lyon was arrested a week ago in Auckland and granted bail this week after pleading guilty to 15 charges.

While in police custody up north, he was excused from appearing in Queenstown District Court on three assault charges and a firearms charge.

Along with 17-year-old son Richard, who’s also up on two firearms charges, Lyon was remanded ’til next Mayon Queenstown charges.

Since being charged locally, Lyon has sold the 21-hectare Mooneys Rd property – bought five years ago via his company Mana Ltd for about $700,000 – at an estimated $2.75 million.

Bayleys salesperson Nick Horton confirms the sale was to an Australian woman but wouldn’t reveal the price.

Though the new female owner and a friend were apparently in the house when the barn burnt down on October 8, it’s thought Lyon still owned the property at the time.

While local detective sergeant Grahme Bartlett this week said police still hadn’t determined the cause, Mountain Scene has been separetely told an exterior floodlight may have triggered the blaze.

The home’s exterior shell was formerly a set for early-’90s TV saga White Fang, and Lyon spent about $700,000 completing it as a family holiday home.

Renovations were stopped when cheques were cancelled about three years go, Mountain Scene has been told.

Tradesmen removed window joinery and other materials awaiting installation.

It’s believe Lyon tried – unsuccessfully – to get police to lay theft charges against builders.

But Lyon is most remembered in the Wakatipu for his giant, khaki-coloured US military-derived Hummer 4WD.

Former Arrowtown community cop Max Law: “[The Lyon Hummer] was reported to be bumping cars off Malaghan Rd and travelling sort of erractically.

“I tried to firstly identify the driver and secondly interview him – it took me absolute ages to pin the fellow down.”

When he did, Law said he had a cup of coffee with Lyon, who denied the allegations.

In May ’00, Lyon’s Hummer failed to negotiate a pond at Millbrook Resort in a bout of skylarking.

It’s not known for certain if Lyon was at the wheel, but a source says the developer cought up for the damage: “I think it was big-balls stuff.”

With water sucked into the motor, the Hummer was a “pretty major” repair job, says Stewart Motors’ Dave Lattimore.

“That Hummer was a good wee moneyspinner.

“No one in NZ knew as much as I did [about Hummers] by teh time I’d finished with it.”

He says Lyon bought it in China for $80,000.

The Hummer also came to grief on wetland on the Mooneys Rd property, other sources say.

But the accident-prone Lyon had scrapes in other vehicles too.

Once, leaving home in a hired Falcon, he collided head-on in his driveway – on a steep rise – with the family’s nanny.

She was driving his Subaru stationwagon with three of his children on board: “Thank God they were all in seatbelts,” the former nanny said this week.

Lyon’s eldest son Richard – then 13 – was also a lucky survivor when heliskiing with his dad in ’98.

After three runs on Mt Aurum, northwest of Queenstown, Lyon’s idling Squirrel chopper – piloted by another Aucklander – was blown over in a severe gust.

Richard Lyon was dug out of snow which had half-filled the overturned helicopter.

Another previously-unrevealed incident occurred at a party in the Wakatipu countryside which Lyon gatecrashed last year.

A local partygoer, who wished to remain anonymous, says he confronted Lyon because the Aucklander was trying to start his vehicle.

He recalls Lyon producing a big sheath-knife from a scabbard inside his long leather trenchcoat.

The local man grabbed Lyon’s wrist and disarmed him.

It’s believed Lyon’s former wife Caroline is living in Queenstown with her two youngest children – but not on the Mooneys Rd estate.