On July 24, 2002, a garden center was sued over claims it was responsible for the deaths of a collection of late singer Freddie Mercury's rare koi carp. Yes, I said carp. But these weren't ordinary fish. The rare carp, each more than two feet long, were worth more than $15,000 dollars each. The lead singer of Queen had collected over 80 of the breed, so we're talking one and a quarter million. That is some expensive sushi!
The collection was housed in a pool in a beautiful Japanese garden at Mercury's West London home, Garden Lodge, where he lived until dying from AIDS complications in 1991. The singer found that the setting of the garden helped him deal with the mental strain of his terrible wasting disease. Mercury greatly enjoyed the presence of the rare carp and when he passed away, it was one of the most famous collections in the world.
Mercury's former partner, Mary Austin inherited the Japanese koi collection and claimed that the expensive fish died when the electricity powering a temporary pond was turned off by a worker from Clifton Nurseries. While cleaning the Japanese garden pool, the fish had been moved to a holding container where they died from lack of oxygen.
Stars such as Mercury, Elton John and the Duke of Westminster helped usher in a cult of koi owners who prized the fish for their gracefulness and ability to even learn simple tricks in exchange for food. At the height of the koi's popularity in the Eighties, the rare carp changed hands at ever-increasing prices.
Mercury's passion for the carp was such that just a few years before his death he said: 'I've lived a full life and if I'm dead tomorrow I won't give a damn. I've finally found a niche I was looking for in my life. To have my wonderful Japanese garden with all this koi carp recently bought at such expense, I love it.'