“Saddam’s Love Shack”

THE doors of the town house in one of the most prestigious neighbourhoods of Baghdad opened onto a playboy’s fantasy straight from the 1960s: mirrored bedroom, lamps shaped like women, airbrushed paintings of a topless blonde woman and a mustachioed hero wrestling a crocodile.

On the wall and in the bedroom were photographs of Saddam Hussein with a blonde woman. Sergeant Spencer Willardson, the American soldier who made the bizarre find yesterday, described it as “Saddam’s love shack”.

American forces have already searched a string of Saddam’s official palaces both in Baghdad and in the second city of Basra since entering Iraq. The latest discovery of what may have been a hideaway in which he conducted his affairs provided a far more telling insight into the former dictator’s personal taste.

Situated in a district where generals and other senior members of the ruling Ba’ath party lived, the split-level one-bedroom house, with its beanbag chairs and garden of plastic plants, appeared locked in a 1960s time warp. There was also a sunken kitchen and a room for a servant.

There was much to attest to the Saddam connection: the sunken bar was stocked with 20-year-old Italian red wines and expensive cognacs, brandies and Scotch — the same brands as those found in several presidential palaces.

The glassware, too, was the same pattern as that in at least three palaces also visited by American troops since the regime collapsed. The pattern features the Iraqi government seal and a gold pattern on that rim. Saddam appeared to prefer to eat off the official fine china of the Kuwaiti royal family, presumably looted during Iraq’s occupation of its neighbour before the 1991 Gulf war, complete with the family seal and gold and maroon trim.

The upper floor provided even more intimate insights into Saddam’s tastes: a television room was decorated with bright blue, pink and yellow pillows. The bathroom included a whirlpool bath.

The kingsize bed was fitted into an alcove with mirrors on two sides and a fantasy painting on the third.

The cupboards and drawers were empty except for a man’s nightshirt, two pairs of boxer shorts, two T-shirts and a bathrobe — each item individually wrapped in plastic, just as similar items had been in the palaces.

One of the airbrushed paintings depicted a topless blonde woman, with a green demon behind her, pointing a finger at a mythic hero. From the tip of her finger came a giant serpent, which had wrapped itself around the warrior.

Another showed a buxom woman chained to a barren desert mountain ledge, with a huge dragon diving down to kill her with sharpened talons.

American troops said they believed the house belonged to Parisoula Lampsos, one of Saddam’s former mistresses. Lampsos, who admitted to a relationship with the dictator in an interview on US television, escaped to Lebanon last year and is since believed to have gone into hiding.

Saddam’s garish taste appeared to run in the family. A hideaway used by his son Uday for his sexual conquests, found by American troops last week, showed the same mixture of tat and opulence. Its bedroom was decorated with pink chiffon curtains, heart-shaped blue pillows and a fresco of Scheherazade playing a lyre. (AP)