Two neighbours’ row about an apple tree has led to a £250,000 bill after a woman was stung by wasps attracted to the rotten fruit.
Surrey woman Barbara Pilcher sued next-door neighbour Antoinette Williams over a 40-foot Bramley apple tree that left hundreds of apples rotting on her lawn – putting her at risk of wasp attacks.
As the feud between the two escalated Mrs Williams was described as “vindictive” and “creepy”.
Mrs Pilcher claimed Ms Williams – a member of the Dunsfold and Hascombe Horticultural Society – pestered her by repeatedly staring at her through her windows, failing to prune the apple tree and by keeping a large and smelly compost bin at the bottom of her garden adjoining her own property.
Mrs Pilcher's barrister Oliver Newman said that she had been unable to use the bottom of her garden and felt like "a prisoner in her own home" while family members stopped going to visit as the row intensified.
Following a five-day trial, reports the Daily Mirror, Judge Lawrence Cohen QC ruled in favour of Mrs Pilcher, comparing the gardener to a "school bully" for her "disgraceful" behaviour and hitting her with a costs and damages bill of around £250,000.
Mr Newman told Central London County Court that the pair clashed in 2014 over the fruit from the tree falling over the fence and Mrs Williams refusing to cut it back.
“Upon Ms Williams’ refusal to cut the tree back, Mrs Pilcher exercised her right to do so in June 2014, which resulted in a barrage of allegations from Mrs Williams that she had cut the tree at an inappropriate time, cut it back too far and had caused a poor harvest," he said.
Judge Cohen awarded Mrs Pilcher £12,000 compensation for seven years of harassment, which she said had left her “feeling like a prisoner in her own home” and “dreading coming home”.
Mrs Williams also “agreed to have the tree professionally pruned so that it is well away from the boundary”.
The harassment campaign involved a range of incidents, the court heard, including Mrs Williams repeatedly peering in through Mrs Pilcher’s windows, “monitoring” her comings and goings and even following her neighbour's relatives after they had visited.
The judge branded Mrs Williams’ behaviour “completely abnormal and disturbing”, adding that the campaign of watching “caused alarm and distress to Mrs Pilcher and her family on an ongoing basis”.
He said: "The kind of conduct alleged rather reminds me of bullying behaviour by school children trying to cause distress and exclude one of their number."
Having heard evidence that Mrs Williams and a male friend of hers had been spotted at Mrs Pilcher's home "pressed against the front windows with their hands shielding their eyes so they could see in," the judge said he accepted the behaviour was "creepy".
He awarded Mrs Pilcher £12,000 for harassment, also ordering Mrs Williams to pay costs estimated at between £135,000 and £180,000 towards Mrs Pilcher’s lawyers’ fees, on top of her own legal bills of more than £100,000.
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