81-Year-Old Woman Guilty of Harassing Neighbors

81-Year-Old Woman Guilty of Harassing Neighbors
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2020

In all my years as a home owner, I've been rather fortunate to have had wonderful neighbors.
Oh sure, my sister-in-law and her husband, who are terrible people, lived across the street from us for a time, often recreating mock gladiator battles with roadkill they found at night.

I mention this only because they don't actually read this column, so it's not like they'll even see this. (They never did any of that, by the way, and they're actually nice people.)

I'm especially thankful that I didn't have Catherine Searle as my neighbor.

Searle is an 81-year-old woman who lives in Kent, England, and spent years engaging in a "campaign of harassment" against her neighbors — neighbours, if you want to be British about it.

According to the Kent Online website, Searle repeatedly harassed Paul and Lydia Appleton. She flung dog poo into their back yard, purposely scratched their car, placed tacks under the wheels of Paul's van, and taught her parrot to sing loudly whenever the Appletons were in their back yard.

Searle was even caught on camera 38 times smearing grease on the hoods of both vehicles. She said she only did it once, as a result of her falling. But she had no explanation for the other 37 times she was actually caught on video doing it.

Things got so bad that Paul Appleton had to go through a daily routine of checking the wheels to make sure there were no tacks and that nothing was tampered with. Lydia said she was in fear for her husband's safety while he was on the road, so much so that she suffered night terrors as a result.

According to Searle, this all started over a parking dispute a few years ago, but Lydia says it actually started back in 2004 when the Appletons asked Searle to keep noise levels down.

Regardless, Searle says she is not fully to blame. According to a probation officer who interviewed her, "she believes she is as much a victim in this neighbourly dispute."

I don't see how the vandal can be the victim. Unless the Appletons are to blame for putting their cars where Searle wanted to stick her greasy hands. Or Paul Appleton is to blame for parking where Searle likes to display her sharp tack collection.

But what really takes the cracker is that Searle got her parrot involved, too.

The vindictive Searle would intentionally cause her parrot to sing loudly whenever Lydia and Paul tried to spend time in their back yard — the "garden," if you want to be British about it.

Searle would play loud opera music to cause her parrot to sing louder.

"She's continuously finding ways to overstimulate her parrot for days on end by playing the television loudly and is using it as a weapon," said Lydia. "She even leaves her house, going out, leaving the back door and windows open so the bird noise can be heard wherever we are in our house."

Finally, the Appletons pressed charges for criminal harassment, and in December Searle pled guilty to criminal damage and harassment. She was slapped with a restraining order forbidding contact with the Appletons, a nearly 280 pound fine, and a 70-day prison sentence that was suspended for 12 months.

Meaning if Searle violates the restraining order, she'll go to prison for 10 weeks.

Searle's attorney over-exaggerated the problem and put the blame back on the victims.

"If my client is coming out of her drive and Mr Appleton has just got out of his van, is this. . . contact?" he said. "I would advise that in order to avoid potential breaches of a restraining order, he parks elsewhere."

Except that's the opposite of how this is all supposed to work, because it still gives Searle what she wants. The Kent Online article didn't actually say what the parking dispute was, but I would imagine it involved either of the Appletons parking in front of their houses. Which means if Appleton parks anywhere else, Searle's three year harassment campaign will have succeeded.

No, it's up to her to avoid contact. If Paul Appleton is getting out of his van, then maybe Searle should wait inside her house until he leaves. She's the one with the restraining order against her, not the Appletons.

Neighbor disputes are often difficult to resolve. Each person thinks they're in the right, but they're both usually wrong. It's not as easy to solve them, because it's not like being at an undesirable table at a restaurant. You can't just pick up and move at a moment's notice. Plus, the Appletons shouldn't have to move in order to enjoy their own home and yard.

Catherine Searle is entirely in the wrong and she deserves everything she got, including the suspended prison sentence. Maybe if she goes to prison, she'll actually learn that she was the cause of the problem, and she just needs to get over the problem in the first place.

And maybe then, the Appletons can finally welcome her home with a nice "chicken" dinner.

Photo credit: FreeSVG.com (Public Domain)

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