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Sevenoaks pensioner, 81, used dog poo, loud parrot, and opera music in 'campaign of harassment'

A nightmare neighbour "used her parrot as a weapon" in a campaign of harassment against a couple.

Over the last three years, Catherine Searle, 81, has thrown dog poo into her Sevenoaks neighbours' garden, scratched their car, and encouraged her rambunctious parrot to disturb them in the garden.

The woman was caught on CCTV disturbing her neighbours

The widow was caught on camera 38 times as she smeared grease over the bonnets of her neighbours Paul and Lydia Appleton's van and car in 2018.

On one occasion, she scratched the bonnet of a Toyota with a ring she was wearing.

In a sinister turn, the pensioner also placed sharp tacks underneath the wheels of Mr Appleton's van.

In a victim impact statement Lydia Appleton said: "I feel nervous for my husband when he's on the road, I'm in fear of what might happen, he could be hurt or cause a terrible accident.

"He has to go through a daily routine of checking the wheels to make sure there are no tacks and nothing has been tampered with."

The counsellor said she has suffered night terrors as a result of her concerns.

Catherine Searle leaving court
Catherine Searle leaving court

Searle, from Wilmar Way in Seal, says the dispute started over parking in the road.

Probation officer Lauren Packham, who interviewed the defendant, said: "I’ve spoken to Mrs Searle and it’s clear she doesn’t fully accept culpability.

"She believes she is as much a victim in this neighbourly dispute.

"She says the grease on the vehicle was the result of her falling, but she only made reference to one occasion, not multiple."

Maidstone Magistrates Court also heard the nightmare neighbour was intentionally causing her parrot to sing loudly if the Appletons were in the garden.

James Nichols, prosecuting, said: "She would deliberately try and harass them. On one occasion she started playing loud opera music, which caused the bird to sing louder."

"On one occasion she started playing loud opera music, which caused her parrot to sing louder..."

Searle, who has lived at her house since 1977, was given a community order in 2017 for throwing dog poo into the Appleton's garden.

The widowed pensioner pleaded guilty to criminal damage and harassment halfway through a trial in December.

She was handed a restraining order against her next door neighbours, along with a 70-day prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

Francis Conteh, defending, warned the restraining order was a "recipe for disaster".

He said: "If my client is coming out of her drive and Mr Appleton has just got out of his van, is this going to be listed as contact?

"I say it's a recipe for disaster, I would advise that in order to avoid potential breaches of a restraining order he parks elsewhere."

The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court
The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court

Chair of the bench Tina Richardson said: "This is not for the court to determine."

Searle, who lives off a £114 weekly pension, has been ordered to pay £779.77 in costs and fines.

Speaking after sentencing, Mrs Appleton spoke of the couple's struggle to be taken seriously, saying the harassment actually began when she asked Searle to keep the noise down soon after moving in back in 2004.

Mrs Appleton said: "If you didn't know this lady's age, you'd think this harassment would have to stop. Then we tell people she's 81 and they laugh thinking it's a joke.

She said: "People think she's a little old lady, she can't do or is not capable of these things and we're not treated seriously.

"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.

"People think she's a little old lady, she can't do or is not capable of these things..."

"This constant noise from her parrot is akin to Chinese torture as there is no escaping the very loud piercing noises it makes in a continuous repertoire over and over whilst Searle goes to another room and plays loud music or puts on her TV in another room as well as the noise from her kitchen at the back of the house where the parrot is; this is to keep the bird stimulated all day.

"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.

"In addition to this, she waits for us to go into the back garden when we wish to relax and then will put on loud music or the TV to get the bird to "perform" again and thereby stopping us from enjoying the peace and quiet of the garden"

"We have neighbours who shun us because of this.

"For a number of years my husband and I have been subject to what we can only describe as a hate campaign and hostility from several of the neighbours.

"They have never come to us and asked our version of events.

"Rather, they chose to believe what was being said about us in a malicious and untruthful way."

Paul, who says he hasn't spoken to his neighbour since 2017, said: "I think the sentence is a good outcome, she's been given a warning - offend again and you go to prison."

To read more of our in depth coverage of all of the major trials coming out of crown and magistrates' courts across the county, click here

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