A gardening enthusiast has been ordered to pay £12,000 to a neighbour whom she harassed for seven years following a row over her apple tree.
Antoinette Williams was likened to a "school bully" over her actions towards her neighbour Barbara Pilcher in Dunsfold, Surrey.
Central London County Court heard that Mrs Pilcher sued her neighbour, whom she claimed repeatedly stared at her through her windows.
Falling fruit at the core of dispute
The pair’s troublesome relationship began in 2014 after they argued over Mrs Williams’ 40-foot Bramley apple tree, which resulted in hundreds of rotten fruit falling onto her neighbour’s garden.
Following a five-day trial, Judge Lawrence Cohen QC ruled in favour of Mrs Pilcher, which could result in Mrs Williams facing a costs and damages bill of about £250,000.
He awarded Mrs Pilcher £12,000 for harassment, and ordered Mrs Williams to pay costs estimated at between £135,000 and £180,000 towards her neighbour’s lawyers’ fees, on top of her own legal bills.
Barbara Pilcher lived in house on the left, while Antoinette Williams resided on the right
Credit: Champion News
The court heard Mrs Williams, a member of the Dunsfold and Hascombe Horticultural Society, moved into her £600,000 cottage in Dunsfold, near Godalming, almost 40 years ago, while Mrs Pilcher bought the adjoining £500,000 cottage in 2010.
In 2014, the women fought over Mrs Williams’ refusal to cut back her apple tree and fruit fell over the fence onto Mrs Pilcher’s garden.
The subsequent 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 neighbours’ relatives after they had visited.
Harassment likened to schoolyard bullying
Mrs Williams denied the allegations. However, Judge Cohen rejected her claims and branded her behaviour "completely abnormal and disturbing", adding that the conduct "reminds me of bullying behaviour by school children".
He said: "My conclusion about this incident is therefore that Mrs Williams’ conduct can fairly be described as vandalism. It was deliberately aimed at upsetting Mrs Pilcher and I find it fairly characterised as disgraceful.
"There is strong evidence of Mrs Williams behaving in a vindictive way towards Mrs Pilcher deliberately to alarm and distress her and that she is lacking in self control."
He said the seven-year campaign of harassment had a serious impact on Mrs Pilcher and her family.
"She dreads coming home, her daughter does not want to stay with her anymore, and other young family members either do not want to visit her or, if they are brought to visit, need to be sheltered from the offensive conduct," he added.