Stalked by a scarecrow

Someone close to home wanted to make my life a total misery...

Published by: Polly Taylor
Published on: 10th March 2011

When you’re having a tough day, sometimes the smallest gesture helps you through. A sympathetic nod, a kind smile – the simplest thing can give you a boost.
I’d found that since my hubby Maurice, 74, had been diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer.
Most of my time was spent at the hospital sitting at his bedside.
Whenever I popped home for a shower and change of clothes, though, my neighbours Lawrence and Pauline Melia did their best to show they cared.
‘If you need anything, just call,’ Lawrence was always offering me.
It meant a lot to know I had such kind neighbours, especially when, six months after he’d been admitted to hospital, Maurice died.
‘You must eat, Jean,’ insisted another neighbour, Pat, as she brought over a home-made casserole the day after the funeral.
‘I’ve done a food shop for you.’
‘You’re too kind,’ I smiled, as she unloaded the carrier bags.
Weeks passed. The grief was as strong as ever, but I couldn’t help noticing something…
‘I haven’t heard a peep from Lawrence and Pauline,’ I worried. ‘Are they all right?’
‘They’re probably giving you some space,’ Pat said. ‘Some people don’t know what to say in these situations.’
‘You’re right,’ I sighed.
Before I knew it, six weeks had gone by and I tried to lose myself in some gardening. I could hear raised voices coming from the other side of the fence.
‘Pauline?’ Lawrence boomed. ‘The old witch is out again!’
Witch? Who was he talking about?
‘You mean Lady Gaga next door?’ Pauline cackled.
Next door? Surely they weren’t talking about... me?!
They couldn’t have been. We’d always got on fine. We’d never had a cross word. Their comments must have been directed at someone else.
Yet, out in my garden a week later, I noticed Lawrence had installed a security camera on the back of his house. It seemed an odd place to have it, as his garden was surrounded by an 8ft fence, not to mention that we lived in a quiet street of retired couples.
That afternoon, I pointed it out to Pat. ‘Thing is, it isn’t pointed at Lawrence’s garden,’ I said. ‘It’s pointed at my kitchen window.
‘It’s probably a mistake,’ she reassured me. ‘Maybe he hasn’t had time to set it up properly.’
‘I suppose…’ I said. ‘It’s just… first he’s ignoring me, now this.’
Maybe it was time I had a gentle word.
The next time I saw him in his front garden, I went over. The second he laid eyes on me, a look of utter contempt spread across his face.
Talk about daggers!
‘Lawrence…’ I started but, before I could say another word, he turned his back and walked into his house, slamming the door behind him.
It didn’t make sense. We hadn’t spoken since Maurice had died, so there was no way I could have offended him.
A week later, the CCTV camera was still there, trained on my window. ‘It feels like I’m on Big Brother,’ I shuddered.
Frightened and wishing my hubby of 50 years was there to protect me, I reported the camera to the police.
‘It’s on his property, so there’s nothing we can do,’ the officer told me. Instead, he helped me make a protective curtain using my washing line and a sheet.
‘He can’t see you now,’ he said.
The following morning, my makeshift curtain was on the ground. Fat lot of good that was! I’d have to put it back up…
Hold on a second. It hadn’t blown down – it had been hacked down!
I looked around, stunned. Who’d do that? Why? And then I spotted something else.
Lined up on top of the fence between mine and Lawrence’s house were several small black figures. Taking a closer look, shivers ran down my spine.
They were witches!
Made from twisted wire, they sat atop miniature broomsticks, and each one was facing my house. These weren’t Hallowe’en decorations, either – it was the middle of June.
And among the witches was a creepy-looking scarecrow.
Okay, so the figures weren’t hurting me, but there was something sinister about the way they peered into my garden.
Upset, I called the police again and they agreed to have a little talk with Lawrence.
‘He said he didn’t cut the washing line,’ the officer later told me. ‘And the scarecrow is to keep birds off his bean plants.’
‘But we live in a residential street, not the middle of a corn field,’ I protested.
‘There’s nothing we can do,’ the officer replied, helping me repair the clothes-line. ‘But keep a note of everything he does, you might have a case for harassment.’
So I did – and there was plenty to say. Over the next six months, Lawrence’s behaviour got worse.
Eggs were splattered over my windows, and rubbish dumped in my garden. I was so upset that I’d take my shoes off to walk to my front door, so Lawrence wouldn’t hear me come home.
The clothes line was cut down again, and he added to his grotesque fence display with a skewered plastic rat.
I suspected he was trying to intimidate me, a grieving, elderly widow – and it was working.
Then one day, I took a tumble and broke my right leg. It was placed in a cast at hospital and I was sent home on crutches.
The next day, hobbling into my back garden, my heart stopped.
The scarecrow on the fence had a bandage wrapped around its right leg, too! Now I had no doubts, Lawrence was trying to frighten me.
‘I can’t take any more,’ I croaked to Pat the next day. ‘I keep wondering what’s coming next.’
Six months passed, a year, five years… but the harassment didn’t stop. I lost more than 2st, and only managed a few hours sleep a night.
I’d reached breaking point.
‘Please, you’ve got to do something?’ I begged, taking my diary to the police station.
Reading my diary of events, they agreed there was enough evidence to charge Lawrence with harassment without violence.
At Nottingham Magistrates Court, he had the perfect opportunity to explain why he’d done this. But he refused, still insisting the scarecrow was to keep birds off his beans, and the CCTV was a security measure. Everything else I’d logged down, he denied.
However, Lawrence was found guilty and given a 12-month restraining order, stopping him from communicating with me. His camera was taken down. The judge also imposed a four-month curfew, so Lawrence isn’t allowed to leave his house between 7pm and 7am.
I’ll probably never know why he did what he did. But now, when I feel down, I don’t look to my neighbours, because sometimes the smallest gesture can also cause the most hurt.
Jean Barrand, 79, Beechdale, Nottingham