Scoundrel on a scooter

Our harmless neighbour was actually anything but...

Published by: Jessica Gibb
Published on: 7 June 2012

M y palms were so slick with sweat that I rubbed them on my trousers as I nervously peered from behind the curtain and looked around. ‘It's all clear,' I said to my hubby Andy, 41.
‘Okay, I'll go quick,' he said. Then he was off, dashing from the house, then disappearing down the narrow alley to the car park. I prayed he'd make it to his van okay, that he'd get to work as a crane engineer in one piece.
Ten minutes later, the front door slammed. Andy hobbled in.
‘What's happened?'
‘Derek,' he panted. ‘You're not going to believe what he's done now...' My eyes were wide with fear as Andy explained he'd been walking to the car park when he saw Derek coming in the other direction on his mobility scooter.
‘I shifted right over to the side of the wall to make way for him,' he explained, shaking his head. ‘But Derek sped up. He ran over my feet.'
Honestly, we had tried to get on with our neighbour Derek Jones, 75. For the first six years that he'd lived next door but one, we'd thought that he was a sweet old man.
All that had changed last year. I'd been in the kitchen when I'd heard raised voices coming from outside. And there'd been Derek, on his mobility scooter, shouting at Andy and my son Jamie, 17.
‘What are you looking at, you f***ing t**t?' he'd screamed. ‘I'll have you!'
‘Don't threaten him, he's just a kid!' Andy had shouted back. What on earth?
‘You're blocking my disabled access!' Derek had yelled.
I'd looked from the rowing group to our neighbour's drive. It looked like Andy had left plenty of room when he'd parked.
But over the next few weeks, Derek had glared in through the windows and made a V-sign every time he'd driven his mobility scooter past our house.
Then, two months later, we'd found three big scratches on the back of our car. Also the tyres on the work van mysteriously went flat every few weeks.
I'd known it was Derek. But we didn't have any proof.
But now, one of our neighbours had seen the whole incident in the alley. The police took a statement from her, but told us Derek had claimed Andy accidentally fell into the path of the scooter. It seemed the police had fallen for his innocent old man act. It was frustrating when they dropped the case.
But nothing could have prepared us for what happened two months later...
Andy came home from work really shaken up. ‘He's gone too far this time,' he fumed.
‘He's sent emails into work, claiming I reversed into him with the van while he was in the wheelchair,' he said.
My mouth dropped open as he carried on. ‘He said the impact caused him to go into an epileptic fit - and I just drove off while he was having a seizure!'
‘Why...?' I started. Then the penny dropped.‘He's trying to get you sacked?'
Andy nodded. ‘I told them this guy is harassing us, and they're not taking it any further for now.'
Over the next month, Derek sent eight emails to the company all along the same lines. If Andy wasn't such a valued worker, I'm sure he would've been fired.
Two weeks later, we were just getting in the car to go to Tesco, when our pesky neighbour appeared. I watched in horror as he marched over to the car and pointed his walking stick at me and my son. Andy got out of the car, and Derek switched his focus to him.
‘You ran me over!' he screamed. It was the same allegation from the emails.
‘No, he didn't!' I replied. ‘You ran him over in your scooter!'
Derek's eyes glinted dangerously. ‘Jamie, start filming,' I whispered, dreading what our nightmare neighbour might do next. But he must have heard me. He looked into the camera and stuck out his tongue. ‘Hello, everybody!' he taunted.
It was as though he thought it was a fun game. But I was shaking with fear.
Then he turned to Andy. ‘You're dead,' he hissed.
I ran then. Scuttled into the house, heart racing. The second that we were all inside, I called the police station.
When we showed officers the recording, they finally realised this wasn't a frail old man that needed protecting. This was a vicious person who was making repeated threats to our family. They decided the recording was enough to charge him for harassment.
The next day, officers went to arrest him. As they took him away, he glared at our house and shrieked at the top of his voice. ‘Game on now, Leavesley!'
Oh God, we'd done this to make our lives better - what if it just made him worse?
That night, I lay awake in a cold sweat. ‘What if he tries to hurt us?' I whispered.
‘He won't,' Andy soothed.
In the end, though, we installed four CCTV cameras, covering every angle outside our house.
Over the next couple of months, all sorts was filmed. Derek screaming obscenities. Derek sticking his fingers up. Derek howling like a banshee outside our house.
Finally, we had enough evidence to mount a case. During the two-day hearing at Loughborough Magistrates' Court, Derek denied harassment. The only thing he admitted was making the V-sign.
When it was time for the verdict, me and Andy sat in the public gallery behind Derek, who sat in the dock in his wheelchair.
Suddenly, he turned and glared at me. Tears pricked my eyes. ‘It's fine, it's fine,' Andy said.
Derek turned on him. ‘You're going to get it!' he hissed.
Andy held his hands up. ‘He just threatened me.' I was close to tears.
Derek was found guilty on all counts of harassment. He let out a howling scream as he was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison. A restraining order covers us and our neighbours.
It's not over. He'll be out soon and, as far as we know, he has no plans to move. We'll keep our cameras on.
It goes to show that terror comes in all shapes and sizes.
Kel Leavesley, 43, Loughborough, Leics