'Unbearable' pensioner, 67, 'terrorised' neighbour with plant pots outside his window in courtyard row

Chris Parsons
News Editor
Mary De Jong, left, is in court accused of breaching two aspects of a restraining order. (SWNS)

A pensioner ‘terrorised’ her neighbour by placing pot plants outside his window in a long-running shared courtyard dispute, a court has heard.

Mary De Jong, 67, has been embroiled in a four year bitter row with neighbour Stephen Johnston over their shared residential space in Topsham, Devon.

The pair initially fell out over their communal courtyard, with ‘unreasonable and awkward’ De Jong planting a bush to purposely block his kitchen window.

She refused to cut it back and was handed a restraining order by magistrates in 2017 and told she must trim the large pot plant and stop pointing CCTV at his house.

But she has now gone on trial at Exeter Crown Court for breaching both aspects of the order.

Mary De Jong's home in Topsham, Devon, where she shared a courtyard with Stephen Johnston. (SWNS)

Prosecutor Lee Bembridge described the long-running saga involving neighbours who live around two courtyards in the pretty Devon riverside village.

At the start of a two day trial, Mr Bembridge: 'It's hard to imagine anywhere more serene and idyllic to live: unless you live next door to Mary De Jong.'

He added: 'She moved in seven years ago and at first they all got on, but that changed after a disagreement over the courtyard.

'Her response was to be as unreasonable and awkward as she could. She planted a bush which purposely blocked his window and prevented him opening it fully, causing a disruption, despite him asking her to cut it back.'

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De Jong pleaded has pleaded not guilty to two charges of breaching restraining orders previously imposed on her by Exeter magistrates in October 2017 .

Mr Bembridge told the court the rowing neighbours were amicable until 2015 but things have escalated since with a series of criminal and civil proceedings.

Mr Bembridge added: 'For months Mary De Jong has been terrorising Stephen Johnston, with her pot plants and her CCTV cameras.

Mary De Jong appearing at Exeter Crown Court. (SWNS)

'He has tried to deal with things reasonably - Mary de Jong is not a reasonable person.'

Mr Bembridge said she had appealed against the magistrates' order but the restraining orders were upheld by the crown court and still stand.

'Any reasonable or rational person would have moved the camera and the plant - but she is not a rational person.

'These things on their own may seem insignificant, but over the months and years they have been very distressing and harassing for Mr Johnston.'

Retired university lecturer Mr Johnson said he had lived there since 2007 with his partner of 30 years, Susan.

He told the court: 'I lived there first and she arrived several years later. There were no previous issues whatsoever between the four neighbours.

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'Then there was a dispute between Elizabeth Kingston and Mary de Jong. During that dispute I noticed some bullying activities between the two and I provided a written statement in support of Miss Kingston.’

Mr Johnson told the court Mary De Jong ‘quoted the written statement’ back to him, before putting a bamboo plant beneath his kitchen window, which didn’t take.

He added that a second bamboo plant was then placed under his window which ‘grew extraordinarily vigorously, and slowly but surely it grew and grew and covered a large proportion of my kitchen window’.

Mr Johnson continued: ‘I wrote to her about the lack of light and she responded by saying 'these houses do get rather dark'.

'It was quite clear this was being done on purpose - we had gone to court and she knew there was an order to cut it back but she didn't.'

The trial continues.