I'm the real victim here, says the Asbo Beast of Bottomley

The middle-aged woman who turned a West Yorkshire village into a 'hamlet of horrors' speaks for the first time about the neighbours she says provoked her
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The Independent Online

The woman accused of turning a tranquil West Yorkshire village into a "hamlet of horrors" last night said she was the victim of a campaign of hate.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent on Sunday, Jeanne Wilding alleged that her neighbours had attacked her with bottles, ripped down her fences and threatened to kill her.

The retired businesswoman said she was the victim of a "vendetta" and that her neighbours were trying to drive her out.

Ms Wilding, 57, was given an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) on Thursday after "running a campaign of hatred and pure evil" in the tiny hamlet of Bottomley, near Todmorden in West Yorkshire.

But last night she blamed the "internecine warfare" on her neighbours. "There was so much hatred here already when I moved. The degree of venom that's been applied is amazing. The neighbours throw bottles at me, rip down my fences and set them on fire. I have had a hell of a time and I have been branded a professional trouble-maker. I'm not. I'm a boringly respectable woman. It is difficult for me to understand what is going on in their minds."

Ms Wilding moved to the picturesque West Yorkshire hamlet in 2002. The judge at Calderdale magistrates court heard about 259 incidents that allegedly took place between July 2004 and November 2005. The hamlet's three other families were all targeted during a campaign that included setting booby traps, damaging vehicles and blasting out choral music depicting rape and murder in the middle of the night. Ms Wilding also placed dead animals, dog faeces and glass and nails on neighbours' drives.

She was ordered to pay costs of £75,000 - a sum that Ms Wilding said would bankrupt her. Part of the Asbo requires Ms Wilding to take down CCTV cameras and spotlights around her house.

Last night she said she would keep the cameras and spotlight in place and expects to be arrested when the Asbo comes into effect on Tuesday.

Penny Pratt, whose husband, Nigel, broke down in the witness box as he described the impact of Ms Wilding on their lives, said the family had endured a "very traumatic" time. "It takes on a life of its own," she said. "It has been a very difficult time for all of us.

"We are delighted the Asbo has been ordered but we don't think it is going to stop her. We have had consistent and constant breaches of the interim Asbo since January and that's been very difficult to deal with."

Mrs Pratt, 47, a landscape architect, said: "When someone is trashing the environment on your own doorstep it is terrible."

Paul Cryer described living next to Ms Wilding as "horrendous". He said she began terrorising her neighbours the moment she moved to Bottomley.

"It is a beautiful, tranquil place to live. It's the perfect place. It would be heaven without her. Something has happened to us every day for nearly four years. It has taken over our lives. She might as well have been living in our house.

"It has been our worst nightmare. All we want is peace. We want a normal life like normal people. We just want a life. I wish she'd leave us in peace."

Both Mr Cryer and his wife, Nikki, have suffered from depression. Their six-year-old, Jack, has seen a mental health nurse. "You wonder how it will affect him when he grows up," said Mr Cryer.

The saga has no end in sight. Ms Wilding, who is planning to appeal against the Asbo, said she would not be moving house. "I'm stuck here," she said. "I can't sell the house."