Lecturer 'kept diary on family next door'

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The Independent Online

A retired academic maintained "an unhealthy interest" in his neighbours' lives and kept a detailed diary of their every movement, a court was told on Tuesday.

James Forster, 68, used derogatory nicknames as he logged the movements of the Kellett family who lived near by, and the Collin family, who were former friends, Teesside Crown Court was told. The technology expert is alleged to be behind acts of vandalism and a hate-mail campaign that cast a shadow over the village of Manfield in North Yorkshire.

Police found a "gossip list" of villagers at Mr Forster's home, the court was told. Michael O'Neill, for the prosecution, said: "What you have written is the diary of a snoop – the diary of a man who is obsessed by the Kelletts and what goes on at Meadowcroft [their home]. That diary shows an unhealthy interest in what was going on at Meadowcroft."

Mr Forster denied Mr O'Neill's claims, but he admitted nicknaming a local Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator, Eric Collin, "Quisling" after the Second World War Norwegian traitor, and referring to his wife as "Buddha".

Mr Forster's professionalism as a lecturer was confirmed by a statement read out in court from John Shipley, regional director of the Open University in the North. It said: "I regard him as a most able academic. In all aspects of his professional life I found that he maintained the highest standards of personal discipline. His judgement was always sound and respected."

Mr Forster, of Manfield, denies three charges of threatening to destroy or damage property, three of damaging property, three of sending indecent or obscene mail and one of incitement to commit burglary. The trial continues.