A couple who put up a fence to protect their privacy from chip shop customers were shot at with an air gun as a neighbourly relations turned sour in Northumberland.
Christine and Stephen Williams, of Alnwick, said that a man appeared in front of their home and “pointed a gun at them” on Thursday evening as they were erecting the four-foot-tall fence.
The couple said that the man proceeded to fire the gun, striking a wall. Local police confirmed the incident, and added that a 34-year-old man had been arrested in relation to the incident.
The following day, council workmen appeared arrived at the Williams’ house and dismantled the fence, claiming it was blocking the pavement and forcing pedestrians to walk on the road.
The Williams’ home was formerly a sweet shop, but in 2019 the couple made the decision to change careers and convert the store front into their living room.
Ms Williams was furious with the council’s actions in removing the fence, and told the MailOnline that her husband would be putting it back up over the weekend.
“I am disgusted by how this has been handled. We have been emailing the council for six months now explaining what we were going to do but they did not respond. They had no right to take the fence down and my husband will put it back up again because we are entitled to mark our boundary.”
She added that it wasn’t about people eating their chips on her windowsill, but rather that the couple didn’t want people lining up outside their window every evening.
She said hat the row had escalated on Thursday evening when a man arrived at their property with a gun.
“After we’d both got back from work, my husband went outside to work on the fence and I was sitting in a chair at the front keeping him company along with our dog,” she said.
“Suddenly I saw the man on the other side of the road with a gun pointing directly at me. I screamed at Stephen who moved me away as the shot was fired.
“Then we heard cheers coming from the chip shop. It was terrifying. I am really shaken up by the whole thing.”
The couple told the paper that relations between them and their neighbours, a popular chip shop, had deteriorated during the pandemic. Because of Covid requirements, they said the chip shop had marked out a socially distanced queue on the pavement, passing in front of the Williams’ front window.
“My husband went outside and washed off the marks,” Ms Williams said. “There was no need for it. They could easily have queued the other way which leads directly to the chip shop’s large car park.”
She said that the fence had been put up “to mark our boundary which extends from the front of the shop onto the pavement”.
The couple claim that their property deeds prove the area that they had fenced off belongs to them and noted that this had been acknowledged by the Northumberland County Council in 2017, when a broadband company had tried to dig up the pavement in front of their property.
They shared a letter, dated 19 October 2017, with the MailOnline that said: “I can confirm that the council will accept no future responsibility or liability for the condition of the paved area immediately to the front of your property which is in your ownership”.
Despite the letter, the council believes that legal questions remain around its ownership, and insist that the fence was erected prematurely, especially as it partially blocks a lay-by which forces pedestrians to walk on the road.
Councillor Gordon Castle said that the issue had been raised with officers at County Hall, but expressed disbelief that the Williams’ had erected the fence, as he said there are meetings scheduled to discuss the proper legal way forward.
A spokesperson for the Northumberland Police confirmed Thursday’s incident, but said there was “no threat to the wider public”.
“Shortly before 6.50pm” on Thursday “police received a report of concern for the safety following a disturbance on Victoria Crescent in Alnwick.
“It was reported that two parties had been involved in a dispute, during which an air weapon had been discharged at a wall.
“No one was injured but as a precaution, officers from the Force’s Firearms Support Unit (FSU) attended the scene.”
The spokesperson said that a 34-year-old man had been arrested in connection with the incident, and was helping with inquiries.
“There is no threat to the wider public at this time and it is believed all those involved are known to each other,” the spokesperson added.