A woman who took the Homebase DIY chain to the High Court alleging she was slandered over a £1 pot plant ended up with a £45,000 legal bill yesterday. A jury decided none of the three staff accused Jo-Ann Bowen-Griffith of swapping a £12 price tag on a begonia for a £1 tag.
A lawyer for Homebase told Mr Justice Eady his clients were entitled to costs, estimated at £45,000. Ms Bowen-Griffith, who represented herself but left court when the jury retired in the morning and has not been seen since, must pay up or face bankruptcy and liquidation of her assets, including her home. She is in her forties and believed to live alone in a flat in Hendon, north London.
Miss Bowen-Griffith, a keen gardener who said she regularly entered competitions, had told the jury that when she was accused of changing the label at the New Southgate branch in north London, she felt "extremely upset and angry".
She said she spotted competition rivals in another checkout queue. "I became even more embarrassed and demanded even more adamantly an apology." When a sales manager, Clive Jarrett, eventually came over, she said he told her: "You come into this shop changing prices and now you are shouting at the staff as well."
She said she was forced to take legal action because Homebase refused to admit she was right and had banned her from its stores, although it was admitted the price of the plant had been reduced to £1.
The jury found that none of the staff had made the allegations in the words, or substantially the same words.A Homebase spokesman said: "Our staff always maintained all the allegations made by Ms Bowen-Griffith were untrue."