Have you shot Miss Jones? Villagers have had enough of new resident

Writer called her neighbours 'toothless' and 'faintly Amish'

Danny Brierley
Sunday 06 September 2009 00:00 BST
Liz Jones
Liz Jones

The shotgun-blasted letterbox at the end of Liz Jones's drive marks the latest dark twist in the souring of a city journalist's attempt to live a countryside idyll.

To say that the Daily Mail columnist has failed to ingratiate herself with the people of Dulverton would be to play down the animosity felt towards someone who has called her neighbours "toothless" and the local area "faintly Amish".

Dulverton, nestling in a fold of the edge of a moor over which the River Barle runs, has a butcher, baker, fish and chip shop and art gallery. When Upcott Farm, where Jones now lives, was put on the market for £1.6m in 2007, it and the amenities on its doorstep were said to be the perfect buy for urban professionals seeking a new way of life.

But Jones has yet to settle in, and resentment at acerbic remarks in her book, The Exmoor Files, has caused a rift. Jones, a former editor of Marie Claire magazine, was said to be frightened and upset.

Villagers in the tiny hamlet on the edge of Exmoor National Park are quick to tell tales of how their relationships with Jones have soured and how things came to a head on Thursday afternoon.

Some say a farmer recently called at Upcott to confront her. Others recall seeing a woman on horseback delivering a letter, demanding a public debate about the barbs that many feel made them appear "cold, dirty, smelly and vicious".

Those visits are said to have followed a series of confrontations caused by an unruly sheepdog, one of a number of organically fed rescue animals that live with Jones and Nicola Bebb, her "equine behaviourist", at her farm.

The dog had been blamed for worrying lambs, and Jones's inability to control it, locals say, is an indicator of the chasm between her life and theirs. Even her sister and nephew have left Upcott to live in rented accommodation in a nearby village.

One neighbour said: "The majority of people here hunt and shoot. We have got nothing in common with her, really. I think she may find it difficult to make any kind of life here now. She is not a very friendly person and we are all sick to death of talking about Liz Jones.

"A hatred has been building up for months. She is actually having a go at people and they are not going to tolerate that. She has feelings like all people, of course she has. But everyone wants her to leave and leave now. No one can make her, but we think she will go. I don't see how you can live in such a small community with people who think that way about you."

Detectives trying to narrow down the field of suspects over the shotgun-blasted letterbox say they have no leads. They'll have their work cut out.

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