Furious HGV driver gets suspended sentence for causing £7,000 worth of damage to his neighbours’ garden with a JCB
A furious householder destroyed his next-door-neighbour’s garden with a JCB digger in a bitter dispute over a boundary, a court heard.
Martin Lewis, 60, jumped into the machine and went on destructive rampage that caused £7,000 worth of damage to the garden of his neighbour’s detached home.
He demolished part of Simon and Elizabeth Meaton’s garden, mowing down a boundary fence, a fence around a vegetable patch and bulldozed trees, plants and flowers.
Details of the astonishing rampage were given when the HGV driver appeared before Maidstone Crown Court where he admitted a single charge of criminal damage.
Prosecutor Andrew Espley said: “He also demolished the chicken house that was cemented into the ground, he then bulldozed more trees and the compost heap.”
Mr and Meaton moved into the #800,000 four-bedroom property in Sevenoaks, Kent, in 2008 after buying the house from Lewis’ brother Dion.
The court heard there were no problems until Lewis moved into the house next door, which belongs to his father Ernest.
After moving in, Lewis began dumping rubbish in front of the Meatons’ gate.
Mr Meaton, a professional gardener, told Lewis when he was trimming his hedges: “You are going to have to pay for that. Those are my trees.”
Soon afterwards Lewis sent him a letter threatening legal action for cutting his own hedge.
In April 2013, Lewis accused Mr Meaton, 56, of stealing his land and threatened him, saying: “I’m going to be here at 7am and smash your place up.”
Lewis carried out his threat on August 12, 2013, by causing the extensive damage to the Meatons garden after manually pushing over their garden furniture.
Mr Espley said Lewis was ordered to pay £9,000 in a civil court hearing last October for the damage, including interest and costs.
Mitigating, Mark Sahu submitted a conditional discharge to be imposed but Jude Phillip St John-Stevens said: “You can think again.”
Lewis pleaded guilty to criminal damage and was sentenced to two months imprisonment, suspended for a year.
Lewis, who has worked as a farm manager, was made bankrupt in 2012.
Maidstone Crown Court was told details of civil proceedings concerning the neighbours from October last year.
Prosecutor Andrew Espley said: “The defendant was asked not to shout or swear at Mr and Mrs Meaton or threaten them in any way. They report that he has complied with the order.
“He was also ordered to pay £9,000 for the damage, including interest and costs. So far, he has paid #200.”
Mr Espley said Lewis had “behaved very badly” and in an odd manner.
Mark Sahu, defending, said there was a land dispute which “unfortunately got out of hand”.
He said: “What has been a fairly acrimonious boundary matter between neighbours has from October 20 last year been resolved.
“Mr Lewis has kept to undertakings, save for payments in installments of the £9,000.
“Being neighbours they need to live as amicably as they can. Things have moved on. He has apologised to the Meatons on more than one occasion.
“Unfortunately, when parties see red some of these matters can get very much out of hand. That is what happened. It is not something he is going to repeat.”
Mr Sahu said Lewis had since gifted 400 square feet of land to the Meatons.
It was a complete misunderstanding, he said, about a tract of land.
The court heard the machine was a JCB digger.
Lewis was sentenced on September 16.
The married couple who escaped city life for the peace of the countryside have spoken of how they ended up next door to a “neighbour from hell”.
Simon Meaton, 56, ended his City career as an insurance writer to move from Biggin Hill with wife Liz to the serenity of Halstead seven years ago.
But their peaceful life of tending to the chickens and producing homemade jam alongside their rescue dogs was shattered when Martin Lewis moved next door and demolished their garden with a JCB.
Lewis, who often goes by the name of Peter, wrongly believed he was rightful heir to a portion of their plot and turned abusive when they disagreed and tore apart their garden with his digger.
Simon said: “He decided that the end of our garden belonged to him and he kept shouting abuse and he threatened to smash up our garden.”
Special needs teacher Liz, 54, was at home when abusive Lewis started his garden tirade.
She said: “He is the neighbour from hell.
“He turned up in the garden and I came inside and called the police. While I was on the phone to them he was tearing down the garden.
“He pushed a 7ft pergola down with his hands.
“Then I heard this terrible noise he had actually come into our garden on his JCB and smashed down the chicken house.
“I didn’t know whether they got out or whether he killed them.
“Then he started dumping piles of rubble.
“It seemed like it was going on forever but I have no idea how long it actually was.
“He smashed up all our hard work. We had just made it nice.”
Sadly, although the chickens got out two of them died just days later.
Simon, who now works part time as a gardener, said: “We wanted to move somewhere nice and tranquil and idyllic but little did we know.”
Ever since the garden attack in August 2013 they have lived in fear of their neighbour.
This was heightened when Simon was away caring for his mum, war widower Wendy Meaton, in Beckenham while she struggled to recover from the heart attack that eventually led to her death in December aged 94.
The grandparents-of-two and parents-of-four hope the suspended sentence will prevent any further tirades.
Lewis’ wife Kamila Lewis, who keeps horses, refused to comment at their home where the offending JCB still faces the Meatons’ home.
Martin Lewis denied being a “crazed farmer” today (Fri) and said he truly believed it was his land when he tore through his neighbour’s garden on his JCB.
Speaking as he ploughed a field, he said: “I’m not a blithering idiot or a crazed farmer.
“I believed the land was mine.
“I did it. I was wrong. But I acted under the belief it was mine.
“I’m not an idiot. Who would do such a thing knowing the property belonged to them?
“It’s like putting a noose around my neck.”
Lewis, who previously was made bankrupt, says he now works on behalf of other farmers.