Shropshire Star

Neighbours 'dreading' prison release of woman who made their lives a 'nightmare'

A 55-year-old Shropshire woman who subjected her neighbours to a series of death threats and harassment has been released from prison to live near the same people.

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Despite pleading guilty to criminally damaging a window and a Nissan Almera and a series of harassment charges, Susan Ayres, of Glebe Road, Bayston Hill, claimed over a court video link from prison that she was the real victim.

Throughout a video appearance at Telford Magistrates Court on Tuesday, Ayres was seen turning her back on proceedings and at one stage flicking an obscene one-fingered gesture.

Ayres was being sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of criminal damage and four of harassment covering the period January 2022 to October 2023, including writing letters while in prison.

Her lawyer said that Ayres has learning difficulties including autism, and "cannot cope" with her emotions. But that was rejected by district judge Ian Barnes who told Ayres that other people with learning difficulties and autism do not behave in that way.

Helen Boccacci, in a victim statement read in person to the judge in court while Ayres looked on via a video link, said: "It's a complete and utter nightmare."

She told the court that Ayres played hymns at a high volume while complaining about her playing her guitar.

"I fear she knows people who will harm us. I worry about my husband walking to work and I think I am seeing her in the street.

"While she has been in custody my asthma has improved and but when she is at home I use my blue inhaler every day.

"All I want is for her to leave me alone."

She added that Ayres had shown a lack of remorse and claimed that she had "no intention of changing and we all dread her release".

She added: "It has been incredibly frustrating not being able to play musical instruments. She would be banging on the window while I am quietly playing my guitar but she would play her hymns loudly.

"We can't do anything to relax, we are tense all the time and on edge."

Ayres was charged that between January 23, 2023, and July 3, 2023, she had placed numerous posters on her neighbours' windows, deliberately flooded Helen and Richard Boccacci's garden on "numerous" occasions and had been "verbally abusive" towards neighbours on "numerous days".

The court heard that the criminal damage charge related to Ayres throwing pasta sauce over the car and windows on July 10, 2023.

Sara Beddow, prosecuting, said there had been peace in Bayston Hill for about 10 years until Helen Boccacci made a harassment complaint in October 2019.

"After then it really deteriorated," said Ms Beddow.

When musical instruments were played she started banging on the windows. Ayres started calling her neighbours "freaks" and "retards". She would stick card over video cameras to stop them recording.

"It was extremely upsetting," said Ms Beddow.

In November 2022 Ayres threatened to "come round and smash your heads in". The next month she shouted: "Hey, freak, I'm coming to get you, you lazy ******* cow."

In December 2022 she demanded that her neighbours "move, you *******, I'm going to cut out your tongue and feed it to the dogs.

"Burn in your car, die you *******, die."

In January, 2023, Ayres threatened: "I'm coming round with a knife to cut you *******' throats."

In February she accused her neighbours of being 'liars' and threatened to sharpen her axe and "cut your throats and cut your heads off".

Another neighbour, in a victim statement, said she had been contacted by Ayres from prison and the whole situation caused her stress and to be on medication.

Kate Cooper, mitigating, said reports on Ayres said she had learning difficulties, anxiety and autistic spectrum disorder.

"She struggles to cope with her emotions," Miss Cooper said.

She added that Ayres' neighbours themselves "don't shy away from conflict".

Miss Cooper added: "The complainants are confrontational and goading her on. She does not know how to cope with it."

She said Ayres "at no point had carried out threats" and had contacted police with her own concerns.

"She struggles to manage it and can't cope emotionally."

This all added, Miss Cooper said, to the situation being "the perfect storm", adding that Ayres had put her home on the market wanting to move away but has not managed a sale yet.

She added that Ayres "needs support in the community".

Ayres has been in custody since July 2023, which Miss Cooper said meant she had been "over-punished for these offences".

Judge Barnes said he had seen a "no more serious case of harassment", which had left Ayres victims "in fear of you".

He added that her learning disability "does not excuse criminal activities" because others with learning difficulties "do not offend in this way".

But he said the maximum sentence he could hand down was six months in prison.

After giving Ayres credit for her guilty plea he said the punishment should be 21 weeks in custody, with the criminal damage attracting a four-week concurrent sentence.

This means, Judge Barnes said, because of the time she had spent behind bars, that she would be released into "post-sentence supervision" and could go home.

Judge Barnes ordered Ayres to pay £605 in total compensation to her various victims but said she would not be told to pay costs or a victims surcharge.

He also slapped a restraining order on Ayres, telling her to have no contact with her neighbours and not to go into their gardens.

After the judge had summed up, Ayres attempted to get to the microphone once before managing to say to the court room: "I'm the victim in this. The Boccaccis...." before she was muted.

After the proceedings ended with the video link being switched off, the neighbours left the courtroom, discussing what might happen next.

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