Neighbour is cleared over weedkiller vendetta

"I wonder if the evidence was planted?"

"I wonder if the evidence was planted?"

A former financial trader has been cleared of poisoning his neighbour's hedge with weedkiller.

Robert Pearlman, 44, was accused of attacking the hedge between his and Saul Shaya's homes as part of a long-running dispute between the men, who are both Jewish.

Magistrates had previously heard how attempts by rabbinic authorities and police to mediate between the pair in Renters Avenue, Hendon, had failed.

On Monday, Mr Pearlman told Hendon Magistrates: "I never put any weedkiller on Mr Shaya's hedge. I did not do it. "

Katie Weiss, prosecuting, put it to Mr Pearlman that he had lied about the amount of stress his arrest had caused him and alleged he had carried out the attack as part of a "vendetta".

But he said he had been in bed at the time of the alleged incident on December 29, 2008 and did not know how the hedge had been damaged.

"It was not me. I was not there on that night. It's ridiculous. Why would I take it into my own hands? It's a pack of lies. I do not have a vendetta against them. I have tried to steer clear of them."

Defending, Greg Krieger said: "What we have here is a neighbourly dispute with allegations and counter-allegations both taking up a lot of police time. There is simply no evidence put before the court how this hedge was damaged, if it was damaged, or who by. "

Ms Weiss said 80-year-old Mr Shaya's life had been "ruined" by the dispute. Eric Elbaz, a former colleague of Mr Pearlman, told the court the pair had discussed weedkiller while working as financial traders in Borehamwood in 2008.

He claimed Mr Pearlman had told colleagues of the problems he was having with his neighbours, and later told Mr Elbaz he had "got hold of the weedkiller and used it".

Mr Elbaz claimed he found Mr Pearlman's "hatred" for his neighbours so uncomfortable that he later visited the Shaya family because he was concerned that Mr Pearlman might try to put weedkiller in a water tank at their property.

Mr Pearlman denied all the allegations made by his former colleague.

Clive Lewisohn, chair of the bench, said Mr Elbaz's evidence could not be considered independent after the court heard how the men were embroiled in a dispute over £15,000 Mr Pearlman claimed he was owed from the time they worked together.

Mr Lewisohn concluded: "We have to ask ourselves whether, given the quality of the evidence, its credibility, and its lack of independence, it is of such value and sufficient reliability to prove the case. We do not believe it is."

An application for a restraining order against Mr Pearlman, which would have barred him from having any contact with the Shaya family, was also dismissed.

    Last updated: 3:39pm, May 12 2011