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Neighbour 'poisoned my hedge'

Pensioner complains to police about late-night visit with a watering can.

    A decade-long dispute between two neighbours moved from their gardens to a courtroom this week amid allegations that one man poisoned the other's hedge during a middle-of-the-night attack.

    The families, both Jewish, are said to have repeatedly clashed over parking, rubbish and boundary disputes at their homes.

    Attempts by rabbinic authorities and police to mediate between Robert Pearlman and Saul Shaya failed.

    On Tuesday, Hendon Magistrates' Court heard claims that 44-year-old Mr Pearlman attacked a hedge between the houses in Renters Avenue, Hendon.

    The hedge was said to have been at the heart of arguments over the properties' boundaries.

    Katie Weiss, prosecuting, said: "At 1.15am Mr Pearlman was seen on the driveway of the house with a watering can. He was seen to pour a liquid around a hedge. Within a few weeks of the incident part of the hedge had died and turned brown."

    Mr Shaya's daughter, Deborah, told the court: "I saw him clearly and recognised it was Mr Pearlman. He looked up at me.

    "He appeared to be watering the plants at the end of our flowerbed. I was shocked because I would not expect to see anybody on our property at that time of the morning, watering our plants without our permission."

    Ms Shaya told magistrates that Mr Pearlman had then walked away from both the properties and crossed the road, before reappearing without the watering can. She continued: "I opened the window and shouted: 'Burglar. Thief. You evil man. Run, you evil man.' It was very upsetting."

    Mr Pearlman laughed in the dock as Ms Shaya described what she had seen. He denies one charge of criminal damage relating to the alleged incident on December 29, 2008.

    At one point magistrates used a box of tissues to illustrate the hedge and which sections had died.

    Mr Pearlman's defence team told the court that attempts to encourage the families to settle their differences with the help of a Beth Din had failed.

    They argued that the hedge belonged not to the Shayas, but to Mr Pearlman, and that the poisoning claim was "just another allegation in a long line" made by the Shayas.

    Saul Shaya told the court that he and his wife had lived at their home since 1968. Mr Pearlman moved next door 18 years ago.

    Giving evidence, Mr Shaya said: "We have done nothing at all [to the hedge]. It cost me well over £2,000 to repair the hedge, the soil and all my lavender plants and foliage. Mr Pearlman's side of the hedge has flourished.

    "It has affected me a lot. Each time I come into my property I feel very sad to look at it. I wake up every night to see if Mr Pearlman will come onto my property."

    Under cross-examination Mr Shaya admitted he had "repeatedly" called police about parking issues and had previously told officers that Mr Pearlman had damaged his property "with no evidence whatsoever".

    Mr Shaya claimed Mr Pearlman had "harassed" his family. Mr Shaya said on one occasion his neighbour had followed him from carriage to carriage during a tube journey, demanding to know why he wore a kippah.

    The case will resume next month.

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