A couple was told they would be shot after a feud erupted with neighbours over where they should park their campervans.
Firefighter Michelle Vickers, 32, claimed she was manhandled and subjected to foul-mouthed abuse from hairdresser Kim Fowles, 51, when they argued after Michelle parked her VW Transporter van – nicknamed Lily – and another motorhome on their narrow street.
Fowles’ boyfriend Stephen Barton, 54, also threatened to gun down Michelle’s partner William Longley, 35, and shake him off his ladder as he was repairing a first-floor window frame.
Fowles, who had been with Barton in their local pub, later claimed the couple had been “intimidating” them over the way they parked their camping vehicles outside their terraced homes in the normally genteel village of Malpas in Cheshire.
They also claimed they had been shouted at, threatened with a baseball bat and attacked with a tin of deep heat spray.
Michelle escaped unhurt in last month’s incident but William was left distressed by the threats.
No gun was ever found.
At Chester Magistrates’ Court, Fowles and Barton pleaded guilty to using threatening behaviour.
Tanya Berridge-Burley, prosecuting, said: “It was 10.50pm on July 2 when police received a call from one of the complainants reporting that there was a male and a female at their gate and that they were being threatened.
“The couple were said to be drunk. The male said he had a firearm and he was going to use it. A short time later Mr Barton called to say he had been threatened by the residents with a baseball bat.
“Officers arrived and went into the home of Ms Fowles. There was a smell of intoxicants and Mr Barton was slurring his speech. He called his partner Ms Fowles from upstairs. She was reluctant but did eventually come downstairs.
“Mr Barton said he had been assaulted. Ms Fowles refused to speak to the officers but asked if she had been assaulted she said ‘No’. “The complainants were outside. One of the complainants, William Longley, said he was up a set of ladders trying to fix windows which had been falling out.
“As he was up the ladder he heard Mr Barton said he was going to push him off the ladder. Therefore, he came off the ladder when Mr Barton crossed the road, fearing that he was going to carry out the threat.
“When he came down from the ladder Mr Barton became abusive towards him. Mr Longley said he was talking incoherently and swearing.
“Michelle Vickers, Mr Longley’s partner, came out of the property to see what was happening. At that point, Ms Fowles has come over and both were shouting and swearing about parking.
“The defendant has pushed Ms Vickers causing her to fall. Ms Vickers has then closed the gate and bolted it. Both defendants continued being abusive. Mr Barton said he was going across the road to get to a firearm.
“He said he was going to get it and bring it back.
“The complainants started to film the incident and told them they were going to call the police. Police arrested both defendants and in interview, Ms Fowles said that although she accepted shouting and swearing she stated that she did so because she was being shouted at. She denied the assault saying it was self-defence.”
“Mr Barton accepted fully instigating the incident and took responsibility for it. Serious alarm or distress was caused to the victim, due to the threat of using a firearm.”
In mitigation for Fowles, solicitor Ms Stevie Lumb said: “As you have heard there is a history of a parking dispute. Parking is quite sparse. It is terraced housing with only a row of parking available to the residents.
“It is an ongoing issue with the neighbours who have three or possibly four vehicles that they park on the road outside of their neighbours. They include vans and campervans, we are not talking small vehicles. It has been an ongoing issue for quite some time.
“Unfortunately, on this occasion, fuelled by alcohol, Ms Fowles’ partner had decided to confront the complainant and his partner. He conceded that he said what he said and he has made full admissions for his part in the offence.
“The defendant accepts pushing on this one occasion as alleged. She said she was intoxicated. The argument with her partner simply got out of hand and she decided to intervene. There was no evidence that she made any threats.”
Ms Lumb said Fowles has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and added: “She has been constantly on edge. The complainants continue to park outside their address in an attempt to intimidate her.
“She feels great anxiety in relation to that. That is another reason why she wanted to resolve the matter today. She was offered a caution by police but if she denied the assault it would not be offered to her.”
For Barton, who had recently been made redundant from his job as a production engineer, lawyer Richard Sibeon said: “The parking dispute, which is a common issue, has clearly been a festering wound that has been there for some time. Mr Barton accepted in the interview coming back from the pub and upon seeing the gentleman he start gobbing off. Then the partner got involved.
“His problem is that idle threat or the suggestion that he has some sort of firearm. He does not have a firearm. He does not know why he said it. He has no connection with firearms. It was likely said in the heat of the moment.
“As referred to in his statement, there were other aspects. He suggested that the female had sprayed him with deep heat. He called the police himself. A baseball bat was already there in the doorway. There was a suggestion that the victim had made some sort of a threat with the baseball bat.
“However, the defendant accepts that the comments he made were ill-judged. He certainly should not have used those words. “The motivation is one of those banes of people’s lives, parking. It is one of those terraced housing places where it is believed there is one space each for vehicles on the road.”
Fowles was conditionally discharged for 12-months and ordered to pay Ms Vickers £100 in compensation plus £119 in costs and a victim surcharge.
Barton was fined £120 and made to pay £100 in compensation to Mr Longley plus £123 in costs and a victim surcharge.
“This was a long-standing dispute about parking,” Chairman Tim Mann said, “No one owns the road and people can park where they like. I am afraid that if parking is tight, the parking is tight.
“Whatever you may think about those people parking on the road, it is a public road, you do not have any right to it. Getting to court about this is so unnecessary and wrong and causes problems for everyone involved.”