Woman homeless after Lower Morden neighbour's 'vendetta'
An ex-Merton police special constable claims she was driven out of her home after suffering a five-year torrent of death threats and harassment at the hands of her neighbour.
Sue Bennett, a 40-year-old with a disabled child, said she still lives in fear after giving evidence in court against her former neighbour in Lynmouth Avenue, Lower Morden.
She now lives in a homeless hostel in Colliers Wood but, despite numerous guilty court verdicts and breach of antisocial behaviour orders (Asbos), her tormentor Sarah Ridge has remained free.
Mrs Bennett said: “This woman began a vicious vendetta which has effectively destroyed my life.
“Yet she has escaped without any serious intervention by the authorities and still lives in a nice up-market three-bedroom house.
“There were constant threats. Stones and rocks were tossed into our garden – one narrowly missing my child.
“Rubbish was thrown over our fence and the car tyres were slashed on several occasions.
“She was found guilty in several cases of threatening me and handed an Asbo. But that didn’t stop her.”
Mrs Bennett’s son suffers from dyspraxia, which affects co-ordinated movement, while she has developed post-traumatic stress syndrome in the wake of an attack while she was out on patrol for Merton police, where she worked as a civilian crime desk worker for eight years.
She said: “We have ended up almost penniless in one room of a hostel. I have begged the council to house us but they have turned a deaf ear.
“All I want is a small council flat near my parents’ home in Wimbledon so they can help me care for my son.
But, after a meeting between Mrs Bennett, Merton Council, and Siobhain McDonagh MP, she said she was not offered a council house.
Ms McDonagh said: “Mrs Bennett has not been well looked after, by either the police or the council.
“It was her willingness to give evidence for them both, against this neighbour from hell, which led directly to her current situation.
“She has paid a heavy price for doing her civic duty.”
In letters to the MP, Merton Council revealed there had been years of complaints about the family’s behaviour. But since the council accidentally revealed the addresses of the complainants there was a marked reluctance to give evidence in court.
A Merton Council spokesman said: “We are currently reviewing this case and are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.”
The spokesman also confirmed the council had taken out an anti social behaviour injunction (Asbi) against Ridge because of her behaviour towards Mrs Bennett.
She twice breached the injunction and, on each occasion, was given a suspended prison sentence.
Two years ago the council sent letters to all her neighbours asking them to report any antisocial behaviour by her.
Ridge admitted receiving the Asbi and an Asbo, plus several guilty magistrates’ court verdicts involving her behaviour towards Mrs Bennett.
But she said: “She had a grudge against me right from the start and she’s just using me to get council housing because she couldn’t afford her mortgage.
“After we were in court I offered to have coffee with her but she was having none of it. She wasn’t interested in mediation or anything.
“This thing with Bennett has nearly killed me because of the stress and I’m having to take medication now. I’m going to sue her, and social services for threatening to take my kids away.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “The Met received a number of allegations from both parties between 2007 and 2009 and liaised with relevant agencies in order to determine the appropriate courses of action.
“There are ongoing proceedings in relation to this matter and the individuals mentioned in this article.
It would therefore be inappropriate to discuss further details at this stage but the matter is being monitored by both the police and local authority.”