Peace at last after nightmare years'

PUBLISHED: 13:02 05 May 2008 | UPDATED: 10:39 17 June 2010

Maureen Vincent and David Clark

Maureen Vincent and David Clark

AFTER living through the nightmare of years of drunken late-night brawls by their neighbours, a Sidbury couple slept soundly at their Furzehill flat on Monday night. For nurse Carole Coverly, seeing Maureen Vincent, 44, and her boyfriend David Clark, 41, receive four-year anti-social behaviour orders at Honiton Magistrates' Court earlier that day, meant her 16 years of living above the neighbours from hell seemed over.

AFTER living through the nightmare of years of drunken late-night brawls by their neighbours, a Sidbury couple slept soundly at their Furzehill flat on Monday night.

For nurse Carole Coverly, seeing Maureen Vincent, 44, and her boyfriend David Clark, 41, receive four-year anti-social behaviour orders at Honiton Magistrates' Court earlier that day, meant her 16 years of living above the neighbours from hell seemed over.

"We had complained to the police and district council over a great many years," said Mrs Coverly, 47, who thanked the police for "championing our cause and getting things sorted out". My daughter Rhea was five when we moved in. Now she is 22. The worst years were when she was studying for her GCSEs. It hurts us she had to go through that. Maureen was having a problem with alcohol which got worse."

She said if she complained at the pair's protracted drunken rows "they were very threatening".

Vincent and Clark were "always falling out. She would call up through the ceiling, begging for mercy and calling for an ambulance and police."

Once, when paramedics arrived at the scene, they were turned away.

"EDDC didn't seem to be listening and I felt I was wasting police time to keep calling them out. I have been on the priority transfer list for 10 years and was offered a place in Ottery St Mary but I wanted to stay in the Sid Valley. I think I hated them at three in the morning, but they are seriously ill. I hope now they will accept the help they have been offered."

Eight years ago, Peter Chesterfield, 50, a window cleaner and martial arts expert, moved in with Mrs Coverly, but disturbances continued unabated. He said: "I did everything I could, apart from physically intimidate them, to get them to stop."

When banging on ceiling and door failed, they gave up trying to stop the shouting, which often continued until 5am. We repeatedly asked for sound-proofing but the council dragged its feet," he said, explaining the concrete ceiling failed to deaden the noise.

For Sidmouth Police, it has been a nine-year fight to find ways to curb the noisy neighbours' behaviour.

PC Dave Wallace, community police officer, said: "The law doesn't have the tools to deal with drunks. She (Vincent) was using us to do her dirty work. All the neighbours saw the police going three or four times a week. The amount of time we spent there was a waste of taxpayers' money."

He is delighted the police application for ASBOs was granted, especially the length of them and their conditions, which will prevent Clark being at the same address as his girlfriend. He said it was a combined effort between PCSO Alex Powe, Gerry Moore at Devon Safety Partnership and EDDC housing officer John Moss. He said: "Seeking an ASBO was a last resort. They were offered help and had regular visits and help with alcohol."

If conditions of the orders are broken, they could face up to five years in prison.

EDDC fully endorses action taken to secure the ASBOs. A spokesman said: "The message we want all our tenants and other residents to hear loud and clear is that behaviour that adversely affects other people's lives will not be tolerated."

The council will wait before deciding whether to apply to repossess the flat, but confirmed: "We will be investigating the need for possible sound insulation to be installed between the two flats."

The five ASBO conditions:

THERE are five conditions attached to the four -year ASBOs meted out to Maureen Vincent and David Clark by Honiton magistrates on Monday.

David Clark, 41, will be prohibited from:

Acting or encouraging another to act in an anti-social manner, that is in a manner likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress, whether in public or private and in particular to the residents of Furzehill, Sidbury; Using foul, abusive, offensive, threatening or intimidating language or behaviour in a public place; Being found drunk and disorderly or drunk and incapable in a public place; Going to or entering any address at which Maureen Jean Vincent is the tenant and entering the area delineated on the attached map; Physically fighting in any public place.

Miss Vincent's conditions are identical, apart from 4, which is: Permitting David Clark to enter any address at which Maureen Jean Vincent is a tenant.

The couple were adjudged that "the inconsiderate, irresponsible and anti-social behaviour of both ... has had a considerable adverse impact upon the lives of and the quality of life for their neighbours and other residents in Furzehill."

Over 16 months, 43 incidents involving Mr Clark and 47 involving Miss Vincent were recorded and, magistrates heard, they regularly used violence towards each other.

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