Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Neighbours Tell of Bully Hell

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Neighbours Tell of Bully Hell

Article excerpt

Byline: By Owen McAteer

Neighbour from hell Stephen Thoms thought he was above the law and hid a dark past of threats and blackmail as he plagued the lives of his neighbours.

Magistrates slapped an Anti-Social Behaviour Order on the Mercedes-driving businessman after he carried out a six-month campaign of harassment against his neighbours.

He told one neighbour he was a "psychopath", offered to fight another and carried out a reign of harassment in Auckland, Chester-le-Street, which left some scared to leave their homes.

Their ordeal included threats, verbal abuse and vandalism, and Thoms even admitted in court to pushing animal faeces through one neighbour's door.

Giving evidence himself, Thoms told the court he was "an amiable sort of guy" who was the victim of a plot by his neighbours.

But today the Chronicle can reveal the campaign Thoms ran from May to November last year was not the first time he has used threats and intimidation in an effort to get his own way.

He was jailed in May 1997 for three months after threatening dissatisfied customers with "hard men" if they didn't pay up.

He had even told customers who threatened to go to the police not to saying: "I'm a law unto myself."

Thoms, who ran a conservatory firm, Oakwood Conservatories, based at Newcastle Racecourse, had blackmailed a customer into paying more than was owed.

Customers affected by his actions were enraged by the leniency of the term.

Barry and Heather Rutherford had been threatened with a visit "hard men" if they did not pay up.

Terrified, the Rutherfords, who lived at Dipton, Stanley, were forced to move house because of the fear from Thoms' threats.

Others who fell victim to Thoms' threats were the Finnigan family, then of Lilac Avenue, Framwellgate Moor, Durham.

Imposing a two-year Asbo on Thoms yesterday, magistrates told him he was forbidden from harassing, intimidating, threatening or abusing anyone in County Durham.

He was told he could not remain on any premises after being asked to leave, trespass on private property, photograph any house in Auckland, except his own, spit at any person or vehicle or allow his West Highland terrier Casper out in his street except when it was on a lead. …

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