NEIGHBOUR FROM HELL HAS MADE OUR LIVES MISERY SAY TERRIFIED VILLAGERS; `Evil' Ex-Nurse Accused of Frightening Children, Trying to Run over Couple, Sending Hate Mail and Throwing Sewage at Woman
Tallant, Nicola, The Mirror (London, England)
A NEIGHBOUR from hell is making life a misery for residents of a sleepy Irish village.
They say the retired nurse has wrought havoc on their small community where children and adults flee in terror when they see her coming.
Rita Leonard, 62, claims to be a voluntary social worker who saves marriages from falling apart.
But locals in the village where she has lived for the past 20 years have listed a frightening catalogue of intimidation and abuse which neighbours say is forcing them to sell up and move.
Among the dossier of complaints they say she:
l Bombards neighbours with hate mail
l Deliberately drove her car at a couple who live near her
l Told an 11-year-old child that his mother was a "whore" and that he was a "b*****d"
l Chopped neighbours hedges and trees and burned bushes on the road
l Threw a bucket of sewage over a woman for no reason and
l Terrifies children who drag their bikes through two fields rather than pass her house.
Leonard, who was recently branded "an evil woman" by a judge, refuses to accept that she is a menace and claimed: "I am known in Galway as a lady and I'm going to stay that way."
The retired nurse once worked at an RAF hospital in the UK and moved to the tiny village of Cornadulla, near Claregalway, Co Galway after giving up her job in England.
She moved in with pensioner William Lacey, 79, at his home after a relationship with a local farmer ended.
And since then locals say life has never been the same.
Neighbours of the woman are even too terrified to speak out for fear of repercussions.
One man who agreed to talk on condition his name would not be printed told how life with Leonard is a living hell.
"She is an absolute nightmare," he said last night.
"Hardly a day goes by but she is tormenting someone - women and children alike."
"It is hard to believe how awful it is living near her. She has to be the worst neighbour in the country.
"When she moved in first there was some trouble with the kids. She used to come out after them if they cycled past the house.
"She would be screeching and roaring at them. She absolutely terrified them.
"She ended up with a string of convictions and fines for hitting some of the kids and dragging them off their bikes. She doesn't work so she is around all the time."
Leonard was recently sentenced to three months imprisonment after a court heard how she had deliberately drove a car at couple Jimmy and Kathleen Scully.
In court Mr Scully said: "I was driving to work at 8.20am when she backed out of the driveway and drove towards me on the incorrect side of the road. I had to stop. The cars just about passed each other.
Kathleen Scully told the court: "I was terrified and told Jimmy to stop, that she would hit us."
Leonard is appealing the sentence handed down at Galway District Court.
But the car incident is just one of a string of run-ins neighbours have had with the elderly nurse. …