Neighbour bitten after defending elderly mother

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A DISPUTE between neighbours led to a Shilbottle woman biting a daughter who stepped in to defend her 83-year-old mother from a verbal assault over the use of land opposite her home.

Frances Louise Brough pleaded not guilty to the offence but was convicted of assault following a trial at South East Northumberland Magistrates Court last Friday, after the bench heard how she sunk her teeth into 61-year-old Linda Boyd’s arm and ‘hung on like a dog’.

The attack was the culmination of two days of dispute over works taking place on land at Northside, which is leased to Mrs Boyd’s frail mother, Iris Clark.

Brough, 38, also of Northside, had challenged members of the Clark family on May 27 after noticing machinery and ‘strange cars’ on the narrow lane at the back of the properties.

Words were exchanged and the matter was left unresolved, but at around 9pm the following day, after a drinking session, she went to Mrs Clark’s home and verbally abused the pensioner, branding her family ‘vultures’.

However, Mrs Boyd arrived at around 9.30pm to find Brough with her foot blocking her mother from closing the door. Neighbours became involved before Brough elbowed Mrs Boyd twice, causing her to raise her arms in self-defence.

Brough then grabbed her by the forearms and bit her, despite attempts by a neighbour to intervene and pull her away. Mrs Boyd finally managed to break away by slipping her arm out of her jacket.

Mrs Boyd told magistrates: “I came around the corner to my mother’s house and heard Brough’s voice saying ‘your family are vultures’. I got to the back door and she was standing with her foot in the door, stopping my mother from closing it. My mother said ‘thank heavens you’re here’.

“She said Brough had been there about half-an-hour.”

Mrs Boyd said she went to get a neighbour, who came outside to mediate, only for Brough to then elbow her.

She said: “She dug me in the side and I took a step back. I put my hand on her shoulder and said don’t do that again, but she did. The next thing that happened, she was coming at me. She grabbed both my hands and put them up in the air, swinging me around.

“She then bit my arm through my jacket. I thought she was going to let go but she bit harder. I couldn’t do anything to get her off me, she was so strong. My mother said to the neighbour ‘she’s biting her’ and he then came around and tried to get her off.

“He had an awful struggle.”

After getting free of her jacket, Mrs Boyd took her mother home before going to the casualty department at Alnwick Infirmary, where the five centimetre bite wound was dressed.

She was also given antibiotics and advised to have a course of injections against hepatitis.

Mrs Boyd said: “I was shocked – really badly shocked. I still feel very apprehensive of having to meet her again.”

Giving evidence from her wheelchair, 83-year-old Mrs Clark told the court that after demanding an apology, Brough launched into a drunken tirade against her family.

“She had her foot in the door,” she said. “I could not get rid of that drunk woman. I think it’s disgusting what I had to put up with. The woman was out of her mind with drink.”

Police were called in the wake of the assault, only for Brough to struggle and scream abuse when they tried to arrest her. Officers told the court how she threatened to ‘hunt them down’ and ‘destroy’ them.

Defending herself, Brough – who works in the legal profession in London – claimed she had acted in self-defence when Mrs Boyd allegedly struck her in the face during the argument.

She claimed she had only gone to Mrs Clark’s house because she was ‘so upset’ at what had happened the day before.

But Sarah O’Neill, prosecuting, said: “The evidence we have heard about your behaviour, from the family and then the police, shows that you are a difficult, stroppy person. You say that you are totally the victim here, the victim of lies by four police officers and those two ladies.”

In finding Brough guilty, the chairman of the bench said: “After hearing the evidence, we find that you did assault Mrs Boyd. The evidence was compelling and consistent.

“No substantive, supportive evidence has been offered for your defence and we are satisfied beyond reasonable doubt.”

Sentence was adjourned until tomorrow for probation to produce reports.

The magistrates said they were minded to impose a community order on Brough.