A 78-YEAR-OLD woman who made her next-door-neighbours’ lives “nothing short of a misery” with a campaign of harassment has been told she cannot speak to them for the next two years.

Jeanette Rispin pleaded not guilty to harassing a married couple who moved into a neighbouring semi-detached property to her two years ago.

But the Chester-le-Street pensioner was found guilty after a trial that detailed how she used a knife, hammer, drill and chisel to push sealant out of a garden wall and stared at her neighbours through the gaps.

Rispin was also blamed for flooding her neighbour’s garage with a hosepipe, putting dead flowers in a row between their front gardens and shouting abuse over the garden wall.

Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court heard this week that the 78-year-old, of York Terrace, spent a night in police cells earlier this year after being arrested on suspicion of harassment without violence.

Emma Barker, prosecuting, said: “In a statement, the neighbours said the defendant has made their lives ‘nothing short of a misery’.

“On Saturday, April 14, the man next-door has been in the garden dismantling a workshop – a large wooden structure standing against a wall between his property and the defendants.

“After removing the structure, the severity of the state of the brick wall was revealed and there were several cracks and holes in it. He was concerned as the wall is more than 8ft tall and could be weakened now the workshop had been removed.

“He’s filled the cracks in the wall with putty, but the defendant has used a hammer or a chisel to remove the putty from the cracks.”

Days later, Rispin pushed an eight-inch knife through the wall and continued to hit the bricks with a chisel for around 20 minutes.

A victim impact statement was read to the court by Ms Barker on behalf of the harassed neighbours, who said: “We are at our wits end and we’ve been living with this for over a year.

“We wonder how this will end and we hope no one will get hurt or injured. The amount of stress this woman has caused is off the scale.

“My wife has recently been diagnosed with cancer and this is the last thing that we need. I can sense my wife’s stress and anxiety almost all of the time.

“We cannot relax in our own home. We I’m nervous about going home when I should be feeling the exact opposite.”

He added: “She seems to portray herself as an old, vulnerable lady, but she’s nasty, spiteful and I don’t know how this will end.”

The court heard that Rispin, who lives alone and has severe health problems, has called for police assistance herself 25 times during the year.

Her solicitor added: “She has been concerned about going out into the neighbourhood. She’s worried about what she’ll be accused of.

“She’s keeping herself to herself and this is being corroborated by family members. She wants to leave this behind her.”

A probation report was prepared ahead of Rispin’s sentencing, with a probation officer stating: “She still denies a lot of what’s been said against her.

“She says the wall is on her side and that the putty came out on her side of the wall, so she took it off.

“As for the drilling, she said she was trying to put up a wooden planter. She feels she’s the victim.”

Rispin was handed a two-year restraining order, preventing her from having any contact with her neighbours, and was given a 12-month conditional discharge.

She must also pay a £120 fine and £620 to cover court trial costs.