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Homeowner from hell used 'laughing machine' and hundreds of abusive signs to torment neighbours for 18 years
16:50 GMT, 7 December 2012
Pensioner Keith Quartermain has avoided jail by moving house
A home-owner from hell has been warned by a judge to get on with his new neighbours or go to prison after a street dispute spanning almost two decades.
Keith Quartermain had rowed with neighbours David Quick and Catherine Fillier for at least 18 years, after an initial argument over a path to the rear of their gardens.
The 67-year-old even resorted to using a 'laughing machine' and erecting abusive signs to torment his neighbours.
The abusive pensioner had been dragged into court several times over the past decade after repeatedly breaching a restraining order banning him from harassing the couple.
However, he was spared an immediate jail term today after he sold his home and moved 15 miles away.
Gordon Risius decided to suspend Quartermain’s six month prison
sentence after he sold the house in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, taking a loss
of 45,000 off his initial asking price, such was the urgency to move.
had previously been warned by Judge Risius that if he did not sell up
and move away he would be immediately jailed and had been granted five
months to dispose of his home and find somewhere else to live.
Judge Risius told Quartermain: 'It will be wise not to go back to Austin Place for any reason and it would also be desirable that you get on with your new neighbours so that the current unhappiness never re-occurs.'
The sale on his former home was completed on November 30, just days before the deadline of today’s hearing, set by the Judge in June.
The long-standing dispute was first
brought to the attention of the courts in December 1994, when
Quartermain was accused of making abusive phone calls to Mrs Fillier.
1997 he did the same to Mr Quick and in 2003 was first given the
restraining order after he used a 'laughing machine' and hundreds of
abusive signs to mock his neighbours from over the garden fence.
Keith Quartermain had been before the court numerous times for breaching a restraining orders not to harrass neighbours
Mr Quick and Mrs Fillier were subjected to a recording of the 'mechanical laughter' when at their homes and insulting signs were displayed in his garden.
An earlier hearing was told that the dispute had begun over land and a footpath at the bottom of the gardens in the small cul-de-sac.
However, Quartermain was back before a judge in 2006 and JPs in 2009 for breaching the order and given a 28 week suspended prison sentence, followed by a conditional discharge and an order to pay court costs.
However, this May he was again found guilty of disobeying the court rules by insulting Mrs Fillier and Mr Quick on November 3 and 5 last year.
'Mrs Fillier was outside her house and she was talking to a visitor who was about to leave and she heard the defendant saying “she’s so ugly” and repeating that many times,' said Paul Harrison, prosecuting at Oxford Crown Court.
Brazen Quartermain had told the court he that had actually been talking about the TV show Ugly Betty when his crass words were overheard.
He then hurled abuse at RAF reservist Mr Quick, saying 'you coward, no wonder the forces didn’t want you.'
Quartermain was convicted of two counts of breaching the order, although he was acquitted of deliberately making clapping noises to irritate his fellow residents.
Tony McGeorge, mitigating, said that Quartermain had managed to sell his home for 185,000, after reducing it from 230,000.
'I mention that because it outlines the extent of the punishment that he has already brought upon himself,' he said, referring to balding Quartermain who sported a combover hairstyle and an anorak as he sat in the dock.
Mr McGeorge said that his client had undergone counselling sessions at Abingdon hospital, although the court was told that he did not have a personality disorder or a mental illness.
Quartermain was also said to have been suffering from hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a hernia, as well as having a stroke in 1998.
'He is clearly not a well man and in my submission I think it can be put very simply – now that he has moved away to Witney this unhappy saga has come to an end,' said Mr McGeorge.
Judge Risius agreed to waive court costs of 1,250 because of the money that Quartermain had lost on his house sale.
“I take the view that a sentence of imprisonment is still fitting but given the opportunity for any further trouble from you is now greatly reduced and bearing in mind the financial losses you have suffered and your medical condition that sentence can now be suspended,” the judge said.
'The sentence for each of the counts will be six months imprisonment to be served concurrently so the total is six months that can be suspended on the following conditions.
'For the next two years you must not commit any kind of offence anywhere in the United Kingdom; secondly you must keep in touch with officers and notify them if you change address again.'
Quartermain was also told he would be the subject of a supervision order for the next 12 months, and given a two month curfew – for which he would be electronically tagged.