Heaving the last of the heavy boxes through the front door, a voice behind me made me jump. I turned around and smiling at me was an unshaven man dressed in army camouflage.
‘Hello, I’m Ken,’ he said, offering his hand. ‘Your new next door neighbour.’ Startled, I replied: ‘Oh hello, I’m Mandy, pleased to meet you.’
I was about to begin my new life in the country and with nine-acres of land, this was the moment I’d always dreamed about. Just me and my dogs and horses surrounded by lots of green rolling countryside…and now there was Kenneth Ward, the man who lived in the ramshackle cottage next door. I’d spotted it when the estate agent showed me round but I’d not given it a second thought since.
Besides, there was more than enough space and fresh air for the pair of us. I asked the agent: ‘Who lives up there? ‘Oh, it’s just a little old man with his brother and mum,’ he’d said.
Only now, within minutes of moving in, Ken was on my doorstep overly keen to introduce himself. He struck me as eccentric. Over the next few weeks Ken popped round almost every day.
He was friendly and charming but as the months went by, he badgered me for favours. When his brother’s car broke down one day he was knocking on my door. He asked: ‘I don’t suppose you could tow him back up the lane could you?’ I was busy renovating the house and while I tried to be neighbourly, he soon became a pest. Ken loved old aeroplane relics and he had two rickety sheds crammed full of them.
Then he said he needed more storage. As I mucked out the horses one day, Ken poked his head in the stables and said cheerfully: ‘I’m sure you wouldn’t miss some of this space?’
‘Sorry Ken but it’s a no,’ I replied. ‘I need all of this for the horses.’ Without saying a word, Ken walked away. What an odd man, I thought to myself, puzzled.
Pulling into my driveway a few week’s on I couldn’t park because it was full of cars. Ken was in his shed chatting with a bunch of strangers about his aeroplane collection when I found him.
I stormed: ‘What on earth is going on here?’ It turned out Ken had been advertising his home as a museum and my drive as the car park. What a cheek. Ken rolled his eyes but didn’t say a word.
Then I arranged to have a gate replaced at the end of a bridleway and things between us soured. It was on my land but Ken was furious. Within hours, he was swinging on the gate with his brother trying to break it. I rushed out and asked: “What on earth are you doing?” He looked right through me, and a few days on he simply stopped talking to me.
Not one to hold grudges I tried to smooth things over but Ken wasn’t interested. “What’s wrong Ken?” I asked. “Oh f-off!” he replied. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and when I opened my back door to let the dogs out the next morning, I felt sick. A heap of dead mice had been left on my doorstep and they were crawling with maggots. Slamming the door shut I almost threw up knowing Ken was behind it.
He was digging for a reaction but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction. But sitting at home one night I heard a tapping at the window. A shiver shot down my spine and my blood ran cold.
As I edged closer towards the window, Ken’s beady eyes were staring back at me. Then he bolted. I lay awake all night too terrified to shut my eyes but when I saw Ken the next day he acted as though nothing had happened.
After that, I was constantly on edge and whenever I was outside I sensed I was being watched. Then one day, something caught my eye. It was Ken, standing outside his house with his trousers and underpants around his ankles. I did a double take. Ken had a pair of binoculars in one hand and he was touching himself with the other.
Shocked, I scurried back home, convinced I’d been mistaken. But the next day he was in the exact same spot again, wearing nothing but his boots and socks.
Soon, it became his daily ritual and when he wasn’t exposing himself he’d be sitting on sentry duty with a rifle by his side. When I went out to see to the horses in the morning Ken would be lurking just feet away, touching himself.
Chillingly, he never said a word. I was at my wits’ end and I couldn’t sleep or eat because of the sickly feeling swirling in my stomach. When he pointed an air rifle at me one morning I went straight to the police. Walking into my local station, I told them all about Ken’s shenanigans but when they said it was my word against his I was devastated. I said: ‘I WILL get the evidence I need.’
Driving home, I was in floods of tears. Seeing Ken hiding behind a bush I blinked away tears and quickly unlocked the front door.
He wasn’t going to see me upset. I confided in my friend Wendy Coulthard, 54, who said: ‘You can’t go on like this, we need to do something.’
Ordering a tiny camera off the internet, we hatched a plan to catch Ken in action. First, I had to smuggle Wendy in so Ken didn’t become suspicious.
Picking her up in my car I said: ‘Lay down on the back seat so he doesn’t see you.’ Back home, we rushed into the house without being spotted. When I woke up the next morning I had butterflies in the pit of my stomach with a mixture of nerves and excitement. Stuffing the camera into my body warmer pocket, my knees shook as I headed outside.
I instantly saw Ken out of the corner of my eye standing just feet away with his trousers dropped by his ankles. With my eyes fixed to the ground I carefully unfastened the gate and reached for the camera inside my pocket. ‘Don’t drop it Mandy,’ I told myself, all fingers and thumbs.
While Ken began his sickening ritual nearby, I managed to fasten the camera to the gate post before hurrying back inside. I flopped behind the door. ‘I did it!’ I smiled, hugging Wendy.
Our plan went like clock work and over the next few weeks, I managed to capture 30 hours of footage showing Ken in the act. I went back to the police and this time, they took my complaints seriously.
When officers raided Ken’s house they found a loaded pistol under his pillow together with a collection of machine guns, grenades and other ammunition. In 2011, Ken Ward admitted 11 counts of exposure, three charges of possessing a firearm and a range of other firearm offences at Teesside Crown Court. He was sentenced to five years in prison and I thought my nine-year nightmare
was finally over.
When a Sexual Prevention Order was drawn up to stop Ken from coming within 200 metres of my home I breathed a sigh of relief. Then, a few month’s on I found out the order had been changed at another court hearing. It allowed Ken to return home even though his house is 176 metres from mine. I was furious that I wasn’t even given the chance to argue my case.
I was recently given £5000 by the police to install extra security, just in case. Even the police can’t guarantee my safety. I’m fighting the decision tooth and nail but in the meantime, I’ve had to buy
another house in a secret location.
My belongings are packed up in boxes so I can leave at a moment’s notice. Ken has proved that he’s a man hell bent on revenge. He subjected me to nine years of hell, all because of a garden gate.
If he’s allowed home I dread to think what he might do.
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