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Gran Ethel Watkins, 83, facing jail for harassing neighbours in Melton Mowbray


An 83-year-old great-grandmother is facing jail for a campaign of harassment against her neighbours.

Widow Ethel Watkins deliberately set off her alarm to deprive neighbours of sleep, sang insulting songs at them and branded them "scum", "vultures" and "hooligans" as she targeted them with abuse.

Watkins told the neighbour she hoped her soldier husband "wouldn't come back from Afghanistan", adding "if he did it would be because he had hid behind others".

In July, Watkins was served with a five-year restraining order for harassment, which banned her from contacting any occupant or visitor at the victims' address.

Yesterday, she was found guilty of breaching that order on four separate occasions – including 24 hours after she had been given it.

Prosecutor Carol Huston told Loughborough Magistrates' Court that Watkins was in her garden on July 26, the day after the restraining order was served, when she began chanting and singing.

The next day, she was seen slow hand-clapping in front of the neighbour's home. On September 3, while the neighbour was outside her home saying goodbye to her mother, they heard Watkins making retching and vomiting noises in her front garden.

Later, when the neighbour returned home, Watkins called her "scum", Mrs Huston said.

The following day, Watkins was seen holding a Dictaphone and calling the neighbours "hooligans", said Mrs Huston.

The court heard Watkins would regularly insult her neighbour with songs she had made up.

Mrs Huston said: "She would repeat over and over things like 'you're poison, an evil woman. Go back to where you come from, you witch'.

The court heard the victims have since moved from the area and they gave evidence via video link during the two-day hearing.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, the soldier neighbour said: "I've got eight medals on my chest which I've earned.

"She is the opposite of everything we fight for."

The woman victim said in her statement she still suffered sleepless nights, panic attacks and depression.

She said: "I keep having thoughts of breaking down over what this woman has done to me."

Mrs Huston said of the soldier neighbour: "He was a proud man doing a proud job.

"He had served in war zones, but felt powerless to protect his wife."

"Her (Watkins's) behaviour has had a really tangible impact."

Watkins, who denied all four charges of breaching the order, told the court: "I learned my lesson after the first case and I would never go and do anything like that again.

"I was mostly in the garden singing hymns because I love hymns.

"I lived with the hope that I could live what little life I've got left in peace and happiness."

Chairman of the magistrates Ben Faust said they accepted the victims' evidence which they found "unshakeable even under cross-examination".

He told Watkins: "Your evidence was evasive and lacking in credibility.

"I am not going to give any indication to the sentence the court may impose.

"The court in which you are sentenced may send you to prison or to crown court for greater sentence."

Sentencing was adjourned until next month for a probation report to be prepared.

Gran Ethel Watkins, 83, facing jail for harassing neighbours in Melton Mowbray

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