Property magnate in court battle with neighbour who 'set fence alight'
Property magnate and his wife are locked in bitter court battle with neighbour, 79, who they claim ‘set their garden fence alight and abused guests arriving at their £2.6million house by helicopter’
- Property tycoon Mark Randolph Dyer and wife Clare suing neighbour, aged 79
- They accuse David Baker of ’25 years’ harassment’ including setting fence alight
- Mr Baker ‘strenuously denies’ the claims and called neighbours ‘unreasonable’
A helicopter-flying multimillionaire couple are locked in a court fight with a pensioner neighbour who they accuse in court of setting fire to their garden fence and abusing their rich guests.
Property tycoon Mark Randolph Dyer and wife Clare are suing 79-year-old neighbour David Baker, accusing him of ’25 years’ harassment’ which culminated with the boundary fence between the gardens of their million-pound-plus homes allegedly being set ablaze in June 2021.
The Dyers, whose £2.6million house in Surrey has a swimming pool and tennis court and at one stage its own helipad, have taken legal action against their elderly neighbour and obtained an interim injunction, banning him from piling ‘combustible or explosive materials’ near or against the wooden fence that separates them.
They are seeking a permanent injunction against him and asked a judge this week to find Mr Baker in contempt of court which has a possible sanction of imprisonment.
But Mr Baker ‘strenuously denies’ setting the fence on fire and is fighting the claim, accusing his neighbours of being ‘utterly unreasonable’.
Property tycoon Mark Randolph Dyer (pictured left outside London’s High Court) and wife Clare (not pictured) are suing 79-year-old neighbour David Baker, accusing him of ’25 years’ harassment’
The Surrey home of Mark and Clare Dyer which is worth £2.6million
Former estate agent turned property magnate Mr Dyer and his wife, both 64, moved into their home in Albury, near Guildford, in 1997.
Since that date, they have made a total of 37 planning applications relating to their home and a large field at the back of their garden, which they also own, some of which were turned down or withdrawn following objections from neighbours.
In 2007, the couple clashed with local council planners after they were found to have made a ‘permanent helipad’ in the field, which they were told to remove via an enforcement notice.
Matthew Haynes, for Mr and Mrs Dyer, told Mrs Justice Hill at the High Court this week that, after ‘a period of calm’ lasting several years, trouble between the neighbours again erupted dramatically when the couple’s fence caught fire in June 2021.
Days after the blaze, Judge Mark Gargan granted Mr and Mrs Dyer an interim injunction at the High Court, banning their neighbour from storing ‘explosive or combustible materials’ within three meters of the fence between their properties until a court has had time to examine the evidence.
But Mr Haynes told Mrs Justice Hill this week that they want their neighbour to be found in contempt of court and face a possible jail term for allegedly breaching the interim injunction.
The barrister said: ‘The parties are neighbours. This contempt application is made against a background of 25 years’ harassment by Mr Baker of Mr and Mrs Dyer, ever since they moved into their house in 1997.
‘Historical issues have related to the poisoning of dogs and trees, malicious letters and phone calls, abuse to visitors arriving by helicopter (and) rubbish such as tyres and Tango can(s) put in the field,’ he claimed.
‘After a period of calm from 2012, matters culminated on 6 June 2021 when Mr Baker deliberately set fire to the boundary fence between the parties’ properties – and it was only fortuitous that Mrs Dyer was present to take steps to extinguish it,’ he said.
But Lina Mattsson, for Mr Baker, told the court that the Dyers’ claims were ‘false allegations’ and that the facts of the matter are still due to be decided at a county court trial.
An aerial view of the homes of Mark and Clare Dyer and neighbour David Baker, 79, who the couple accuse of harassment
Mr Haynes, asking Mrs Justice Hill to find that Mr Baker has breached the terms of the interim injunction and is in contempt of court, told the court there is ‘a video of the fire showing Mrs Dyer having to deal with it’.
‘It was a very worrying and dangerous position for Mrs Dyer, who now feels unable to leave the family home,’ he said.
‘This came against a background of a history of many incidents over a period of 25 years.’
The barrister said the couple have photos and video showing ‘combustible or explosive materials’ stored within three metres of the fence by Mr Baker in spite of the temporary injunction.
‘Here one has the ingredients for a bonfire: a number of petrol canisters, a bundle of tied lengths of wood, bags containing wood chippings and, just for kindling, you can see a bundle of twigs,’ he said.
‘It’s perfectly clear that there are combustible materials here,’ he said, adding that the images also show a ‘pile of tyres’ near the fence.
‘In the context of such a serious incident of a fence burning down, it does amount to harassment. It is provocative, if not downright dangerous.
‘Mrs Dyer has been extremely distressed by events and is fearful of leaving her house.
‘Mr Dyer simply seeks to achieve safety and uphold the court order,’ he said.
‘It is submitted that the breach has been established beyond all reasonable doubt.
‘Mr Baker knew of the terms of the order. As set out above, he acted, or failed to act, in a manner which involved a breach of the order.’
But Ms Mattsson, for Mr Baker, told the judge he denies breaching the injunction or doing any of the things his neighbours allege.
‘The claimants’ conduct is outside the norm, it has been utterly unreasonable,’ she said.
‘It is the defendant’s case that the claimants have over the years made various false allegations against both him and his neighbours and used the threat of litigation and ‘substantial’ costs orders as a means of intimidation to stop the neighbours objecting to the claimants’ various planning applications / breach of planning law.
‘In June 2021, after almost a decade without any contact between the parties, the claimants issued these proceedings alleging that the defendant had set fire to the wooden fence separating the parties properties.
‘Mr Baker strenuously denies doing this and there is not a shred of evidence to support the allegation which appears to be based on pure conjecture.’
‘It is Mr Baker’s case that the historic claims against him are untrue and spurious,’ she added.
At the time the interim injunction was made, Mr Baker had lacked lawyers and didn’t attend court or oppose its making, she told the judge.
‘Save for Mr Dyer’s assertion that a bag of wood chips is combustible, no items have been identified by the claimant as combustible or explosive.
‘Wood cannot be considered combustible when the fence itself is made of wood.’
She told the judge that Mr Baker has made an ‘offer to move any item identified’.
She asked Mrs Justice Hill to adjourn the contempt hearing until the main county court trial, at which the Dyers are seeking a permanent injunction over their fence claims.
She told the judge that Mr Baker had not attended court because he has health issues and needs to have time to be medically assessed before the full trial.
The judge agreed to Ms Mattsson’s application and ordered the Dyers to pay the £6,750 costs of the hearing, handing victory in the skirmish to Mr Baker.
The Dyers’ lawyers said their own costs for the hearing were around £20,000.
The neighbours will now meet in court for a full trial of the dispute at a later date.
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