A couple who had their neighbour arrested for singing a Jimi Hendrix song in a bitter feud over a parking space now face a £500,000 legal bill, Appeal Court judges have heard.
Michael Salliss, 74, and his wife Hazel, 62, called police to complain that Terry Simou was threatening to shoot them with a gun.
In fact Mr Simou, 53, was in his barn practising the Hendrix song Hey Joe, which features the lines: “I’m goin’ down to shoot my old lady,” and “Shoot her one more time again, baby!”
Mr Simou, an acupuncturist, spent seven hours in police custody over the August 2014 incident, but was released after 10 minutes of questioning.
A county court judge ruled the Salisses had waged a bullying campaign against Mr Simou and another neighbour, Christie Greenfield.
But the couple, of Etchingham, East Sussex, are fighting to overturn that ruling in the Court of Appeal. The feud started shortly after they bought their property in 2004, when they allegedly tried to grab some of Mr Simou’s land, which he used for parking cars. Mr and Mrs Salliss, who run a construction company, are also accused of blocking a right of way used by Mrs Greenfield.
Mr Simou and Mrs Greenfield, a retired music teacher, complained of bullying, alleging Mr Salliss racially abused Mr Simou over his Greek origin. Mrs Greenfield said she had also filmed Mr Salliss as he threatened her with a bale of hay on a spike from the seat of his tractor.
At Tunbridge Wells County Court, Judge Simon Coltart ruled the Sallisses had harassed both neighbours, saying: “Mr and Mrs Salliss have attempted to bully their neighbours in order ... to adjust the [property’s] boundaries to suit their own requirements without any attempt at consultation or negotiation ... and when challenged they resorted to abuse and hectoring.”
Mr Simou had been practising music in a studio in his barn when the Sallisses called police to complain, Judge Coltart said: “The next thing he knew he was being arrested and taken to the police station, where he was held for seven hours before being interviewed.
“On interview, within 10 minutes, he was released. I am quite satisfied the complaint was instigated by Mr and Mrs Salliss and their allegation that in some way Mr Simou was threatening to shoot them with a gun was trumped up.
“It may have been the words of the song, but they were using it in a dishonest way to effect his arrest, and I regard that as being an extremely serious incident of harassment.”
Judge Coltart found the couple tried to block a right of way and Mrs Greenfield “has on occasion been frightened by the way [Mr Salliss] treated her”.
He ordered the couple to re-store the right of way and pay £8,000 damages to Mr Simou and £2,500 to Mrs Greenfield. The Sallises were left with legal bills of over £500,000.
At the Court of Appeal, the couple’s barrister Matthew Collings QC argued Judge Coltart was wrong to go ahead with the trial because a medical condition prevented Mr Salliss from attending parts of the hearing.
The three Appeal judges reserved judgement to a later date.