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Fence fire reignites 25-year feud between Surrey couple and pensioner neighbour

Mark Dyer outside the High Court  (Champion News)
Mark Dyer outside the High Court (Champion News)

A property tycoon and his wife are locked in a bitter feud with their neighbour over claims he set fire to their garden fence at the culmination of 25 years’ of alleged harassment, a court has heard.

Mark Randolph Dyer and wife Clare say they have been targeted by pensioner David Baker since moving to their £2.6 million home in Surrey in 1997, claiming their guests have been abused and they have had to deal with malicious phone calls and letters.

The couple, who also say they have fallen victim to “poisoning” of dogs and trees, say matters came to a head in June last year when their fence was set ablaze by Mr Baker.

However the neighbour, 79, insists he is the victim of false allegations and “utterly unreasonable” behaviour from the Dyers, asserting he is not to blame for the burning fence.

An interim injunction has already been obtained by the Dyers, banning their neighbour from piling “combustible or explosive materials” near or against the wooden fence that separates their properties.

They are seeking a permanent injunction, and this week urged a High Court judge to find Mr Baker in contempt of court.

The court heard Mr Dyer, a former estate agent, and his wife, both 64, moved into their luxury home with swimming pool and tennis court in Albury, near Guildford, in 1997. They have made a series of alterations over the years to their home and a large field at the back of their garden.

In 2007, the couple fell foul of local council planners for a “permanent helipad” in the field, which they were told to remove via an enforcement notice.

Their barrister, Matthew Haynes, described a “background of 25 years’ harassment by Mr Baker of Mr and Mrs Dyer”, telling the court: “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 said a “period of calm” from disputes with neighbours since 2012 had been broken by the fence fire on June 6, 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”.

The couple allege Mr Baker broke the interim injunction, and claim to have evidence of petrol canisters, wood, bags of wood chippings, and twigs within three metres of the fence.

“It is provocative, if not downright dangerous”, said Mr Haynes. “Mrs Dyer has been extremely distressed by events and is fearful of leaving her house.”

Lina Mattsson, for Mr Baker, argued he has faced “untrue and spurious” allegations from the Dyers, and the truth of the fence fire is still to be the subject of a county court trial.

“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.”

On the fence fire, she added: “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.”

Mrs Justice Hill adjourn the contempt hearing until the main county court trial, and ordered the Dyers to pay the £6,750 costs of the hearing.