Parish poison pen letter writer claims it was not his saliva on envelope

Sarah Knapton
Douglas Staples - INS News Agency Ltd 145 Winnersh Triangle Reading Berkshire RG41 5RB

A former parish council chairman convicted of writing a poison pen letter to a widow congratulating her on the death of her husband is to claim it was not his saliva on the envelope.

Douglas Staples, 69, of Enborne, Berkshire, was found guilty of sending a malicious communication to his neighbour and garden society organiser Dawn Taylor, just days after husband Peter's funeral last May.

In April Mr Staples was given a restraining order by magistrates and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work. But he has now launched an appeal at Reading Crown Court alleging that the prosecution did not give his defence team time to challenge DNA evidence.

Speaking outside the appeal court on Friday, Mr Staples said: “I did not lick that envelope or have anything to do with it.”

Dougas Staples Credit: INS

Outlining the prosecution at the initial appeal hearing, Christopher Hewertson: “Very simply, Dawn Taylor is a widow. She received, the day after her husband's funeral, a malicious communication by a letter within a card in an envelope.

“It is, the prosecution says, prima facie sent from the appellant. It is malicious, welcoming the death of her husband.

“The prosecution says it is within the background of issues between them, they live in close proximity. A summary forensic report describing the defendant's DNA to the usual probability, is relied on by the Crown.”

Defence solicitor, Andrew Hill, told the court that he intended to re-examine the DNA evidence.

Mrs Taylor is a popular organiser for the Enborne and Hampstead Marshall Garden Society.

A village source close to Mrs Taylor said: “It was all very upsetting at the time. To have that so soon after your husband dies is terrible. I think it was very raw.”

Mr Staples previously been accused of enrolling villager Marilyn Ray in a dating site without her knowledge and sending the fire service to her home for an unwarranted safety inspection.

After Mrs Ray resigned as parish council chairman for health reasons in 2006, leading to Staples taking up the post, the widow launched a series of complaints alleging that she had not received minutes for certain meetings, had falsely been accused of interrupting proceedings and also criticised the standards of the council's board.

Mr Staples had admitted requesting the fire safety assessment of Mrs Ray's cottage and misrepresenting the fire brigade response but later said he only made the admission because he had been given poor legal advice and a judge later ruled there was no case to answer.

The appeal is due to take place on November 15.