A councillor who labelled his elderly next door neighbours ‘The Tart’ and ‘The Peeping Tom’ during a 13-year war of words on their leafy suburban street was facing jail today.
Brendan Murphy, 79, hounded Christopher Boyd and his wife Margaret with barbed comments after they fell out over a dispute about local gossip.
Whenever Mr Boyd, 76, and his 74-year old wife would sweep leaves from the driveway of their £500,000 home in Disley, Greater Manchester, Murphy would bellow: ‘Morning Tom, how’s your tart today?’ from his home next door.
On one occasion while Mr Boyd was doing DIY on his roof, Murphy said: ‘You can do a lot of peeping from up there, you peeping Tom,’ and added: ‘Make sure you don’t fall off that roof, I won’t be able to give you the kiss of life.’
Initially Murphy, who sits as an independent councillor om Cheshire East Council would bark his comments through their adjoining privet hedge but then resorted to amplifying his insults when the Boyds built a six foot fence in front of it and installed CCTV cameras to chronicle his hate campaign.
Brendan Murphy (pictured left) has been convicted of harassing his neighbours Christopher and Margaret Boyd (pictured, right, in 2012) during an ongoing dispute in Greater Manchester
Mr Boyd also placed an audio recorder on his fence and camcorder in his landing window to catch Murphy speaking to him.
At Stockport magistrates court Murphy was found guilty of harassment following a trial which heard he insulted the Boyds on a ‘daily basis’.
The court heard the neighbours had lived next door to each other since 1984 and initially got on well
But they fell out in 2007 after Murphy reportedly accused them of spreading gossip about his late wife Iris and alleging he was underpaying his council tax.
The feud deteriorated when the Boyds put the fence up and called in the police.
The court heard the latest offences took place between November 2017 and July 2019.
Mrs Boyd told the hearing: ‘We got on with Mr Murphy until around 2007 and since then we have been involved in a lot of matters with him.
‘There have been court proceedings before in 2012 and there was another one after that, all relating to harassment. I do not like his behaviour.
The homes of Christopher and Margaret Boyd (left) and Brendan Murphy (right) in Disley, Greater Manchester, where the neighbours have lived for 30 years but they fell out in 2007
‘On one occasion we were walking from our home to get our car from the garage when Mr Murphy walked towards us and bumped into my husband.
‘I was holding his hand as we expected trouble at the time and am so frightened of any trouble.
‘Chris said, “watch your step” and he said, “come on then, come on then” and I nearly fell over his dog.
‘Later I was sweeping the leaves up from the ground in my own garden when Mr Murphy shouted, “how’s your tart today?”
‘We didn’t see him but we can recognise his voice because we have known him for 30 years.
‘I just went inside as it was quite distressing. He then said in the afternoon ‘Morning Tom, tough guy, threatening again’?
‘He was just shouting at my husband. He calls him a Peeping Tom. We went inside because it is very distressing. It is horrible and it is just endless.
‘I’ve heard him say the words ‘how’s that tart this morning’? on a daily basis. It would be a very long statement if I provided all of the times he has called me a tart.’
Mr and Mrs Boyd say the feud with Murphy escalated when they put up this fence in 2007
Mr Boyd, a retired draughtsman, said: ‘The relationship was once fine but then it changed. He tried to arrange for mediation, and I originally agreed to it, but we refused in the end because he continued with the harassment and insults.
‘Once I was in the garden and his dog was barking. He was pretending to speak to the dog and he said, ‘Is that the peeping Tom and the tart?’
He was of course referring to my wife and I. He continually called her a tart, he was goading her and sneering in his expression and he said it very loudly.
‘There were 19 separate incidents that I reported to the police between June 21 and June 27, 2019 – there are just too many to remember.
‘It is stressful when you are out in the garden and someone is shouting insults at you. He gets a lot of pleasure out of intimidating us and thinks it is good fun.’
Murphy who stood unsuccessfully for the Conservatives in the Vale of Clwyd in the 2001 general election, told the hearing: ‘I call Mr Boyd a ‘Peeping Tom’ and his wife a ‘Tart’ for a good reason and I think my legal response is justifiable.
‘I saw a CCTV camera on the wall filming me and I jokingly said, “I see you are a peeping Tom”.
‘I also said “mind you don’t fall off that roof, I cannot give you the kiss of life” but that was a joke too.
‘On one of the occasions, I was out with my dog. Mr and Mrs Boyd were walking down the road hand in hand swinging their arms looked very happy.
‘I said “I’m glad to see you are so happy” but instead of crossing the road she lurched into me and the dog whimpered in pain and that is when I called her a tart.
‘I think they are making a big deal out of this. I do not do it every day. I am an elected active counsellor and I do a lot of community work.
‘There have been instances where I did say in response to them and they would stare, laugh, and sneer.
‘Mr Boyd is a very active DIY man with improving the garden etc. His garage is his workshop, and he makes a loud noise that I do not want to hear.
‘People use the word ‘tart’ in lots of different ways and I will continue calling them a Peeping Tom and a tart as long as the cameras are still there.
‘I say these words 100 times when I see the cameras and it just gets it off my chest.
‘There are nastier things I could say.’
JPs said the Boyds had given ‘clear and consistent evidence’ and told Murphy: ‘We find your use of the words ‘Peeping Tom’ and ‘tart’ would have amounted to harassment.’
Murphy will be sentenced next month and was granted unconditional bail.