A 94-year-old woman has been handed a suspended prison sentence and been forbidden from returning to her street for five years after being found guilty of harassing her next-door neighbours.
The couple in question moved into a house inherited from grandparents on the Rue Laperrière in the Normandy town of Alençon in March 2013, and have been the target of hostile acts by the elderly woman ever since.
They told the Alençon court on March 17 that their neighbour had spat at them, insulted them and knocked on their walls with hammers in the middle of the night, among other things.
His wife in tears, the male resident said: “She tells me that I am the embodiment of evil, she just wants to break me so that I end my life.”
On several occasions the police had intervened, once to help the couple and their baby move their things to stay with another resident of the street in 2020.
“We stayed with our neighbours for five months. We can no longer live in our house. It’s painful for us,” the man said.
“We have taken all possible steps with all possible authorities, everyone understands our situation, everyone shares in our pain, but this has been going on for eight years and nothing is changing.”
Medical records show that the couple had during this time received sick notes from their doctor stating that they were unable to work due to stress.
The 94-year-old had previously confessed to having perpetrated all of these acts to the police, claiming that the man rang her doorbell repeatedly throughout the night and had killed her rabbit.
In court, she justified her actions with the words “I apply the lex talionis [law of retaliation]: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
The defendant ‘unable to hear’ the judge
Only five minutes into the hearing, the defendant declared that she was leaving, alluding to hearing problems which were not picked up during the psychiatric tests she underwent, and during which she had slapped the nurse who drove her to the hospital.
“Just now, when I spoke to you, you understood me perfectly and replied to me,” the judge said. “I am sorry, but I cannot hear you,” the defendant responded. The judge therefore went to sit nearer to her and spoke loudly in her ear.
“I can’t hear anything, I hear a buzzing, but I can’t understand anything,” she said. “I’m not certain that you can hear nothing,” the judge replied.
When the judge asked her about a petition signed by 11 people in the neighbourhood and claiming that her behaviour had caused issues around the area, she grew angry and decided to leave the room.
Woman did not present any mental disorders
The court then heard that the woman’s psychiatric tests had described her as “aggressive and loud,” but not presenting any mental disorder. The report found that the risk of her continuing to act against her neighbours was high.
Hubert Guyomard, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, stated that the defendant must have “selective deafness,” considering that she could supposedly hear her neighbour ringing the doorbell but could not hear the judge.
“Her behaviour in this hearing is proof of her controlling nature. She knows very well what she is doing as, like she says, she was a notaire’s clerk for 50 years.”
The woman’s lawyer, Bertrand Deniaud, stressed that she had paranoiac tendencies and a strong pride, suggesting that these traits may be seen to diminish her responsibility.
Nonetheless, she was eventually served a suspended sentence of seven months in prison with the obligation to undergo medical treatment and a €7,000 fine.
She will also be forbidden from contacting the neighbours or returning to the Rue Laperrière for the next five years.
The public prosecutor Marguerite Gamber said: “It is not every day that we have a woman of 94 years of age at the bar - but age does not confer impunity.
“Yes this is her house, of course, and she has lived there for a long time, but does that give her the right to destroy a family?”