Pensioner tagged for axe incident

A LADYBANK pensioner regarded as an ‘exemplary’ member of the community snapped after a long-running feud with his neighbour and threatened to kill him with an axe, a court has heard.

Seventy-year-old Stephen Watt lost the plot after a cruel comment was made about his wife, taking an axe from the garage and brandishing it at his neighbour.

The disturbance, which took place on August 1 this year, was heard by his grandson, who restrained the pensioner and relieved him of the weapon.

Watt, of Ryanna, The Beeches, was told by Sheriff Charles Macnair in Cupar that such an offence would normally mean an automatic prison sentence - but because of his age and lack of criminal record, he would be spared jail.

Instead he was electronically tagged and told he must remain in his home between the hours of 7pm and 7am for the next six months.

Watt had earlier admitted behaving in a threatening or abusive manner at 57 Hill Street, Ladybank, by repeatedly shouting, swearing, threatening violence and brandishing an axe.

Depute fiscal Joanne Smith told the court that the incident happened at around 7pm just as Watt’s neighbour, a Mr Brown, entered his driveway. The accused appeared at the same time and began ranting that he was going to kill Mr Brown and his son.

Mr Brown told him to go home and calm down, and the accused walked back to his own property, still shouting that he would kill him.

He re-appeared in the driveway shortly afterwards carrying the axe, still threatening to kill him and striking towards him.

At this point Watt’s grandson arrived and managed to escort him back to his house and retrieve the weapon.

Mr Brown called the police and Watt was taken to Glenrothes Police Station, where he told them that there had been a breakdown in the relationship between the neighbours since his car had been vandalised two years previously. He said he had ‘snapped’ after receiving years of abuse.

Defence solicitor Douglas Williams said there had been a ‘vendetta’ against Watt and his wife ever since the neighbour’s son had been caught on CCTV vandalising his car.

The couple were regarded as well-respected senior citizens who would go out of their way to help people.

“The situation appears to be that a very cruel comment was made against Mrs watt and this troubled Mr Watt,” said Mr Williams.

“He wanted to speak to Mr Brown about this, but all he got was more abuse. Mr Brown’s partner came out and made a cruel remark to Mr Watt without any provocation whatsoever and he snapped.

“He went to his garage, where there was an axe used for kindling and logging. He picked it up and went towards Mr Brown with it across his chest.

“Happily his grandson happened to be in the vicinity and intervened.”

Mr Williams added that since the incident Mr Watt’s son had erected a high fence between the two properties so the neighbours wouldn’t come face to face.

“This was out of character and Mr Watt had led an exemplary life within his community,” he said.

“It is unfortunate that at the age of 70 he should find himself in court for the very first time.”

Passing sentence, Sheriff Macnair said he accepted there was a background to the case, but what the accused had done had been ‘wholly disproportionate’ to what was said.

“Behaviour of this sort can escalate very quickly to serious injury or worse,” he told him.

“It is the sort of behaviour that would normally involve an immediate custodial sentence.”