Teacher 'put German neighbour through hell’ by blaring out Dambusters theme
Published 13/01/2012 | 16:51
AN ENGLISH maths teacher put his German neighbour through four years of "hell" by blaring out the themes to Dambusters, Dad's Army and Rule Britannia, a court heard.
Geoffrey Butler, 54, is accused of racially harassing a German man and his wife by playing wartime classics, doing a Nazi salute and broadcasting one of Winston Churchill's speeches towards their home.
Reinhard Wendt and his wife Kathryn moved to the sleepy village of Lower Upnor in Kent in 2007 and soon fell out with Butler over a land dispute.
The row quickly exploded into a series of claims of racist insults, provocation and even assault, Medway Magistrates' Court heard.
Mr and Mrs Wendt claim Butler racially harassed them by playing wartime classics and even doing a Nazi salute towards them.
He is accused of whistling and playing the patriotic music, including Vera Lynn songs, staring at his neighbours and making needless complaints about them.
Butler, whose family members served in the RAF including one in the 617 "Dambusters" squadron, denies the four-year hate campaign.
The row started in 2007 when the Wendts fell out with Butler over a small triangle of land just six feet long.
The Wendts agreed to take the land from Butler for free when they moved in, but changed their minds when lawyers advised them to spend £500 on surveyors.
A retaining wall was falling down, something Butler argued he had made clear to them from the start.
He accused the couple of being dishonest in their dealings and complained the failed deal cost him £256 in solicitors' fees.
The row escalated and Butler, a teacher of 28 years, was arrested last May and charged with racially-aggravated harassment.
The court heard how Butler told officers: "I haven't been doing this. It may happen on the odd occasion, whatever. Was it illegal? It wasn't. I don't see anything wrong with Dame Vera Lynn. I come from an RAF family."
But Mr Wendt, 62, told magistrates he was having nightmares and said: "It was like waterboarding, after a while a little whistle was enough. It let me know he was there and watching me."
Social worker Mrs Wendt, who broke down in tears giving evidence, said: "It made me feel nervous and intimidated and I didn't want to go out into my back garden any more.
"I just want to live a peaceful life. I haven't looked for this trouble, I haven't asked for this trouble and I don't want to be here."
Mr Wendt, who moved to Britain from Germany in 1999, accused Butler of whistling the war tunes and playing them from his car stereo regularly since 2007.
The songs included Vera Lynn's White Cliffs of Dover, wartime hit Maybe it's Because I'm a Londoner and the Colonel Bogey March from Bridge On the River Kwai.
He also claimed Butler would pretend to be on his phone next to the garden fence and talk loudly about Nazis.
The court also heard how Butler would stand on his garage roof and his ladder to stare at the Wendts, but Butler said he was sunbathing as his garden was too shady.
Events came to a head last April when the Wendts claimed they were sitting in bed and saw Butler taking a picture of them through the window, which Butler denied.
Mr Wendt said: "My wife screams, she points, I look up and Mr Butler is there just 10 yards from our window and he's holding a camera there pointing at me."
Mr Wendt made a recording on his phone that afternoon, of Butler apparently playing one of Churchill's war speeches.
Five days later, when police were due to interview the warring neighbours, the Wendts claimed they drove home to see Butler in his kitchen making a Nazi salute, mimicking a Hitler moustache with his fingers and shouting.
Mr Wendt said he was "jumping about like a madman" but Butler told officers Mr Wendt was the one giving him the salute, adding: "Why would I do that? I find it grossly offensive."
Butler, whose trial has been adjourned for two months because it did not finish on schedule, has been out of work since his arrest.
He told the court: "I had a job offer for this term at Strood Academy, but as soon as this case was mentioned it was withdrawn.
"As a teacher I am subject to enhanced checks which mean unproven allegations can still be mentioned."
Butler was questioned on suspicion of assault after an incident between him and Mr Wendt on July 30, 2007, but no charges were brought.
He will take the witness stand on March 19, when he is expected to deliver a catalogue of accusations against the Wendts.
If found guilty he could face up to two years' jail.