Background to Nordelph shooting: how neighbours had been best of friends
The Venns and the Barretts were once the best of friends – like 'brothers and sisters', Norwich Crown Court heard. But theirs is a typical neighbours-at-war story which almost came to a tragic end.
Kevin Barrett built the two homes in High Street, Nordelph, and when it came to selling the second property, it was much more than a commercial transaction.
He insisted on vetting potential neighbours and decided to sell to the Venns because the two couples had hit it off immediately.
Even when the sale of the Venns' home fell through, he decided to take the property off the market to ensure he got the neighbours he wanted.
After Mr and Mrs Venn moved in, the couples became so close that they decided to share a communal garden rather than fence it off.
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Holly Barrett, Mr Barrett's 25-year-old daughter, said her father and Mr Venn would spend hours drunkenly putting the world to rights in the garden.
So how did it go so badly wrong? From the start Barrett and his wife Janise had made it clear they did not like dogs – they turned down one would-be buyer because he had an Alsatian.
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But when the Venns bought their first dog, Chesapeake Bay retriever George, they had no objections. It was only in 2008 when the Venns took on rotweiller-mastiff cross Millie from an RSPCA rescue centre that things went wrong.
Mrs Barrett was too upset to speak after the verdict, but she told the EDP: 'There are two sides to every story.' She insisted her fear of large dogs had been genuine, almost debilitating.
While the Venns insisted they did everything they could to address these fears – including building a fence and buying a special collar to reduce the dogs' barking – Mrs Barrett said they had ignored her concerns.
Holly Barrett insisted her father was a decent man: 'He is a wonderful father and he always makes time to listen to any problems we have. He felt he had given them everything and they had thrown it back in their face.'
She added: 'When mum saw the dogs she would just freeze and start swearing, like an instinctive reaction.
'It got so bad that she couldn't even put the washing out.'
Defence barrister William Carter made it clear that nothing justified Barrett's actions. But he told jurors that the Barrett's lives had been ruined.
Summing up the case, Judge Peter Jacobs said: 'Both the Venns and the Barretts are unlikely characters to be involved in a case like this.
'One does not acquire control over an individual simply because one sells them a house.
'But you have to wonder how a case like this ever deteriorated to this level. Surely a compromise could and should have been reached.'