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Three weeks after sending a three-page letter to her local borough council on September 15, 2011 descibing her three-year battle with "neighbours from hell" who had done their best to destroy her life, Dr. Suzanne Dow took an overdose of prescription medication and died in her sleep. Dow, a 33-year old professor of languages at the University of Nottingham, had received advanced degrees at Oxford University and had already gained international recognition for her work, including a soon-to-be published translation. Her problems apparently began with her next-door neighbours at the Browtoxe Borough complex in Nottinghamshire where she had been living since 2008.
The neighbours, Daryl Robinson, his sister Gaynor and her son Liam, had apparently operated a crack den which drew habitual drug users. Both Robinsons had criminal records and police had been called to the house on repeated occasions though they took no real action against them. In the time that she lived next to the Robinson, Dr. Dow had made frequent complaints against them for damage to her property, vulgar language, noise, and even physical threats against her. Daryl Robinson had been jailed for eleven days in 2011 for threatening Dr. Dow but had returned to the house afterward. Described as a "hulking and intimidating figure", he had also spent 28 days in jail for assaulting a man in the street and damaging a police cell.
In her final letter to the Borough Council, she stated that she had reached the limits of her tolerance, both with her neighbours and how the Borough Council had handled the case. "The situation is seriously affecting my physical and mental health," she added. "I am frequently unable to sleep, and it often prevents me from doing my job (I often work from home). I cannot enjoy the outside space due to noise, foul language, verbal abuse and talk of drugs. I live in fear of my property being damaged (again), and even for my own physical safety whilst in my own home." On September 10, just five days before writing the letter, she reported that the youngest Robinson, Liam Peach, had verbally abused and threatened her. Dr. Dow's repeated pleas to the Council to evict the Robinsons had been repeatedly ignored. Police had also been called to her house on five separate occasions with little real progress.
On one occasion, after filing a police report about an assault she had witnessed on the Robinson property, she had been intimidated by Gaynor Robinson into dropping the complaint. There was also frequent vandalizing of Dr. Dow's property including graffiti on her walls and the wiring outside her house being slashed. According to her mother, Maureen Dow, her daughter often phoned her in tears because she was too frightened to get to sleep. "No one should have to live in that situation, they let her down," she added.
While Dr. Dow had other emotional problems in her life, including the recent ending of a love affair with a fellow faculty member and posttraumatic issues stemming from childhood sexual abuse, the coroner investigating her death has demanded fundamental changes in how Nottinghamshire authorities deal with "neighbours from hell". The coroner also released her final letter to the press to highlight the issues that had led to Dr. Dow's death and described police attitudes in responding to her complaints as "appalling" and "outrageous". In responding to the coroner's comments, a Council representative stated that “The council cares a great deal about its tenants and residents and it will review the findings of the case and learn any lessons it needs to learn. This was a complex case and the council now knows all those involved were extremely vulnerable.”
The Robinsons have since been relocated although their new neighbours have reported that police involvement is ongoing.For more information.
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