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France

French village rallies behind besieged elderly British couple

© Jean-François Broquin - villagers march to the British couple's home

Text by Tony TODD

Latest update : 2014-08-29

A French village has rallied behind an elderly British couple whose neighbours – also from the UK – boarded up their front door and blocked their windows in an ongoing property dispute (see below for pictures).

John and Faith Dyson, both in their 70s, said they were “gobsmacked” when around 80 fellow villagers from Brugairolles, in the picturesque Languedoc-Roussillon region of southwest France, turned out Monday to tear down the barricades.

The Dysons told FRANCE 24 how a crowd of cheering neighbours, brandishing placards with words of support, turned up at their home to tear down the wooden structure blocking their front door and windows.

“It was a jolly good afternoon,” said a delighted and surprised John. “The whole thing was done in a holiday mood.”

Nightmare neighbours

The Dysons retired to the pretty village of Brugairolles, which has a population of just 258, in 2004. A year later another British couple, James and Krystina Dunlop, moved into the house next door.

The Dunlops soon objected to the fact that the Dysons’ 150-year-old front door and the surrounding windows overlooked their driveway, and started an increasingly bitter legal campaign against their new neighbours.

“They were perfectly aware of this when they bought the property,” the Dysons said. “This spring they barricaded the front door, and last week they waited for us to go out shopping and then bricked up our windows. The house was thrown into darkness.”

‘You just can’t treat people like this’

Unknown to Mrs and Mrs Dyson, described by their French neighbours as “a very kind couple”, the whole village was simmering with anger at the treatment they were getting from from their neighbours.

And when the Dunlops took the extraordinary step of bricking up their windows, that anger boiled over.

Alain Cappoen, who lives near the Dysons, got together with the other villagers and formed a committee of support dedicated to the British couple.

“They [the Dunlops] have managed to anger everyone in this village,” he told FRANCE 24.

“When they blocked up the windows, the whole village was outraged. You just can’t treat people like this in this day and age.”

Solidarity

The Dysons admitted that they were worried about the next extreme move from the neighbours.

The Dunlops, he said, had written an 84-page letter to former president Nicolas Sarkozy to complain about their neighbours’ access to their driveway, as well as appealing to the Scottish police and the European Court of Human Rights

But he told FRANCE 24 he took heart from the sheer number of his neighbours who turned out to support them.

“This was not a one-off show of solidarity,” insisted Alain Cappoen. “The support committee is here to stay, they have our telephone numbers and they can call us any time, day or night, if they need our support. We won’t tolerate seeing this couple being treated like this.”

FRANCE 24 was unable to reach the Dunlops on Tuesday. John Dyson said all reporters’ attempts to contact them had been in vain.

Date created : 2014-08-20

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