Grandma, 61, convicted of assault for spraying neighbors with disinfectant during lockdown

A 61-year-old grandma was convicted of assault for spraying her neighbors with disinfectant after hearing them cough in their garden amid lockdown. 

  • Jane Downall, 61, was convicted of assault after spraying her neighbors with a potentially corrosive disinfectant amid lockdown. 
  • Following the incident, the sprayed women had to be rushed to a hospital for suspected burns. 
  • The convicted woman told the court she attacked her neighbors because she was “frightened of COVID.”

Jane Downall, 61, from Heywood, Greater Manchester, reportedly spayed her neighbors Samantha Fisher and her daughter Ebony with an anti-bacterial spray she uses to clean her fence.

Pictured: Jane Downall | Credits: Cavendish Press

The appalling scene occurred as Samantha and Ebony were chatting with another neighbor on April 5 last year, just two weeks after the Government imposed lockdown restrictions. A few drops of the potentially corrosive liquid Downwall was using hit their faces, and both of them had to seek medical treatment for suspected burns.

As Daily Mail reports, when Mrs. Fisher’s husband Clifton asked the woman what has she done, she answered: “Two meters away! Get away from my fence!” 

But that’s not all. The 61-year-old even tried to spray Mr. Fisher after he confronted her about her terrible behavior.

Pictured: Samantha Fisher with her daughter Ebony | Credits: Cavendish Press

After Downall was arrested, she told the police her neighbors had been coughing over her fence, and she was “just trying to protect” her parents.

In August, Downall was convicted of common assault at Tameside Magistrates Court. Although she appealed against the verdict, the judge ignored her plea and discharged her conditionally for six months on October 21.

During the court hearing, it was revealed that the neighbors had repeatedly made complaints about each other.

Pictured: The houses in Heywood | Credits: Cavendish Press

The now-convicted woman explained:

“Sam was doing these really loud exaggerated coughs in the garden and her husband wa there, she was hysterically laughing and coughing. She popped her head up over the fence and into my side and was talking across me about hair dye.”

However, Mr. Fisher disagreed with his neighbor’s statement. Sharing his side of the story, he said:

“We were having a family BBQ, it was just me, my wife, and Ebony. My wife was speaking to another neighbour who had messaged her earlier and was speaking to her three doors down over the fence.

Miss Downall was speaking to another neighbour on the opposite side to me and I remember seeing her go inside her house then come straight back with a spray bottle in her right hand.

She started saying ‘get away from my fence, get away from my fence’ then walks towards me and came quite close and then sprayed the liquid.

Ebony and Samantha were stood on a step with their heads above the fence and Miss Downall was directly facing them. She sprayed several times and Samantha and Ebony came down and went inside.”

Pictured: Samantha and Clifton Fisher | Credits: Cavendish Press

Downall told the police she was worried about “contacting anything” from Samantha and Ebony. 

She said:

“I said if you want to talk to the other neighbour go and talk to them at the front of the house and there was then some argy-bargy. I said I am spraying the fence now and it was a natural antibacterial disinfectant spray.

I said: ‘Can you get down?’ as I was really worried about contacting anything from them. Samantha and Ebony said: ‘What are you doing?’ and I just said I was spraying the wall.

Cliff then said ‘You stupid f***ing bitch, what are you doing?’ I said: ‘You are not two metres away from me, get away. I am spraying the fence.'”

The woman said she was not intending to “inflict any injuries.” 

To the court, she said:

“I was frightened of COVID and conscious of the two metre rule. I was speaking to another neighbour Cynthia and the Fishers were speaking across our two gardens. They were shouting and there was spit and saliva coming out of their mouth.

It was at the start of the Covid and we were in lockdown. I was safeguarding Cynthia and my Mum and Dad. I was very conscious that the virus could have been airborne, because at the time, no one was sure how you caught COVID. I didn’t want to catch anything. I was very cautious.”

Pictured: Jane Downall | Credits: Cavendish Press

Downall continued:

“They had been making jokes about the pandemic and there had been exaggerating coughing. I was just conscious about the germs. I went over to ask to get down from the fence but they said it was not my fence. I said I was going to get the stuff to clean the fence. It is a mist spray which I got from Aldi.

I started spraying where I thought the droplets would be and that is when they started shouting and Sam shouted that I had assaulted her and that the neighbours were witnesses. I didn’t intend to spray them with the spray and I thought they were being ridiculous.

Four police cars turned up and I was distressed. I couldn’t believe what was going on. When the police came into my house, I was backing off because of the two metre social distancing requirements. It is an important thing to me.”

That’s when the 61-year-old woman admitted: “here is a history of animosity between us.”

She said:

“I feel terrorised by these people. I have been advised not to aggravate them but I was concerned about the germs.”

Pictured: Jane Downall | Credits: Cavendish Press

Despite Downall’s plea, Judge Angela Nield stated:

“At the time the country had been in lockdown for no more than three weeks and the pandemic was in its infancy and it was still subject to much speculation as to the manner in which individuals could be infected.

This incident was also prior to when masks were recommended and regulations were to keep a two metre rule. The appellant said she was very keen to observe these COVID regulations and did not want to become infected herself. But there is a history of acrimony, complaint and counter complaints.

Miss Downall has lived at her address for some 20 years whereas the complainants have lived at their address for some eight years.”

The judge continued:

“We do not find the appellant made a deliberate action to harm the complainants but her actions were reckless.

Given the history of antagonism, it made her reckless in her actions resulting in the assault. But it was a momentary event and we regard events on the day in question as being specific to her heightened agitation of the pandemic and the situation she perceived herself to be in.

We are conscious of this becoming part of a protracted saga which does not help anyone. This was a reckless not an intentional assault.”

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