Attacker lives upstairs
Settling into her new flat, Joanne Sleigh, 38, from Stockport, wanted a fresh start – but one man put paid to that...
Our place was a dream come true. Small and cosy, it was perfect
Carrying the last of the cardboard boxes into the living room of our new ground-floor flat, I let out a sigh of relief. ‘I think we’re going to be happy here, Mum,’ my daughter Jessica, 13, smiled.
It was February
2017 and after a difficult split from my long-term partner, we’d had a tough time finding somewhere to live.
After more than a year of being in and out of temporary housing, our new housing-association flat in Stockport was like a dream come true.
It was the fresh start we’d been waiting for.
Small but cosy, it was perfect for the two of us.
A couple of days after settling in, I bumped into our new neighbour.
‘I’m Matthew, nice to meet you,’ he said, shaking my hand. He seemed nice enough. It turned out he lived in the flat above.
A few days later, he left a pair of brown curtains outside the flat in the stairwell.
House warming gift, his note read.
‘From our neighbour,’ I smiled to Jess, lugging them indoors.
‘How nice,’ she giggled. ‘But I don’t think we’ll use them.’
She was right, they looked a bit worn. But I didn’t want to seem ungrateful. So later, I popped upstairs to thank him.
As he made me a cuppa, he told me he’d had trouble with the woman who’d lived in my flat before me.
‘Her food smelt terrible, I hated it!’ he sneered.
Wanting to stay out of it, I made my excuses and headed back downstairs.
As the weeks passed, I barely saw Matthew.
While Jess settled in at school, I set up my own cleaning business. And met a new man – Mark, 33.
But in bed one night in May 2017, I awoke with a start. Someone was banging on the door.
‘Did you hear that?’ I whispered to Mark, sitting up.
‘It’s 2am, who’d be knocking at this time?’ he groaned.
Opening the door, we saw an angry-looking Matthew.
‘Are you taking the p*ss, playing that music?’ he spat.
Mark and I looked at each other in utter confusion.
There was no music coming from our house, we’d all been fast asleep.
Without warning, Matthew leapt forward and grabbed Mark by the throat.
‘Get off!’ Mark choked. And then, just as quickly, Matthew let
Mark go and shot up the stairs.
‘Are you OK?’ I asked Mark as we staggered back to bed. ‘I think so,’ he said.
I felt so embarrassed. We’d only just started seeing each other.
The next day, as I was leaving the flat, I saw a letter on my mat. It was from Matthew.
I’m sorry, he’d written.
I know the music was coming from across the road.
I was glad he’d apologised, but planned to stay well away from him.
But a few days later, Matthew started banging on his floor – our ceiling.
My heart pounded. Not again…
It was 11pm and I could hear Jess chatting on her phone.
I got out of bed, was going to tell her to keep it down.
But as I walked into her room, someone banged loudly on her bedroom window.
We both looked out to see
I rang the police. This one-man terror campaign had to stop!
Matthew staring at us.
‘Shut up!’ he boomed through the glass.
‘Oh, my God!’ shrieked Jess. Matthew scowled, then disappeared into the darkness.
Shaking, I ran to Jess’ window, closed the blinds.
‘Don’t worry, Mum,’ said Jess, giving me a hug.
She was so strong. But she shouldn’t have to be.
‘He really gives me a bad feeling,’ I sobbed.
In the days that followed, Jess put on a brave face, but I knew it had rattled her. She’d wait by the door, listening for anyone on the stairs before leaving for school. And I was just a bundle of nerves.
I was too scared to go out in case I saw Matthew. I even cancelled my cleaning jobs. But we couldn’t avoid him forever.
Almost every night, he’d bang on the ceiling.
One morning, me and Jess were leaving the flat and Matthew was waiting above us in the stairwell.
‘I’ll throw boiling water and sugar over your heads next time,’ he cackled.
I grabbed Jess’ hand. ‘Ignore him,’ I told her as we rushed out to the car.
That day, I called the police. Only, they told me they didn’t have enough evidence to do anything. They suggested I report Matthew to the housing association instead.
But I didn’t want to annoy Matthew even more, so I left it.
I started to feel like a prisoner in my own home. Jumping at every sound, I worried what he’d do next.
Would he really hurt me? Or worse, hurt Jess?
We both did everything we could to keep quiet.
Only, a week later – when Jess was at her dad’s – I woke up with a start in the early hours of the morning.
‘Whoever it is making all this noise, they need to shut up!’ I heard Matthew screaming from outside.
All I could hear was him. But, suddenly, I heard glass shattering in the kitchen.
I gasped, mouth dry with fear.
I crept out of bed and walked towards the kitchen.
There was glass all over the kitchen floor and a brick that Matthew had hurled through my window. Crying, I called the police.
They came and arrested Matthew.
Then, days later – around 6pm – Jess and I had just done our weekly food shop and were piling our shopping bags into the flat...
I saw Matthew lurking outside his front door. Tired, I just wasn’t in the mood for him.
‘Not a word!’ I hissed to him as I lugged the bags inside. He just laughed. ‘There’s something not quite right with you!’ I shouted. ‘Leave it, Mum,’ said Jessica. We went inside and I slammed the door behind us.
‘I’m sick of being scared in my own home,’ I seethed. Just then, I heard a knock on the front door. Without thinking, I opened it.
As quick as a flash, Matthew’s fist shot in and he punched me in the face. I staggered backwards, my right eye throbbing. Slamming the door shut, I burst into tears. ‘Mum, we’ve got to call the police,’ cried Jess. That night, Matthew was arrested again – but released. ‘We don’t have enough evidence to take it further,’ an officer explained. My attacker was living above me!
Soon enough, Matthew started banging on the ceiling again...
He became obsessed by the sound of my heating pipes and began posting angry notes through my letterbox. Terrified to leave the house, I gave up my cleaning business. Jess took days off school, insisting on staying with me. One day in August 2017, I plucked up the courage to walk to the shops. But I noticed a familiar figure approaching me. Matthew.
I braced myself, didn’t want him to see I was scared.
But just as our paths crossed, he shoved me with his shoulder into a bus shelter.
‘I’m going to stamp all over your head,’ Matthew snarled. Then he simply walked away as if nothing had happened. I fell to the ground, trembling. I rang the police and begged for help. This one-man terror campaign had to stop. Matthew Finley, 46, was arrested once again.
And this time, in April this year, he pleaded guilty at Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court to harassment, common assault and criminal damage. Evicted from his flat, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison and is banned from approaching me for five years. I almost lost everything because of that man. Now, me and Jessica are rebuilding our lives again. And finally have the happy home – and the fresh start – that we deserve.
Me and Jess are making a fresh start
Neighbour Matthew Finley
Terrified in my own home
Our window, smashed...