At­tacker lives up­stairs

Set­tling into her new flat, Joanne Sleigh, 38, from Stock­port, wanted a fresh start – but one man put paid to that...

Pick Me Up! - - CONTENTS -

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...

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