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Friday, 4 August 2017
Couple waged terror campaign against gym trainer after his fling with wife, court hears
Ahusband who discovered his wife had been having "an intimate relationship" with her personal fitness trainer launched a terror campaign against his love rival, a court heard.
Neil Ansell is alleged to have spray painted Sean Smith's vehicle with abusive graffiti and made threatening phone calls to him. He also deliberately left a can of petrol outside Mr Smith's home causing him to fear an arson attack, a jury was told.
Mr Ansell's wife Louise, who had told him about her affair after it was over, is alleged to have assisted and encouraged him with the acts of revenge.
But a court was told the couple, helped by their friend James Williams, also targeted Mr Smith's new girlfriend, Stephanie Hepke.
She awoke one morning to discover the driveway outside her parents' five-bedroomed detached house had been sprayed with graffiti.
The front of her dog grooming parlour was also targeted in a graffiti attack and a car left on the driveway of her parents' home was set on fire.
Miss Hepke, 26, told the jury how late one night she received a phone call from a man speaking in a fake Italian accent who told her: "When you leave your shop alone, be careful because you are going to be raped."
St Albans Crown Court heard Ansell, 46, and his 36-year-old wife Louise, from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, along with their 38-year-old friend Williams, from St Albans, all pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit arson. They also plead not guilty to two counts of putting a person in fear of violence by harassment.
Prosecutor Anthony Heaton-Armstrong told the jury: "This case involves what the prosecution say was a campaign waged by the three defendants against two people. The prosecution say the ring leader was Neil Ansell, his second in command was his wife Louise Ansell and the hench person was James Williams, a friend of theirs."
The court was told how, in early 2013, the Ansells' marriage was in difficulty. At the time, the wife was attending outdoor fitness training classes.
Mr Smith was a trainer with the company that ran the classes and soon, said the prosecutor, "an intimate relationship" had developed between the pair, with the wife telling him of her marriage difficulties and plans to sell the couple's home.
Mr Heaton-Armstrong said that by the summer of 2013, the relationship between Mrs Ansell and Mr Smith had come to an end and, in the September, the wife and her husband were trying for a reconciliation.
The court was told it was around this time that the wife told her husband about her relationship with Mr Smith. "Neil Ansell got extremely jealous" said the prosecutor.
By now, the court was told, Mr Smith, from Ryelands, in Welwyn Garden City, had begun a relationship with Miss Hepke,
On the night of September 27, the court was told, a can of yellow spray paint was used to daub graffiti on the driveway of Miss Hepke's home.
That same night, Mr Smith's van, which was parked outside his home, had the words "Stef is a s--- and c---" spray painted over it.
Mr Heaton-Armstrong said Neil Ansell had subsequently admitted responsibility for the two paint attacks that night.
He said: "Neil Ansell didn't know Stephanie. Presumably it was a way of getting at the new girlfriend of Sean Smith."
The prosecutor described Mr Smith as the husband's "arch enemy", adding: "Imagine how angry he must have been with Sean Smith at the time."
The court heard it was around a week later that Miss Hepke received a telephone call late at night by someone telling her she would be raped if she left her dog grooming shop on her own. Days later, there was a second graffiti attack on Mr Smith's van.
Mr Heaton-Armstrong said it was the Crown's case that Louise Ansell had been encouraging her husband to carry out the acts of vandalism and intimidation.
The jury heard the three defendants were all arrested in 2014. The trial continues.