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Spade killer found guilty

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She was “hammering away like mad” on a neighbour’s door, begging “help me, help me”, as the defendant approached.

THE NEIGHBOUR of a former Kimberley woman, who was bludgeoned to death with a garden spade in London, has been found guilty of murder.

Debby Foxwell had a “visceral hatred” for former Kimberley Girls’ High School pupil Louise Lotz – a “hoarder” who she blamed for her inability to sell her home, St Albans Crown Court heard.

The court found that Foxwell had killed Lotz after an argument on August 24, 2019 in what prosecutors called a “sustained, brutal and merciless attack”.

Foxwell, of Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, will be sentenced on March 20.

Long-running tensions between the two are said to have exploded after former councillor Lotz, 64, used a bin to block a gap in the shared fence that 41-year-old Foxwell, a director of a business support services firm, was fixing. She then grabbed a phone Foxwell was using to film her.

Prosecutor Alan Blake described the attack in the tree-lined street in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, where homes sell for more than £600 000, as “sustained, brutal and merciless”.

Liam Graham, who lodged at Lotz’s mid-terrace house, told St Albans Crown Court that Foxwell had thrown clay pots at their window and swung a lawn mower at it before kicking open the front door and entering the house armed with a spade.

“She put the spade through a great big plasma TV and smashed a laptop into a million pieces,” Graham said.

The jury was told that Foxwell shouted “there’s the b***” and Lotz ran out of the house. She was “hammering away like mad” on a neighbour’s door, begging “help me, help me”, as the defendant approached.

Graham said Foxwell then made the spade “into something like a machete” by turning it on its side and hitting her victim four or five times.

“I was screaming at her to stop. I tried to intervene once. She turned and said, ‘You best stay out of the way if you know what’s good for you’,” he added.

Foxwell’s partner, Dutch-born Anthonie Vroon, said she returned to their house and said “it’s over, I’ve done it”.

“She said it in a flat tone of voice, like she was reading from a book,” he added.

Describing the moments leading up to Lotz’s death, Vroon, 36, said Foxwell had a “frustrating” conversation with a 999 call handler and “smashed the phone on the ground”. He admitted her temper could be “white hot” at times.

Blake said: “The sustained ferocity of the attack and the number of blows make it plain she (Foxwell) intended to kill her.”

Lotz, a therapist who was a Liberal Democrat councillor from 2008 to 2011, had lived in her home for “many years”.

Blake said she was “something of a hoarder”. The interior of her home was “cluttered” and the garden was “overgrown and unloved”.

Vroon said he and Foxwell blamed the state of Lotz’s house for being unable to sell theirs, which had been on the market for “probably longer than half a year”.

Lotz and Foxwell “frequently” reported each other to the police from 2015, a year after Foxwell moved in. Foxwell was prosecuted for assault and criminal damage in 2016.

Community protection notices were issued to both women on July 23 last year, banning them from harassing, trespassing or taking photos of each other.

But Foxwell’s “visceral hatred” of Lotz intensified, Blake said, and three weeks before the killing last August CCTV recorded her swinging her handbag into her neighbour’s head as she walked past.

The 41-year-old had denied murder throughout her trial but had admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility.

The jury heard there had been problems between the two women, who lived next door to each other in Fordwich Road, for at least six years.

Blake said: “Initially relations were cordial, but they swiftly deteriorated. As so often in neighbours’ disputes, it began over petty matters: boundaries, bins, and borders.”

Lotz matriculated from Kimberley Girls’ High in 1972 and was a constant contributor to the school’s old girls’ union newsletter. In her latest update she stated that she was due to be awarded an MA by Research for her research thesis on Maternal Care and the Breast in Literature of the long Eighteenth Century.

“It has been a wonderful time for me, reading many of these lovely old eighteenth century novels and philosophers from both France and England. Although my work is about mothers, there is a nice bit of a feminist slant to it as the first legal rights for married women came with the Custody of Infants Act of 1839 and that is where my story ended.”

She stated that she had also learnt French.

“The last time I wrote I said I had been out to South Africa to visit my cousin, Ivor Powell, who had been ill. He is much better now though sadly I have been out again since then for the funeral in Johannesburg of my brother, Andre Lotz, who went to Kimberley Boys’ High during his junior school years and there may be Kimberley people who still remember him.

“My latest grandchild is now two days old and I feel wonderfully elated and proud of my son and his little family. The first grandchild, Gabriel, is now three years old, and the brand new baby girl is called Eleonore. That’s Eleanor the French way and I am learning to put in the extra syllable.

“My son, Peter, is a music teacher in France, having mastered the music and the French language into the bargain. He has finally been awarded French citizenship, which he applied for after the news of Brexit was announced, fearing that the easy-come, easy-go working arrangements for the English in Europe might not survive into the far future.

“My brother also now lives with me in England, so I am never lonely here. He has also been granted indefinite leave to remain so we are very pleased and it is fun to get to know him better since I was away from home for much of his childhood.

“Apart from the academic work I also do complementary therapies and have a lovely art class each week.

“We had a blanket of spring snow – with the daffodils managing to poke through, but now there is a warmer feel and I hope that we will finally get some warmer weather.”