An angry man chased after his next-door neighbours with a chainsaw after falling out with them over a garden fence. 33-year-old Christian Hager flew into a rage after discovering Mark Walton and Sharon Lamb had put up a fence between their homes in Kidsgrove, Staffordshire. The self-employed gardener took the chainsaw from his van and cut down a fence post. He then threatened his neighbours, with the power tool just centimetres from Sharon's stomach. The victims have told how they are still struggling to come to terms with the incident. Sharon, 44, said: "We just wanted to put the fence up for privacy. "We didn't put it over his kitchen window or anything like that, and we spoke to him about it before but he just wasn't happy about it. "It has just been terrible. It is something we have struggled to deal with and get over." The couple are furious Hager was not jailed at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court. Instead he was handed a suspended jail sentence and ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work.
Judge Paul Glenn told Hager: "In the cold light of day you almost faced a prison sentence because of a fence. Your behaviour was utterly disgraceful."
Mark and Sharon have now installed CCTV after being left fearing for their safety.
Following the case Mark, 44, said: "I've had to spend a lot of money putting up CCTV around the house because we didn't feel safe. I am disgusted with the sentence he has got. We are building a new house and were hoping he would be locked up for our last 12 months here, but obviously that hasn't happened."
The incident was seen by Sharon's three children.
Ms Lamb added: "He tried to jump over the wall and swing the chainsaw at Mark. He had to put the fence between himself and the chainsaw.
I was talking to him calmly about it at first but he just wasn't going back in his house. He stood by the window and was just staring and shouting at me through the window.
The children were hysterical, not knowing what was going on."
The court heard that Hager flew into a rage after returning home to discover the new fence between the properties on December 23.
He claimed Mark had damaged his wall with one of the fence posts.
He cut off one of the fence posts with the chainsaw.
Prosecutor Geoff Whelan told the court: "The defendant said, 'I will get my chainsaw and cut it down'.
"He started shouting for Mr Walton. Ms Lamb told him she would ring the police. He said, 'Call the police, I do not care'.
"Ms Lamb locked her house. She saw the defendant looking through her windows. She called the police.
Fifteen minutes later, Mr Walton heard the defendant say, 'I am going to cut this fence now'. He heard a chainsaw being revved.
He left his house. The defendant said, 'Come on then' and ran at him with a chainsaw.
Mr Walton shouted, 'Put the chainsaw down you psycho', but the defendant swung it a second time.
Ms Lamb and her children came out of the front door. Ms Lamb approached the defendant and said, 'What are you doing? I have got kids here'.
"The defendant leant forwards towards her. She leant backwards and felt the chainsaw a matter of centimetres away from her stomach. She said the defendant appeared to be in another world. She feared for her children's safety. She was very distressed."
Hager has no previous convictions and told police he got the chainsaw out to damage the fence. He pleaded guilty to affray on the basis that at no time did he try to strike anyone with the chainsaw.
Paul Hiatt, mitigating, said the defendant felt 'betrayed' when he saw the new fence.
Mr Hiatt said: "He felt the easiest way was to cut the fence down. He accepted he cut the wooden post. He apologises for his actions."
Hager was handed a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and 180 hours' unpaid work. He must also pay £600 costs.
Judge Paul Glenn told Hager: "Your behaviour was utterly stupid and, frankly, quite disgraceful. Your neighbour had erected the fence despite your objections and secured it to a party wall.
Any difficulty could have been dealt with through appropriate legal channels. But you decided to deal with it yourself. You took a chainsaw to cut down the fence.
Your neighbours indicated they would call the police but you were not deterred. When Mr Walton appeared you threatened him while brandishing the chainsaw.
An independent witness described you holding it close to his face. They genuinely feared seeing your state of mind that they would be attacked."