A NORTH Cumbrian man who fell out with his neighbour in Wigton over her late-night piano playing has been cleared of issuing a genuine threat to 'rip her face off.'

At Carlisle's Rickergate Magistrates' Court, Anthony Bell, 59, denied an allegation that he made the threat during a conversation with a Cumbria Police call handler.

He was cleared after a trial.

Prosecutor Andy Travis, opening the case, outlined how the contentious comment came after a Carleton Hall based police officer took a call from the defendant via the force's non-emergency 101 number.

The defendant had called up to complain about his neighbour, telling the officer: "Get it sorted or I will sort her," said Mr Travis. Mr Bell also threatened to go to his neighbour's home in Manor Court, Wigton, and "rip her face off," said Mr Travis. 

The prosecutor said that in a second phone call that same day to an environmental health officer, Mr Bell said he would "bury" the woman.

When questioned about the call, Mr Bell said he had meant he wanted to "bury the problem." The first witness to give evidence was the police officer who took Mr Bell's call.

PC Adrian Tyson said it was not easy to get details from Mr Bell - who said he now had no fixed address, though his 'care of' address was previously given as Skinburness Drive, Silloth.

During the 101 call, said the officer, Mr Bell spoke rapidly and came across as "aggressive".

He said that Mr Bell explained that the initial problem with his neighbour in Wigton was over her playing the piano. He also claimed a 'paper hanky' was thrown at his door and he suspected the piano player was responsible.

There was a reference to another agency being involved.

"He said he would go round and sort it out himself," said the officer, explaining that he felt it necessary to warn Mr Bell to not take matters into his own hands.

The officer said he asked the caller to stop being abusive and to calm himself down. He eventually decided to terminate the call.

Responding to the officer's evidence, Mr Bell said he had ended the phone call. He suggested that the woman had played the piano at 12.15am, but she refused to answer the door to talk about it. She was taking the dispute over the piano playing to "different level," he claimed.

He told the court that during the call he had been "stressed" rather than aggressive.

Mr Bell, who was not legally represented, said he wanted the trial to be heard at Carlisle Crown Court, but he was that was not legally possible for the offence he faced, an allegation under the Malicious Communications Act. He began the case by declaring: "I didn't threaten anyone."

After hearing evidence, magistrates declared the defendant not guilty.