Retired couple walled in to own home in Brugairolles after dispute
Laneway dispute between British neighbours ends with pair being walled into their own home
Agence France-Presse in Brugairolles
A British couple's dream of a quiet retirement in sunny southern France turned into a nightmare when their neighbours walled them into their home.
Villagers in Brugairolles in the foothills of the Pyrenees were so appalled by the act that they rose up to rescue the elderly couple, tearing down a wall from the front of the house and ripping open windows and doors that had been nailed shut.
"We could not accept that they should continue to live under such terror," declared retired soldier Jeannot Gach, who helped lead the operation to free Faith and John Dyson, both in their 70s, from their home.
The Dysons' tormentors were not jealous locals resentful of outsiders pushing up property prices, but another British couple, the Dunlops, furious that they had "trespassed" on a shared lane they claimed to own.
Villagers said the neighbours had first blocked the Dysons' front door with a large van before deciding to make their confinement more permanent.
Gach said the Dunlops nailed up their neighbours' window shutters and barred their door with wooden fence posts cemented into the ground, forcing the imprisoned couple to leave by their back garden.
Finally, last week when the Dysons were out shopping, the Dunlops began building a wall reaching up to the second storey of the house.
"They waited for us to go out before they started the bricklaying," said John Dyson, who is in fragile health.
"Then the whole village united on Monday" to protest against what the Dunlops had done, said Gach, 83, under the watchful eye of police. "Everyone came out, and they all shouted and whistled against these awful neighbours.
"We all waited for the bailiff to arrive to see what they had done. After that we took down the wall, unbarred the door and freed the shutters.
"I cannot find enough words to say" against people like the Dunlops who would try to force their neighbours to "live in total darkness", he added.
The village is in the heart of the spectacular Cathar country in the Aude, where ironically there are historical precedents of persecution of this type. The Cathars heretical religious sect was suppressed by the Inquisition in the Middle Ages, with hundreds killed by being locked up in caves and in their homes.
"The Dysons have been harassed for years but it has got worse since last March," village mayor Alain Labattut said. "They were terrorised."
The Dysons are popular in the village, which has 258 inhabitants, about 40 of them British.