A woman who bludgeoned her next-door neighbour to death with a garden spade was convicted of murder today.
Debby Foxwell, 41, had a ‘visceral hatred’ for ‘untidy hoarder’ Louise Lotz, and blamed her for her inability to sell her own home in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.
After former Liberal Democrat councillor Mrs Lotz, 64, snatched her phone during a row in the back garden, Foxwell grabbed a spade from her garden shed, kicked open the front door of her neighbour’s home and smashed a television and laptop.
South African-born Mrs Lotz, who was on the phone to the police, ran out of a hiding place and to another neighbour’s doorstep, shouting ‘Help me, help me!’ before Foxwell followed and fatally attacked her.
St Albans Crown Court heard Foxwell turned the spade into a machete-like weapon by turning it on its side and hitting her victim four or five times, mostly in the head.
Debby Foxwell, pictured, had a ‘visceral hatred’ for ‘untidy hoarder’ Louise Lotz, and blamed her for her inability to sell her own home in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire
The court heard she returned home following the attack on August 24 last year, telling her partner: ‘It’s over, I have done it.’
Foxwell denied murdering Mrs Lotz, but admitted manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility. The jury today found her guilty of murder.
Judge Michael Kay QC will sentence her on March 20.
Prosecutor Alan Blake said: ‘It was a sustained, brutal and merciless attack.
‘At around 8pm on a late Summer’s day last year, after a day of tension and disputes over the fence, this defendant went to her shed in her back garden and picked up a spade.
‘She walked through her house, number 10, and kicked open the door of number 8 in a furious rage. She used the spade to smash electrical items in the lounge before pursuing her neighbour, who made a run for safety.
‘Louise Lotz got to the front door of number 6. Debby Foxwell caught her and repeatedly bludgeoned her with a spade, before causing catastrophic injuries to her head.’
South African-born Mrs Lotz, pictured, was murdered by Foxwell who hit her with a spade
The prosecutor added: ‘The sustained ferocity of the attack and the number of blows make it plain she intended to kill her and she succeeded in doing so.’
The jury heard Mrs Lotz, who had two sons – one of whom died as a child – had lived at number 8 for many years and had a lodger, Liam Graham.
‘She was something of an untidy hoarder,’ Mr Blakde said. ‘The rear garden was overgrown and unloved. The interior was cluttered.’
Foxwell, who formerly worked for the drug firm Roche, had moved into number 10 five years before the killing.
The prosecutor went on: ‘Initially relations were cordial, but they swiftly deteriorated. As so often in neighbours’ dispute, it began over petty matters: boundaries, bins, and borders.’
From 2015 onwards, disputes between the pair were frequently reported to the police by both parties. Officers kept running logs of their disputes.
Foxwell was prosecuted for assault and criminal damage against Louise.
Foxwell (home pictured left) lived next-door to Ms Lotz (house pictured right) on a tree-lined street in Hertfordshire
In 2016 her husband Paul died from cancer.
By 2019 she was in a new relationship with Dutchman Anthonie Vroon.
‘Foxwell was seeking to move away from the address in Welwyn Garden City,’ Mr Blake said. ‘She blamed Louise Lotz, rightly or wrongly, for not being able to sell her property.’
On July 23 last year, Community Protection Warning Notices were issued to both women, banning them from harassing, trespassing or taking photographs of each other.
Mr Blake said the defendant’s ‘Visceral hatred of Louise Lotz intensified.’
On July 31, a security doorbell recorded Foxwell walking past and swinging her bag into Louise’s head as she tended plants in her front garden.
The jury heard that on the day of the killing Foxwell and her partner had been removing garden panels, adjoining the victim’s garden, to paint them.
During the course of a row, both women had called the police.
At around 8pm Mrs Lotz was filmed by Foxwell on her mobile as she moved an orange wheelie bin to the gap in the fence.
Mrs Lotz then grabbed the phone, which contained images of Foxwell’s late husband, and ran into her home pursued by Foxwell, who threw clay pots and a lawnmower against one of Mrs Lotz’s windows.
The victim was on the phone to the police as Foxwell went to her shed to collect the spade.
Mrs Lotz’s lodger, warehouse worker Liam Graham, told the jury Foxwell broke into the house.
He said: ‘Debbie had a spade in her hand. She said ”Where is she?” I said ”Who?” She said ”You know who.” I said: ”I don’t know where she is.”
‘She was swinging the spade from side to side. She put the spade through a great big plasma TV and smashed a laptop into a million pieces.’
Mr Graham told the court Foxwell said ‘There’s the b****’ as Louise ran out of the house.
He said Mrs Lotz was pleading on the door of number six, ‘hammering away like mad’ saying ‘help me, help me.’
Foxwell turned the spade into something like a machete by turning it on its side and hit her four or five times, he said. Mostly it hit her head.
After former Liberal Democrat councillor Mrs Lotz, pictured, snatched Foxwell’s phone during a row in the back garden, Foxwell grabbed a spade from her garden shed, kicked open the front door of her neighbour’s home and smashed a television and laptop
He went on: ‘I was close enough to hear everything. 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”.’
Mr Vroon, 36, told the jury he believed she was still grieving for the loss of her husband Paul who had died of cancer at the age of 33.
She had been in a relationship with Paul Foxwell for eight-and-a-half years before he was diagnosed with an inoperable and aggressive form of cancer. They married in a chapel at the hospital three weeks before he died in June 2016.
Questioned by Peter Doyle QC, for Foxwell, Mr Vroon agreed her grief for Paul was still very real and she was on anti-depressants.
Mr Vroon said he met Debby Foxwell in October 2017. He was working as an IT manager in Peterborough and she had taken a career break from her work in cancer research.
He said they moved in together, but were looking to move to a bigger house.
‘The property had been on the market for probably longer than half a year – we were struggling to sell it. We both blamed the state of the property at number 8,’ he said.
Asked by prosecutor Alan Blake if he had much to do with Mrs Lotz, he replied: ‘Not particularly. She liked to stare at me and watch me park the car. I found it unsettling and annoying.’
He said there had been tensions between Foxwell and Mrs Lotz from what his partner had told him for at least six years.
On the afternoon of the killing he said they were removing the garden fence panels to paint them. He said a police officer had been called out by his neighbour, but they explained the panels were on their side of the property and he left them to it.
Later that evening he heard a banging noise and Mrs Lotz pushed out one of the fence panels. He said he put its back, but later there was an ‘almighty bang’ and another panel had been pushed out again with much more force.
He said Foxwell recorded what happened on her phone and that is when he believed Mrs Lotz snatched her phone.
Mr Vroon went on: ‘Debby was incredibly angry and hurling pottery that was in the overgrown garden. I remember the lodger leaning out of the window and telling her to stop.
‘I had chased after Debbie in an attempt to get her to return to our garden.
‘I tried to persuade her and she did come back to our house. She was still absolutely l livid. She used our home landline to call 999. She found the conversation with the dispatcher frustrating and smashed the phone on the ground.’
He said he tried to restrain Foxwell as she went to the shed and then became ‘fixated’ on the landline – which was the police operator ringing back.
Mr Vroon said he did not stop his partner as she left through the front door. He said: ‘It was stupid. I probably could have stopped her.’
He went on: ‘She walked in The front door a couple of minutes later and closed the door behind her. She had the spade with her when she left, but when she came back she hadn’t.
‘She said: ‘It’s over. I’ve done it. ‘She said it in a flat tone of voice – Like she was reading from a book.’
Asked to describe her mood at times, he said: ‘She had a white, hot anger.’