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Woman, 62, who scratched cars is sent to prison; DAMAGE: Widow arrested by village neighbour had knife with paint on the blade in her pocket.

Byline: CATHY COLEMAN

A WIDOW who caused thousands of pounds worth of damage by carving swear words on dozens of cars during a 10-month crime spree was jailed yesterday for six months.

Elaine Meredith, 62, who was living in Margarets Way, Caldicot, at the time of the offences, was caught by a car owner whose car she had damaged.

Recorder Charles Cook told Cardiff Crown Court that Gary Smith had been in his house when he heard a sound "like the noise of chalk on a blackboard".

The 32-year-old went to investigate and found an obscenity had been scraped on the bonnet of his car.

No one was running away from the scene but he saw an elderly woman with a dog "cowering" against a fence. The woman said she had seen two children running away but Mr Smith was not convinced and made a citizen's arrest.

Meredith was arrested and a craft knife with paint from Mr Smith's car and another car on the blade was discovered in her pocket.

Police also brought in a handwriting expert who said the probability was high that several cases of criminal damage to cars in the Caldicot area had been done by the same author.

Detective Constable Martin Harries, who investigated the case, earlier described it had been one of the most bizarre he had encountered.

"The case was utterly baffling and I initially thought teenagers were responsible, " he said.

At Newport Crown Court in July Meredith was found guilty of six counts of criminal damage.

Earlier the judge had dismissed more than 30 similar charges after ruling that there was too little evidence.

Eugene Egan, for the defence, said Meredith still adamantly denied the charges and would refuse to pay a financial penalty or carry out any community work.

He described her actions as bizarre, nonsensical and baffling.

The offences all took place around Woodstock Way in the village of Caldicot between February and November last year.

Sentencing Meredith, the judge said, "Your fellow citizens deserve a short period of respite from you and your malign tendencies."

The judge commended Mr Smith and said he should receive a reward of pounds 100.

Meredith was sentenced to three months for six counts of criminal damage, to run concurrently, and three months for breaching a previous conditional discharge, to run consecutively.

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JAILED: Elaine Meredith
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 11, 2001
Words:393
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