A woman who bludgeoned her untidy, hoarding next-door-neighbour to death with a garden spade was today convicted of her murder.
Debby Foxwell, 41, had a ‘visceral hatred’ for former Liberal Democrat councillor Louise Lotz and blamed her for her inability to sell her own home.
After the 64-year-old victim snatched her phone during a row in the back garden, Debby Foxwell grabbed a spade from her garden shed.
Foxwell kicked opened the front door of South African-born Louise’s home and used the spade to smash a television and laptop.
Louise 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!”
Debby Foxwell followed and fatally attacked her.
She returned home, telling her partner: “It’s over. I have done it,” St Albans crown court was told.
She denied murdering Louise Lotz in Welwyn Garden City on the evening of Saturday August 24 last year but admitted manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility.
The jury of seven women and five men 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.”
He said: "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."
The prosecutor said: "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 Louise 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. The rear garden was overgrown and unloved. The interior was cluttered,” said Mr Blake.
Debby Foxwell, who had worked for the drug firm Roche, 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.
Debby Foxwell was prosecuted for assault and criminal damage against Louise. In 2016 her husband Paul died from cancer.
By 2019 she was in a new relationship with Dutchman Anthonie Vroon. “She (Debby Foxwell) was seeking to move away from the address in Welwyn Garden City. She blamed Louise Lotz, rightly or wrongly, for not being able to sell her property,” said Mr Blake.
On 23 July 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 31 July, a security doorbell recorded Debby 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 Debby 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 Louise Lotz was filmed by Debby Foxwell on her mobile as she moved an orange wheelie bin to the gap in the fence.
Louise then grabbed the phone, which contained images of Debby’s late husband, and ran into her home pursued by Debby Foxwell, who threw clay pots and a lawnmower against one of Louise Lotz’s windows.
The victim was on the phone to the police as Debbie Foxwell went to her shed to collect the spade.
Louise Lotz’s lodger, warehouse worker Liam Graham, told the jury Debbie 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 said Debby Foxwell said: “There is the bitch” as Louise ran out of the house.
He said Louise was pleading on the door of number six “hammering away like mad” saying “help me help me.”
Debbie 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.
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.’”
He said Debby walked off. She told Mr Vroon her partner: “It’s over. I have done it.”
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 8 and a half years before he was diagnosed with an inoperable and aggressive form of cancer. They married in a chapel at the hospital 3 weeks before he died in June 2016.
Questioned by Peter Doyle QC, for Debby Foxwell, Mr Vroon agreed her grief for Paul was still very real and she was on anti-depressants.
Mr Vroon, who is Dutch, 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 in Peterborough.
“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 Louise, 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 Debby and Louise from what his partner had told him for at least 6 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 Louise 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 Debby recorded what happened on her phone and that is when he believed Louise 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 Debby 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.”