Homeowner alleges police harassment in row over amateur teams stray footballs

Anny Kilbourne’s back garden is next to the playing field Credit:SWNS The council have warned against retrieving lost balls from resident's gardens  “The resident was dismissive of the apology and refused when asked to return the balls. “She was advised the club would have to refer it to the police for the balls to be returned. The resident provided her name and address to the chairman to allow the club to do so.”Devon and Cornwall Police said: “While officers met with Ms Kilbourne, she raised concerns in relation to previous anti-social behaviour going back years linked to footballs being kicked into her garden and damaging her property; at no time previously had Ms Kilbourne been in touch with the police in relation to these matters.”The neighbourhood team leader for Exeter made the promise to Ms Kilbourne that a local PCSO would work with and support her in relation to these matters, and would help liaise with the local council to see if a solution could be found.”In relation to the allegation linked to the theft of the footballs from the youth club; due to this being part of a live and active investigation we are unable to comment specifically on this matter at this time, although we continue to work with both parties to find a resolution that pleases all.” A homeowner fears she is at risk of being prosecuted for theft after she refused to give back footballs that landed in her garden from the neighbouring sports ground. Anny Kilbourne, 56, has lived in Bettysmead in Exeter, Devon for 12 years where her garden backs on to the Whipton playing fields and had become used to finding amateur footballers searching her garden for balls they had mistakenly kicked over her fence.But Ms Kilbourne after a stray ball hit her in the face she claims that the chairman of the Exeter Panthers Chris Leisk – who is a police officer – refused to apologise.In retaliation, the transport worker decided to keep any balls kicked over her fence and donate them to charity.But Ms Kilbourne has now been warned she could end up in court unless she coughs up £26 to cover the loss of two balls to the club.”I’m an old woman who has always had a deep-seated respect for the police and the job they do,” she said.”But now I find myself being harassed by them, in a situation in which I believe they shouldn’t even be involved.”In a bid to discourage further incidents she refused to hand the footballs back, as she could see the club had others they could use to continue their game. The matter was reported as a theft by the football club to the police and Anny claims that since then she has since been inundated with personal visits, emails and phone calls from the police.She said: “The police have since been hounding me. It has reached the point where I’m scared to open my door or answer the phone.”Last Thursday I had five calls to both my landline and my mobile starting shortly after 8am. Then I received text message, insisting I contact the police as soon as possible.”The following day she says the phone started ringing again at 8am, and there was a second call within minutes, then a voice message was left at the third call by the police, again insisting she get in touch.She added: “It does look as if I am going to be arrested because while I’m keen to meet with the club and set up an arrangement to prevent this happening again, I simply will not give them money for balls which came onto my property uninvited and which caused me physical injury.”This year Exeter City Council erected a sign on the field asking users not to trespass on neighbouring properties to recover balls. Anny Kilbourne's back garden is next to the playing field  The council have warned against retrieving lost balls from gardens Credit:SWNS She added: “Naturally, I had no intention of keeping the footballs so I later donated them to a charity shop.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Team supervisor Mr Leisk, who is a police officer, said: “Our chairman was very apologetic about the situation and offered to provide the resident with all the relevant details of the insurance policies so that she could claim for any damage that had occurred.