Essex pensioner refused to clear home of infestation of mice which 'brought a smile to her face'

A mouse
A mouse found eating at Manzoni's home in St Osyth in Essex. Credit: Tendring District Council

A pensioner whose mice-infested house smelled so bad that it drove both her neighbours to move out has been fined in court.

Margaret Manzoni had refused council officers' help to get rid of the vermin, telling them they were "lovely creatures" who "brought a smile" to her face as she continued to feed them, said the council.

The 73-year-old, of St Osyth in Essex, was first approached by Tendring District Council after neighbours raised concerns about the damage to their properties caused by Manzoni's mid-terrace home, Chelmsford Magistrates' Court was told.

After their help was refused, officers told Manzoni to get rid of the mice and clean her house. She was also asked to clear her overgrown garden, call in pest control and stop feeding birds - but carried on putting food for the mice.

She said she did not mind the odour, the council claimed - adding that its own officers had described the smell from the large number of flies and droppings as "overpowering".

A photograph taken by environmental health officers showing the state of the house Credit: Tendring District Council

The situation became so bad that both neighbouring properties had to be vacated, with complaints resuming when new residents moved in.

Neighbours described to council staff the impact on their mental health from hearing the mice scurrying around, as well as the damage to their property and physical impacts such as the smell.

Manzoni was offered somewhere else to live because of the state of her house, but on a later visit, she described the vermin as “my mice” and said they would not intrude upon her neighbours because she fed and homed them.

She refused to take action, stating it went against her “ethical beliefs”.

Manzoni admitted charges of failing to comply with a notice under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act, between 22 September 2021 and 23 March 2022; and failing to comply with a notice under the Environmental Protection Act between 12 November 2021 and 23 March 2022.

The bench at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Thursday imposed a fine of £807 on the second charge, with no separate penalty on the first offence, as well as an £81 victim surcharge and awarded £2,000 in costs.

A mouse in Manzoni's home Credit: Tendring District Council

Michael Talbot, cabinet member for environment at Tendring District Council, said the council would not hesitate to act in such cases should there be an impact on others.

He said: “It is a shame that this case got to a stage where we had no option but to prosecute, despite several visits, legal notices and the offer of support to clear the property to help rid it of mice.

“However, when such cases spill over and have such a negative effect on neighbours then we will step in to protect the quality of life of our residents.”