Page last updated at 16:00 GMT, Monday, 6 October 2008 17:00 UK

Gardener cleared of bloom attack

Sir Richard Tucker and his wife Jacqueline
Sir Richard told the court that all the circumstances pointed to one man

A gardener has been cleared of poisoning a former judge's lawns and blooms after being sacked.

Edward Hancock, 45, had denied spraying weedkiller on Sir Richard Tucker's garden at the judge's 1.5m home in Stanton, Worcestershire.

The sacking followed a clash with the judge's wife, Lady Tucker.

Magistrates in Gloucester found Mr Hancock not guilty of criminal damage after he told them he was spraying fertiliser on the garden.

Mr Hancock, of Tewkesbury, was employed for 20 years before the relationship between him and Lady Tucker, a garden designer, deteriorated beyond repair in April.

Moss killer

The pair stopped speaking and after Mr Hancock did not turn up to work, Sir Richard sacked him by leaving a note on his van, the court heard.

Mr Hancock explained that he only went back to the property after his sacking in a secret attempt to repair the lawn after moss killer he sprayed earlier - at Sir Richard's request - had begun to turn it "bluey".

He hoped that putting fertiliser on it would repair it in time for the charity open day - there was no malicious intent, he said.

Giving evidence, Sir Richard - who presided over high-profile cases including the Polly Peck fraud trial - said Mr Hancock had been a "good country gardener", but was "volatile".

Edward Hancock
Edward Hancock was sacked by Sir Richard in April
Sir Richard explained to the court that there had been tension between the gardener and Lady Tucker.

"There have been times when my wife had said, 'It's either him or me'."

The former judge continued: "I was astonished and felt very offended that a man who had worked for me for 20 years and claimed to be a professional gardener could have done such a thing, particularly nearing the time when the whole village opens its gardens to the public for charity.

"All the circumstances pointed to one man."

But Chairman of Gloucester magistrates Carol Francis said the bench was satisfied Mr Hancock's spraying had killed the exotic plants - but added they were also sure there was no sinister intent in his actions.

After he was found not guilty of causing 500 of criminal damage to the flower borders and the grass verge at Sir Richard's farmhouse, Mr Hancock said he was "very pleased" at the outcome.

Gardener 'killed judge's plants'
06 Oct 08 |  Gloucestershire

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