Moment workmen pull up couple's trees during bitter two-year feud

EXCLUSIVE: Moment disctrict council leader orders workmen pull up trees in her neighbour’s garden during bitter two-year feud that led to her husband, 74, punching and kicking the property-owner in a fight at the village war memorial

  • Mary Lanigan was filmed ordering council workmen to uproot some saplings
  • The council leader was involved in a long-running dispute with her neighbours
  • Lisa Miller said workmen reached through a metal fence  to grab the trees
  • Dramatic footage showed the council leader directing the workmen  

This is the moment a council leader looks on as workmen uproot saplings planted on the edge of a couple’s property – which sparked a bitter feud that ended with her husband beating up the landowner.

Mary Lanigan, a council leader who earns £26,000-a-year in allowances, was filmed ordering workmen to reach through a metal fence to pull up Lisa Miller’s young trees outside her home in Easington, Cleveland.

It led to a two-year feud which ended in court after Mrs Lanigan’s husband, Mike, beat up Mrs Miller’s husband, Shaun, in front of his six-year-old daughter.

Council leader Mary Lanigan, pictured, was filmed overseeing local authority workmen removing trees from outside Lisa Miller’s home in Easington, Cleveland 

The incident escalated with Ms Lanigan’s husband Mike, pictured centre, attacking Lisa Miller’s husband, Shaun, right

Mr Lanigan later appeared in court where magistrates fined him £1,100 while also ordering him to pay £500 compensation for the assault and a further £300 for the criminal damage. Lanigan must also pay costs and surcharges of £410, bringing the full payout to £2,310

The clip was shot by Lisa Miller, who described the council leader’s actions as ‘outrageous.’

Mrs Miller had planted the trees after buying them for £200 but found around 40 of them had been pulled up

Redcar and Cleveland Council confirmed today that they are investigating a complaint against the veteran council leader over the uprooted trees.

Mrs Miller, 40, a science teacher and mother of three, complained to the council and to Cleveland Police about the incident in April 2020.

It happened after she received two unsigned letters on Redcar and Cleveland headed notepaper ordering her to remove the trees as they infringed planning policy.

However when she checked with the council she discovered the planning department knew nothing of the warnings and they advised her to report the matter to the police.

Days later Mrs Lanigan and two workmen arrived and began uprooting the saplings.

Mrs Miller said: ‘The trees were planted on our property, I have pictures dating back to the 1950s which clearly shows that our property is marked by a metal fence.

‘They were not, as has been claimed, planted on war memorial land belonging to the council.

‘Yet these workmen, who were being supervised by Mary Lanigan, were reaching through that fence to pull out the trees.

Mike Lanigan, pictured outside Teesside Magistrates’ Court was convicted of assault and also of criminal damage

Shaun and Lisa Miller, pictured, lived next door to a War Memorial garden in Easinton, North Yorkshire when their relationship with their neighbours Mary and Mike Lanigan deteriorated

‘I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This was a person in a position of responsibility who appeared to be taking a planning decision into her own hands.

‘If this had been a genuine boundary dispute involving the planning department I would have been asked for a response before someone came along to rip the trees out by their roots. It was outrageous.’

A spokesman for Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council said: ‘These matters have been the subject of complaint to the Council’s Monitoring Officer and are currently being progressed in line with internal procedure. For that reason we are unable to comment further at this time.’

Cleveland police looked into the matter but no criminal proceedings were brought.

The relationship between the Lanigans and the Millers deteriorated when Mrs Miller asked Mr Lanigan to stop visiting her property, which borders the war memorial, in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

Mrs Miller said that the 74-year-old spent a lot of time carrying out work in the gardens around the memorial and would speak to her whenever he saw her.

Mary Lanigan, a council leader who earns £26,000-a-year in allowances, was filmed ordering workmen to reach through a metal fence to pull up Lisa Miller’s young trees outside her home in Easington, Cleveland

However she said he’d begun to make her feel ‘uncomfortable’ and asked him not to come onto her property any more.

She said: ‘After that point everything changed and it was soon afterwards that the unsigned letters arrived on headed notepaper. And then Mary Lanigan arrived to oversee the removal of my saplings.’

The feud reached boiling point in August last year when Mr Miller, a 38-year-old engineer, went to show the Lanigans an email about the ongoing boundary dispute.

Mike Lanigan went berserk, punching and kicking him along the path leading to the war memorial as Mr Miller’s shocked six-year-old daughter watched.

He was convicted following a trial at Teesside magistrates of assault and also of criminal damage to Mrs Miller’s Vauxhall Astra, caused when he threw plant pots over their fence from the memorial.

Chairman of the bench Graham Walton fined Lanigan £1,100 while also ordering him to pay £500 compensation for the assault and a further £300 for the criminal damage. Lanigan must also pay costs and surcharges of £410, bringing the full payout to £2,310.

Cllr Lanigan, who became the council’s independent leader in May 2019, has been approached for comment.

She has spent 20 years on the local authority, taking various cabinet and committee roles, including planning, transport and scrutiny.

Cllr Lanigan was also a member of the cabinet at the Tees Valley Combined Authority and the board of the South Tees Development Corporation, which has responsibility for the former SSI steelworks site in Redcar.

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