In one of New Zealand's most expensive suburbs, a neighbourhood squabble has spiralled out of control. David Fisher investigates.

Meet Theodore Eugene de St Croix, the most vocal of actors in an angry drama unfolding in the leafy, plush Auckland suburb of Orakei.

The shiny golden cocker spaniel, with his deep dark eyes and a hunger for duck treats, is driving his neighbours barking.

Yet, for all the frustration "Ted" is causing, he's the most witless of protagonists.

Instead it's his owner, Cherie de St Croix, who determinedly occupies centre stage. She holds the unflattering honour of being apparently the first person in Auckland to be investigated for the allegedly misrepresenting consent from neighbours on a dog permit application.

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"We own a Porsche. I don't work and my husband's a qualified doctor. That's why they hate us. They're all working class."

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"That's three years in the big house," exclaims Ms de St Croix, still in confusion and shock after a police officer questioned her at Glen Innes police station.

She believes she knows why this is happening. "We own a Porsche. I don't work and my husband's a qualified doctor. That's why they hate us. They're all working class. We don't go to work on time, we don't hang our washing out on time, we don't shop at Pak'nSave. It's just a social statement.

"For four years, it was fine. The day we bought a Porsche, it blew to shit."

There is a seething frustration in this neighbourhood that has got out of hand. There are lawyers, court hearings, police callouts, an egging, allegations of the Porsche defiled, and poo on the doorstep - it's a patch of well-to-do Auckland paradise in turmoil.

Just up from exclusive Paritai Drive, looking across the sparkling Hauraki Gulf, Ms de St Croix and Ted (for short) live in the second of three houses down a shared driveway where both have become increasingly unwelcome.

Climb a ladder, Ted barks. Trim a hedge, he barks. Clean the roof, he barks.

Sure, he's not the only canine resident - there's also Telulah Lily Pop du Vitiere - but walk down the driveway and it's Ted who barks as you pass the first house on the right-of-way.

There he is again - "woof!!!" - as you pass his front door. And it's Ted who gets you again, belting from the door to the patio at the back as you knock on the door of the last house, where Neville and Marea Henderson live.

This is why Ted's not too popular with the neighbours.

But that pales into nothing if you ask about Ms de St Croix.

"She won't give in."

Ms de St Croix / Photo: Dean Purcell
Ms de St Croix / Photo: Dean Purcell

"You could write a book about it," says Mr Henderson. "She just won't give in. She won't take no for an answer. Everyone has said, 'Why don't you just leave?' Why should we leave when we've been exceptionally happy here for 20-odd years. She's been here five [years]."

"He was apoplectic... He was red in the face, spinning on his wheels."

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Ms de St Croix - big, bold and bluff - will tell you when it began. She unwinds into the story as husband Dr Andrew Glazier, a fertility specialist, tends to the dogs.

It was just after the Porsche arrived, a year ago, when "outside this door here" - she points to the side gate - "there was a clutch of Asians".

"What else do you call them? A gabble?"

Anyway, "clutch" or "gabble", people had gathered to view a neighbouring house up for sale.

"Ted had heard them and gone down to the boundary and barked. I gather the incident was about 10 minutes long.

"This man here," she waves at the Hendersons' home, "comes up and says, 'Your dog has been barking'."

Ms de St Croix had a builder put up a fence - first a wire mesh and then a bark palisade. Mr Henderson parks his car right next to her back fence and it's squished down here with three houses joined by a strip of concrete driveway.

When he parked his car, says Ms de St Croix, Ted would let him know - "Woof!!!" - just how close he was to next door.

"It looked like a Maori pa," says Mr Henderson of the palisade.

So when Mr Henderson next came to visit, it was about the fence, but against a history of Ted and his barking.

"He was apoplectic," says Ms de St Croix.

"He was red in the face, spinning on his wheels. He grabs the fence and says, 'I'm going to pull it down.' I said, 'Neville, that's my land. I paid for it. Leave it alone.'

"He said he was going to make sure I lose my dogs."

Oh yes, says Mr Henderson, he wasn't happy about the fence, but Ted was the root of the issue. He would admit later in court he was angry.

"I got sick and tired of the dog barking the whole time. I asked her to do something about the dog barking. I suggested a barking collar, and that sent her right off her trolley."

Crying, she called the police

It was an altercation which Ms de St Croix says was so confronting that she felt the need to call police.

"I was crying. I said, 'It's a tiny matter but I need you to tell the neighbour to back off'."

The police log of the call, beginning at 1.20pm, has Ms de St Croix describing Mr Henderson, aged 70, as being of "slight build" with his "arm in a sling" - he had had recent shoulder surgery.

"Informant is scared to leave house at the moment," the 111 dispatcher recorded.

"She would really like someone to come and see her if and when available."

By 2pm, Mr Henderson had a phone call from the police suggesting the parties seek council advice over dog and fence disputes.

That might have been the end of the matter from a police perspective, but Ms de St Croix wasn't finished. She emailed a further complaint to the police that day and visited the Newmarket station a few days later to lay what police documents refer to as "a formal complaint".

A community constable popped by a week or so later, his notes summarising the visit: "This clearly is a civil matter that does not require any further police intervention. Ms de St Croix wasn't happy about that," he wrote, but he wasn't clear what she expected police to do.

In his notes of the incident, the officer, Todd Martin, records that Ms de St Croix intended to get a restraining order against Mr Henderson.

"As a side note, while investigating this alleged incident, several neighbours have approached police expressing their concern about de St Croix and her behaviour."

Neighbours head to court

The Hendersons / Photo: Dean Purcell
The Hendersons / Photo: Dean Purcell

At a hearing in the Auckland District Court in July last year, Judge Nevin Dawson threw out Ms de St Croix's claim that she had been harassed by Mr Henderson and needed a legal restraining order to keep him away.

The case had drawn evidence from neighbours all around, almost all of it in Mr Henderson's favour.

Ms de St Croix "was sincere in her application but appeared to be obsessive and unable to see any view other than her own."

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In a costs judgment, which awarded Mr Henderson $17,000 to partly cover his legal fees, Judge Dawson said Ms de St Croix "was sincere in her application but appeared to be obsessive and unable to see any view other than her own". She came without legal representation, said the judge, and if she had had a lawyer, "it is unlikely this action would have proceeded".

There were a large number of acts she had accused Mr Henderson of, Judge Dawson said. "None were found to contain any merit."

To read the judgment is to gain an impression of dissent reaching across boundaries to suck in neighbours around, like some sort of black hole of ill-feeling eating at suburban peace.

Judge Dawson's decision talks of a boundary dispute between Ms de St Croix and Richard Murphy, who lives on the neighbouring right-of-way. There was also evidence of disagreement with another neighbour, Michelle (who has asked not to be named). Ms de St Croix alleged she was harassed because Mr Henderson had incited neighbours against her. No evidence, said Judge Dawson.

There were claims of dog faeces being dumped on Ms de St Croix's front door. She accused Mr Henderson, he denied responsibility. No evidence, said Judge Dawson.

Likewise, out went Ms de St Croix's claims that Mr Henderson was behind the spray paint that appeared on the right rear tyre of the Porsche Cayenne parked outside her house. No evidence, said Judge Dawson.

No evidence, also, of threats to Ted and Telulah, but an admission from Mr Henderson that he had called dog control staff. Well, said Judge Dawson, "Mr Henderson is entitled to lay a complaint with animal control" if he feels the barking is excessive. After all, it's exactly what police suggested he do.

But, Ms de St Croix complained, what of Mr Henderson's efforts to raise questions over her legal right to have dogs on her property? As Judge Dawson recorded her complaint, she believed Mr Henderson held out to neighbours that "their signatures were forged" by getting them to sign affidavits saying they had never given signed consent to her having two dogs.

No, said Judge Dawson, that is also not harassment. No restraining order, case dismissed.
It was this last point that would drive the greatest wedge between the neighbours, at least for Ms de St Croix, because it struck at her right to keep Ted and Telulah.

How did she get two dogs?

Mr Henderson, in preparing to defend himself in court, had been wondering how she managed to have two dogs in the house at all. The rule, for central Auckland, states that "you will need to get permission from all your immediate neighbours" if you intend to own more than one dog.

Mr Henderson puzzled at that. In his final conversation with Ms de St Croix last January, he told her "there was no way in the world" he would sign a permit for her to keep two dogs. He knew he had never signed. He doubted others would.

And yet, there they were - Ted and Telulah.

Mr Henderson: "I asked [neighbour and Auckland councillor] Mike Lee and he said he didn't know." Mrs Henderson: "We all wondered, who signed the jolly thing?"

An Official Information Act request to the council for a copy of the completed permit application turned up an answer. There, under the section headed "Neighbour's Consent", were the names of all those living on the boundaries of Ms de St Croix's home.

It wasn't a complete document - the signatures next to the names were covered by a large black box, presumably for privacy or security reasons. It is this on which Ms de St Croix's defence relies. What a fuss, she says, when there's an innocent explanation. "He went nuts," she says of Mr Henderson. "He hit the f***ing roof."

The way Mr Henderson frames it is quite different. He found it odd that two dogs would be allowed against such opposition.

So he checked, going from one neighbour named on the document to another, gathering affidavits which stated that they had never given consent. In court, Ms de St Croix said the affidavits amounted to an allegation she had misrepresented their identities on the dog permit application, which she strongly denied and still denies.

Mr Henderson denies making any allegations. "I asked them if they signed the dog permit. I then got the affidavits."

With the restraining order thrown out, the copy of the dog permit and the affidavits - including one by Councillor Lee - found their way to Auckland Council, which issues the permits.

Auckland Council made its own inquiries, then laid a complaint with the police.

On December 10, 2015, not long before Christmas, there was a knock on Ms de St Croix's door. Police officer Robyn Groom was investigating a complaint made by Auckland Council over the dog permit.

She wanted to speak to Ms de St Croix, she said, at Glen Innes police station.

The defence: "I'm no criminal."

Look, says Ms de St Croix, it says at the top of the form: "The consent of all neighbours with sections adjoining the applicants must be obtained or" - "OR," she says, with emphasis - "or details listed if unable to obtain consent."

She did both, she says. She wrote the names of those who wouldn't consent and provided the signatures of those who did. Nobody "fraudulated" anything, she says. The signatures, buried under the black box redaction, don't match the names, and anyone looking closely at them will see that.

However, she says, the council releasing the document with a large black box covering the signatures has led people to assume the signatures are faked to match up with the names. Not so, she says. "I'm not the criminal here."

Ms de St Croix says that when she took the form in to the council, she was clear: here are the supporters, here are those who wouldn't sign. She's been back, too. "I don't want any confusion. I want to clear it up."

"None of us actually signed it," he says. "As a result of it coming out, all hell broke loose."

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One of those whose name appears on the form is Dave Chambers, a senior bank executive, who lives in the house at the top of the drive. He wasn't pleased to see his name in the "Neighbour's Consent" section of the dog permit application.

"None of us actually signed it," he says. "As a result of it coming out, all hell broke loose."

After Mr Chambers became embroiled in the dispute over the dog, his personal affairs became Ms de St Croix's business. She denies calling in parking wardens on Mr Chamber's partner - her car got four tickets for a lapsed registration, with three coming as the renewal was in the post.

"Every which way, she will complain," he says.

Is it really all one way? Ms de St Croix claims Mr Chamber's partner threw "eggs" that hit her house and spattered the Porsche. "There was egg on the Merc, too," she says.

Mr Chambers demurs. "There was only one egg. But after you've had your car ticketed four times..." He sighs. And it wasn't just the parking wardens - a council inspector turned up to discuss the deck out the back of Mr Chambers' home and followed with a formal notification that it was 12cm too big. He was told she was the complainant, a belief matched by her comments to the Herald about the deck.

"I don't think I've met anyone quite like her," Mr Chambers says.

There also emerged the curious Rupert Fairley-Jones, QC, who in an email to Mr Chambers described himself as a "close acquaintance" who is a "consultant" advising the "accused".

Fairley-Jones warned Mr Chambers of possible legal breaches in obtaining the dog permit application through the Official Information Act because the subsequent affidavits give "the assumption the document contained forged signatures".

Another email, from the same Gmail address, targeted Mr Chambers' employer, alleging misdeeds and warning "of the coming storm ahead".

Mr Chambers believes Ms de St Croix and Fairley-Jones are the same person. He has matched errors in Ms de St Croix's emails to those in the Fairley-Jones emails. "She can't even spell right. Her grammar is appalling."

Ms de St Croix confirmed Fairley-Jones was acting for her. "He's a mate of mine," she says, based "somewhere in London" and a retired Queen's Counsel. She was unable to supply contact details, other than his Gmail address. It's more curious there is no Rupert Fairley-Jones on the roll of barristers and solicitors for the United Kingdom and his sparse LinkedIn page describes him as a "Queens Council". Other than the misspelled LinkedIn page, there is no other sign of Fairley-Jones existing - anywhere.

Told of his lack of profile, Ms de St Croix explained he was someone her husband knew "through Interpol". "He might be a bit hidden" and possibly "goes under another thing".

Ms de St Croix was unable to say if Fairley-Jones would appear on her behalf when she next goes to court on January 20 with her neighbours.

Again, the year begins with a fence dispute. This time, she wants a two-metre-high fence between the drive she shares with the Hendersons and Mr Chambers and the neighbouring shared driveway.

Mr Henderson: "Four out of five neighbours don't want a two-metre-high fence." Mrs Henderson: "We don't want it looking like a gang headquarters."

Neighbours going back to court

Mr Chambers / Photo: Dean Purcell
Mr Chambers / Photo: Dean Purcell

Is there a solution? Probably not in the matter of the money owed to Mr Henderson. He racked up quite a bill defending himself against the restraining order claims - $21,000. It wasn't all his own work. Ms de St Croix gave the

Herald

a bag of paperwork related to the dispute, with an invitation to dig through it. In it was a copy of an email sent to Mr Henderson's lawyer on the eve of the hearing, asking a string of questions about evidence to be given.

It was forwarded from Ms de St Croix's email address to one used by her husband, with the note: "What do you think(.) give him something to do today(.) charge those hours up."

Ms de St Croix, having lost the case, says she won't be paying the costs awarded against her. She's seeking a "No Asset Procedure" - a baby bankruptcy for someone with no assets and no means of paying debts under $40,000. With the house in trust, no income and a family trust, there's nothing to seize.

Mr Henderson bemoans the fact, and the next looming chapter. "I still haven't got my money."

He stops, as he moves about looking through papers associated with the ongoing dispute. "I'll be honest with you. It did get to me."

Mr Chambers: "Neville feels like a prisoner." Mr Henderson told the judge that. "That's what I told Nevin Dawson - I feel like a prisoner in my own home."

Mr Chambers was out cleaning the roof the other day and Ted was charging around next door having a bark. "This cocker spaniel, a big bastard, If he could have climbed up and torn my arm off, he would have. In the end I squirted him with water, and I'll continue to do so."

He wants the dog permit rescinded, he says, as do others living next to Ms de St Croix. If Auckland Council had asked in the first place, they would have spoken against the permit.

"She's the ultimate neighbour from hell," Mr Chambers said. "You're always feeling on edge. If she moved, that would be the ideal situation.

"Why can't people just learn to get on and live with people. We all get on famously - except her. It's either we move, all five of us, or she moves."

An Auckland Council spokeswoman confirmed the permit would be reviewed once the police investigation is completed. She said it was believed it was the first time the council had made such a complaint about a dog permit.

Councillor Lee, who lives over Ms de St Croix's side fence, says he has had nothing to do with the council's actions. He's reluctant to comment on any aspect of the dispute, having not lived in his home for the past year while building works are carried out.

"I don't want to add fuel to the fire. Essentially, there's some very, very unhappy people down that drive. One person is the cause of it, it seems."

He wonders at the dog permit approval, given his name was on the form, and how thoroughly the permits are checked.

"There are a number of very good neighbours directly affected by this."

A police spokeswoman said the investigation was continuing.

The Herald's noisy companion, as we moved up and down the driveways of Coates Ave, was goofy, witless Ted. He gets the final word.

Predictably, his word is: "Woof!!!"

Repeatedly.