June 8, 2018

A UK jury’s being forced to read a book on Jerusalem artichokes in a landmark vegecide trial


Jerusalem Artichokes. Via Flickr.

Don’t you just it it when your family comes to blows over artichokes? No? Well then you’re nothing like this trio of sisters from Hertfordshire, England.

Back in 2014, retired nurse Gillian Leeden was convicted of poisoning her older sister Lyndsey Glassett’s artichokes with weedkiller. Why, you may ask, would anyone carry out such brutal vegetable assassination? A bitter family feud had been brewing between Leeden, Glassett, and a third sister, Deborah Lemay, for years.

Glassett used to be a full-time caregiver for the sisters’ mother, with Leeden living in the flat upstairs. Leeden alleges that Glassett was abusive towards their mother, who died in 2014, and she went on to steal jewelery, furniture and £21,000, with Lemay in cahoots. Glassett is also accused of acquiring a large sum of money from their aunt, Barbara Leeden, “through misdemeanour.”

Leeden took matters into her own hands to express her anger, which included writing an offensive blog about her sisters, composing threatening emails, and singing accusatory songs. It ended with her receiving a police caution. And she was, of course, convicted for the artichoke incident. The BBC reports:

After their mother died in April 2014, Ms Glassett relocated to Norfolk.

The court heard that shortly before this, she discovered that the Jerusalem Artichokes planted in the garden she had shared with her mother had wilted and died.

CCTV footage showed Ms Leeden had poured liquid on them, and she was arrested and convicted of criminal damage after a trial.

After her conviction, Leeden went on to write and self-publish a book, Behind the Artichokes, to tell her story. She sent it to friends, family, and town councillors. A story from the South Beds News Agency reproduces the book’s sensational flap copy:

The true story behind the artichokes and a mother’s fight to save her son’s inheritance!

When her sister Lyndsey Leeden/Glassett suddenly declared herself homeless and moved in with their mother, Gill was initially pleased.

But together with another sister, Deborah Lemay and her husband Brian, things started to go horribly wrong and money was disappearing from her mother’s bank account fast!

Gill was determined to find out what was going on. It took five years to discover the depth of her sisters’ dishonesty and wickedness.

This is the story of Gill’s fight for the truth.

The same story shares Judge Stephen Warner’s instruction to the jury at the start of the trial this week:

“A private publication by the defendant Gillian Leeden is the subject matter of this case.

“It was circulated in Hoddesdon, Broxbourne and part of Norfolk. It is about 200 pages long and you will be required to read it.

“You will be comfortably accommodated in a jury room. It is important you don’t discuss it at that stage. You don’t have to rush, but it has to be done. There is no alternative. It is a slightly unusual thing to do.”

It remains to be seen if Leeden will be convicted of conveying false information and causing emotional stress through the distribution of her book. The trial at St. Albans Crown Court is due to last three weeks.



Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.