Sunday, May 28, 2006

Nude, Rude and a Bit Unglued: More on the Sunbathing Nurse in the UK

For the record, this is not Lynette Burgess...

Naked truth about the naturist nurse
By TANYA GOLD, Daily Mail

10:03am 27th May 2006

This is a tale of one naked woman, two gardens and three cats gambolling in the valleys of West Wales.

It begins like this — last week, a naked blonde hit the headlines. Her name is Lynette Burgess, she is a district nurse and her hobby is walking naked through the gardens of her cottage in Llandyfriog, near Cardigan.

Her neighbours, Morien and Nia Jones, took exception to this and videotaped her wandering down the (shared) drive and this week she ended up in court on a charge of indecent exposure but got off.

The Joneses were cast as prudish, bitter neighbours taking a high-minded potshot against a lonely, single woman. Lynette played the charmingly eccentric Christian with the pretty figure masterfully. But is there more to the story than that? Is it Twin Peaks with a field full of sheep? As we shall see, it is indeed.

I visit Lynette's pretty cottage. It is called Blaendyffryn. Outside is a picture-book paradise of rolling hills and silver streams; inside there are piles of newspapers, coffee cups and dust.

If I expected to meet a free spirit, full of smiles and joie de vivre — after all, Lynette has posed naked for the newspapers with a fig leaf, laughing towards the camera — she isn't here.

This woman looks exhausted. She says she is 'fed up' with all the attention. She makes me a cup of tea and we settle down to discuss the dispute with a copy of Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper watching us from the wall. So what exactly happened? Why is there no Love Thy Neighbour here?

Lynette Burgess sits glumly on her crimson sofa as the three cats, Whitey, Holly and Mishey, wander around our legs. She regales me with her symphony of pain.

'This has ruined my life and now I am leaving this village. My home and my garden were my refuge and I wanted to sunbathe without fear and anxiety. I didn't think people were watching.' She strokes Whitey and excuses herself briefly — 'I've got to get his dinner.'

When she returns, she says crossly: 'I am not a naturist. I am a normal woman. I feel very threatened since I knew they took the video. Mr Jones, who taped it, said he could see my genitals.

He said I was lying on all fours.' Her eyes widen and her nose wrinkles. 'I don't go on all fours for anyone. My knees aren't up to it. They took that video for their pleasure. They thought it was funny.'

Whatever their motives, the Joneses sent the tape to the police last May and in October the local bobbies opened their post and decided to act immediately.

When they swooped, Lynette was in her dressing gown. 'Two constables came down and stood at the window,' says Lynette, eyes moistening.

'They said: "Sorry, you won't like this, but we will have to arrest you." I asked why and they said: "It's a video." I remember worrying about who would feed my cats and was so upset I was literally vomiting.

'I was fingerprinted. I was photographed,' she says. She leaves the sentence trembling in the air, but recovers. 'The only person I've had in my life is Jesus Christ.

And I only have one judge — God. He has given me a great strength to forgive, but in my mind I was going to prison. I had made arrangements for the cats to be looked after. They were going to a friend. I was utterly devastated, bewildered, destroyed. Why would they do this to me?'

So how did this small, blonde woman end up in the dock?

It began last summer when the Joneses, a professional couple in their mid-30s, and their three sons moved into the house next door and began to renovate it. 'At first it was fine,' says Lynette. 'I thought "what nice people". They came in for tea. I liked them. But they didn't like me. They began to harass and complain and now,' she shrugs, 'this . . .'

SO WHAT happened that day? How did she find herself naked in the drive directly in front of the neighbours' camcorder? 'It was basically a one-off,' she says. 'It was bad luck. I think they planned it.

I think they waited. I am very rarely nude in public areas.' When I ask her how many times she has been naked in the driveway she shares with the Joneses, she says: 'I don't remember. I don't know.'

I peer at Lynette. Giving your own gnomes an eyeful is one thing, but an actual ramble down the lane in full sight of fellow voters? Isn't that a bit too friendly?

'It only happened once or twice,' Lynette says. 'I was very unwell at the time. I have the menopause and get night sweats and tiredness. I need to go outside. I did nothing wrong.' She stops at that.

I move on. The Joneses, it seems, aren't the only neighbours Lynette has distressed. She is also bickering with someone on the other side — Mr Lee — and offers a rather disjointed record of his crimes. 'Mr Lee beat up a neighbour's chickens with a rake,' she says calmly. 'And he hurts one of my cats.'

She also claims he broke her drain, made the sewage lorry wait for hours outside her door (they all have septic tanks up here) and bought a goat pen and abused his goats.

'On one side they accuse me of poisoning their goat,' she says staring up at a tableau of pink porcelain pigs and laughing skittishly.

So what are we to make of this woman, Cardigan's answer to Lady Godiva? The daughter of a miner, Lynette grew up one of five children in the tiny village of Trethomas, South Wales.

At the age of 16 she moved to Kent to become a nurse. There, she says, she met and lost 'the love of my life' and became pregnant by a casual relationship. After her daughter — now 20 — was born, Lynette decided to move back to Wales.

Five years ago she moved into Blaendyffryn. 'It was wonderful,' she says. 'The views, the peace, the quiet. I just wanted to be happy and safe and to enjoy my job. Work is all I've ever known,' she adds. 'I put on the nurse's cap and play the part. But now I am too stressed to do my job.'

As she shows me out of Blaendyffryn, she says pitifully: 'I don't know what they want to achieve or what they thought they would achieve.' Her head seems to collapse on her small shoulders as she wraps her dressing gown around her. 'I don't know why they did this to me.'

I tell her I am off to visit the Joneses and she asks me to deliver them a letter, misdirected to her cottage. I cross her front garden, strewn with flowerpots and broom handles. A plastic pig marks the perimeter of her property and I imagine an invisible battle trench in this tiny war.

Mr Jones, 37, a graphic designer, answers his front door. He declines to be photographed — unlike Lynette, who wiggled for the photographer — but he invites me in and introduces me to his wife Nia, 35, a maths teacher.

Mr and Mrs Jones look exhausted. The room seems to glow with tension. One of their three sons is asleep on the sofa, breathing softly.

Mr Jones speaks cautiously about the mysterious harassment they have received. 'It began on day one. We found dead animals on our property, our coal shed was knocked down, our garden gates were ripped off.'

The Joneses claim that rat poison has been left on their front steps, tyres are repeatedly let down and someone wanders around their garden at midnight with a torch, shining it into their rooms.

Although the Joneses cannot prove who is the author of these disturbances, Lynette's public nudity was the final straw.

'I have no problem with her sunbathing naked in her own garden,' adds Mrs Jones. 'But when she parades naked in the drive in front of our house, it is unacceptable. That is where my children play.' Mrs Jones's sons are 13, 10 and three.

Why, I asked Mrs Jones, does Lynette do it? (If, indeed, she does do it; in this little Peyton Place, the baddie could be anyone.)

'She told us right at the start that she wanted this house for herself,' says Mrs Jones. 'She wanted to open an old people's home here. She is rather loopy,' she trails off.

Mr and Mrs Jones seem to wilt in front of my eyes. 'It is really wearing,' says Mrs Jones. 'I come home from work and think: "What will she do tonight?" I get out of my car and she is watching.

The children play in the garden and I have to follow.

'It is,' she says, sipping her tea, 'one thing after another. I don't know what is wrong with her, but I have never seen this sweet, kind woman other people appear to think she is.'

The Joneses proceeded with the indecent exposure charge after the police refused to charge her with harassment. Mr Jones agrees to play me the famous video — the tape the magistrates decided was not indecent exposure.

He extracts it from a pile of children's cartoons, the screen flickers and Lynette is wandering, very deliberately and consciously, down the shared drive, naked as reported, in the same white shoes I saw her wearing earlier.

The road is paved with sunlight. Whitey the cat follows her.

When it is over, Mr Jones plays another tape — Lynette The Sequel. 'She called an electrician and he parked his van outside our house,' he says. 'But she decided he was a friend of ours posing as an electrician and that he was going to bug her house or cut off her electricity.'

Again Lynette appears on the screen, videoed from inside the Joneses' living room. She is wearing a woollen cardigan covered with roses. She tries to take some papers from the van; the electrician stops her and takes refuge in the Joneses' house. So she stands against the van upon her face.

I watch the tape — she stays in this position for 45 minutes until the police arrive. Their words are muffled and I cannot hear them. Mr Jones switches off the tape. 'She has been arrested many times,' he tells me. 'The police know her very well.'

I give them the letter that Lynette put into my hands. 'Look, she has opened it,' Mr Jones tells his wife. I tell them Lynette says she is moving on, that she is devastated that her life is ruined. 'She has put her house on the market, yes,' says Mrs Jones. 'But we think it is just a ploy. She took the For Sale sign down two days ago.

'Of course we hope she will sell her house and move on. We searched for this house for ever. We were coming home — I was born round here. But that is ruined now.'

Mrs Jones uses the same words as Lynette to describe the dispute. 'I am devastated,' she says.

As I leave, Lynette's cottage is in darkness; it is nearly midnight. But she calls out of her window and I see her face peering out. 'Hello,' she calls. 'Are you all right?'

What would Joseph Conrad say to this house of darkness? And which house is darker? I'd rather shop with Mrs Jones than with Lynette, but I'm not a forensic psychologist.

'Father, forgive them,' Lynette had recited at me, describing the pallid Joneses. 'I forgive them. Father forgive me.'


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