#TheList Mark Booth, born c. 1960, of Lowes Hill, Ripley DE5 3RB – strangled a tabby cat to death
Booth said he had strangled the cat, known as Oli, by pressing on his windpipe but the court heard it appeared he had dislocated the cat’s neck, “causing a great deal of unnecessary suffering”.
John Sutcliffe, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, said the vet who examined the cat after his death “was clear the death was not instantaneous”.
He said this was because; firstly, the cat had weighed 3kg and any animal over 1kg would need to be stunned first in order to cause no suffering; secondly, the cat had been described as “extremely affectionate” but had scratched him quite badly; and thirdly, Booth had said the cat had taken 20 seconds to die.
The evening it happened, Booth had returned home from the pub having drunk two pints and told his wife the cat had worms.
Booth’s wife said she would get something to treat it the next day but her husband went on to say the cat was “a nuisance, it’s annoying and it’s got to go”.
Booth then said: “I’m going to kill it, I’m going to do it now.”
Mr Sutcliffe said: “The defendant then picked up the cat. She (Mrs Booth) thought he was just taking it out to the garden. Then probably two to three minutes later she heard the sound of the wheelie bin lid being shut.
“He walked back into the house and she described him as being covered in his own blood from scratches to his arm.
“He said to his wife ‘the cat won’t bother you any more. I have killed it. I have strangled it. It had to go.”
His wife had then left the house “extremely upset” and they have since split up.
Sentence 14-week suspended jail sentence, 200 hours’ unpaid work, £2,045 costs. Banned from owning animals for life.
#TheList Matthew James Fleming, born 22/11/1990, formerly of Stonehouse, South Lanarkshire and now 35 Cypress Lane, Hamilton ML3 8SR – kept an elderly greyhound named Edge in a cupboard and starved him
Fleming failed to provide adequate nutrition and necessary veterinary attention for 13-year-old Edge. Sadly the dog was so poorly he had to be put to sleep to end his suffering.
Commenting on the investigation and court case, Inspector Gillian Dick said, “When I arrived at Fleming’s property, Edge was lying in a cupboard in his own excrement.
“He was unable to stand and was so weak he was struggling to lift his head.
“Edge was severely emaciated and all his bones were visible and protruding through his skin. There was no fat or muscle tone on his body whatsoever and he had faeces in his teeth.
“He also had pressure sores as a result of having no body fat and being unable to move for long periods of time.
“I immediately took Edge to a vet where he was assessed as weighing 14.8kgs, when a dog of his breed and size should have weighed 30kgs.
“Sadly, the vet decided that his condition was so severe there was no choice but to put him to sleep to end his suffering.
“During questioning, Fleming admitted being aware that Edge had been in very poor health for a month and in a collapsed state five days prior to our visit.
“Fleming failed to provide even the most basic level of needs for Edge, to the extent he resorted to eating his own faeces in a pitiful attempt to gain some form of sustenance.
“I hope Fleming will now be able to reflect on this case and the consequences of his failure to provide Edge with nutrition and veterinary attention.
“We also hope he will give serious consideration over his ability to care for any other animal once his eight year ban is over.”
Sentence: £750 fine; banned from owning animals for eight years (expires January 2022).
#TheList Jeremiah Samuel Kirkwood and sons Wayne Kirkwood (08/05/1993) and Chris Kirkwood (08/10/1990), all of 11 Island Street, Belfast BT4 1DH and Jamie Edward Morrow (31/03/1994) of 8 Oakdene Drive, Belfast BT4 1LD – multiple cruelty offences relating to animal baiting and fighting
Jeremiah (Jerry) Kirkwood, sons Wayne and Chris (Chrisy) Kirkwood and accomplice Jamie Morrow were charged with a variety of offences including:
keeping animals for fighting
being in possession of equipment connected with animal fights
allowing a cat to be torn to shreds by dogs
causing unnecessary suffering to four puppies
In what was described as one of the vilest animal cruelty cases ever seen by welfare officers, the Kirkwoods admitted allowing a cat to be torn to shreds by dogs trained to fight.
The trio pleaded guilty to keeping four bull lurcher dogs for fighting.
They also admitted causing unnecessary suffering to four terrier cross puppies and to keeping equipment for use in animal fights, including a trap.
Charges against two other Kirkwood brothers – Gary Kirkwood (now deceased) and Ryan Samuel Kirkwood (27/05/1992) – were dropped due to insufficient evidence. Their mother Cathy Kirkwood (22/08/1970) was acquitted.
At the Kirkwood property police found kennels with adult bull lurcher dogs inside.
Animal cruelty experts noted the dogs had injuries consistent with the type expected during fights.
Four three-week-old bull terrier puppies were found under a heat lamp without their mother. Their tails were docked. An animal trap, surgical cutting equipment and prescribed veterinary medicine for treating wounds were also recovered.
Another dog, Princess, was found at the home of co-accused Jamie Edward Morrow, who admitted keeping or training a whippet cross Staffordshire bull terrier for fighting.
Detective Inspector Peter Mullan said the police investigation had taken over two years, beginning when video footage was recovered from a mobile phone.
One clip showed dogs being set on a cat that had been trapped in a cage. A detective said the cat was being “literally torn apart by dogs”.
In another, the same dogs were set on a badger.
All offences happened in November 2011.
The Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) said the savagery inflicted on innocent animals by the Kirkwoods and Morrow was “wickedness at its worst”.
Chief executive Stephen Philpott said it was “one of the vilest examples of premeditated abuse” the charity had come across in years and he thanked the PSNI for bringing the case to court.
East Belfast MP Naomi Long said she was disgusted to learn of the case: “I have seen some of the footage which formed part of this case and it was horrific to say the least. By all accounts, it was one of the worst cases of animal cruelty brought to courts and it stuns me that people could be so callous towards the creatures involved.
“This kind of vile brutality towards animals should have no place in a decent society. I cannot comprehend the mind of a person who could bring themselves to partake in such appallingly cruel behaviour.
Ms Long added: “I am pleased this barbaric practice has been stopped in this case and my thoughts are with not only the animals tortured and killed and their owners, but also with the dogs used in these attacks, as they too have been horrifically abused and brutalised.”
Despite the horrific nature of their crimes, all four men walked free from court after being handed suspended sentences.
Police spent months investigating the family and preparing the case against them, but were left dismayed by the light sentence.
Detective inspector Pete Mullan said: “We are very disappointed at the outcome. We fully respect the decision of the court but are disappointed nonetheless.
“This type of crime can receive a custodial sentence of up to two years and given the horrific nature of this particular incident we would have envisaged a sentence that would have acted as a greater deterrent.”
Democratic Unionist Stormont assembly member Jim Wells said: “The public will be outraged that the Kirkwoods, who were involved in horrendous acts of animal cruelty, were let off today with suspended sentences.
“This was the first test of new animal welfare legislation which for the first time permitted the court to impose a custodial sentence for those involved in high levels of cruelty.
“The judge in this case totally failed to send out a clear message that society will no longer tolerate the torture of animals.
“This sentence should be immediately referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for review on the basis that it is much too lenient given the very disturbing facts surrounding this dreadful case.”
The four defendants were surrounded by prison officers as they were led into the dock in handcuffs. They were dressed in tracksuits and at least one wore an earring. A crowd of supporters in muscle T-shirts and tracksuits sat in the public gallery.
Jeremiah Kirkwood is married with four sons. He made 17 court appearances between 1984 and last year for 24 offences, mostly traffic-related but also involving dishonesty and disorderly behaviour. He has been dependent on alcohol since he was aged in his 30s, the judge said.
Wayne Kirkwood has three convictions for causing actual bodily harm, making threats to kill and possession of an offensive weapon. He has learning difficulties and a history of cannabis use.
Judge McColgan sentenced them to six-month sentences in prison or young offender centres, suspended for two years. They were also disqualified from keeping, owning or controlling animals for ten years.
She said the adult dogs would be destroyed and the puppies have been found homes.
Sentences: six-month sentences in prison or young offender centres, suspended for two years. Disqualified from keeping, owning or controlling animals for ten years (expires January 2024).