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John Cameron Lindop and Lucy Elizabeth Melrose both narrowly escaped immediate imprisonment for a catalogue of offences of cruelty involving three dogs, one of which was sadistically killed by one or both of the defendants, a chicken and a Shetland pony.

Durham Crown Court heard that the RSPCA began an inquiry into the suspected ill-treatment of a badly injured lurcher dog, Max, which had been taken to the pet charity the PDSA, in late February 2022, suffering injuries to his abdomen, while blood was found in his food and urine.

The subdued and withdrawn dog and required treatment by the charity’s vets for muscular and body damage.

The Northern Echo:

Paul Abrahams, prosecuting, said after liaising with police it was established the dog was linked to the defendants, who were living in a flat in Fifth Street, Horden.

An RSPCA inspector found two dogs at the address and the couple said they were looking after a further two dogs.

Lindop was arrested and taken to Peterlee Police Station where he gave a statement to say they had another dog, a German Shepherd called Tally, which was being looked after by friends.

Mr Abrahams said the remains of a Welsh Herder puppy called Hades, which had been burned, were found on scrub land near a railway line in Horden and another dog, recovered from an address in North Shields, was also taken for veterinary examination.

The Northern Echo:

The court was told Max was found to have a number of low-energy impact injuries consistent with being struck by a fist or thrown down stairs.

Tally, while in general good health, had inflammation of an ear which should have been treated by a vet.

The Northern Echo:

Examination of recovered phone videos was said to have showed both defendants mistreating animals, including Melrose riding a lame Shetland pony called Dinky, which was too small for such activity, and the conclusion was that it had been caused unnecessary suffering.

The Northern Echo:

Another showed a lurcher dog called Bambi being baited and set upon a chicken which was believed to have been killed.

The Northern Echo:

Melrose was interviewed and said Max was actually called Arthur and they had only just got him, but they were with him all the time, and she blamed a friend for not having sought treatment.

She later admitted having lied earlier and claimed Lindop had been abusive to her and she said he was responsible for Hades’ death, having hung him for three seconds, before finishing him off with a hammer.

Melrose said the attack by Bambi on the chicken took place at an allotment in Seaham.

She did say her partner had sought ear drops for Tally, but they were for humans rather than dogs.

Lindop was later re-questioned and admitted having lied in his first interview, claiming he did so as he was scared of his partner, who he said regularly attacked him.

He also blamed her for the killing of Hades, saying it was her idea to set light to the injured puppy.

The Northern Echo:

Mr Abrahams said the prosecution is unable to say who killed Hades, but the method of its death was by hanging it from a door and then killing it with a hammer, which he said could be classed as, “sadistic behaviour”.

LIndop, 22, now said to be living with his family in Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, admitted two counts each of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and permitting or failing to stop unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.

He was said to have only one previous unrelated convicted, dating from 2019.

Melrose, 23, of Hawthorne Road, Ferryhill, who has no previous convictions, admitted two counts each of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal, and permitting or failing to stop unnecessary suffering to a protected animal, plus one of causing an animal fight to take place by baiting a chicken with a dog.

Philip Morley, for Lindop, said he was, “not a sophisticated man”, having had “limited education” and is thought to suffer with an undiagnosed learning difficulty.

He said despite that, he has held down a variety of jobs and, “largely kept out of trouble”.

Mr Morley said at one stage Lindop formed a relationship with Melrose which he described as “toxic” and for which there is, now, no prospect of any reconciliation.

“It was clearly an unhealthy relationship for either party and not a good environment for those animals to be kept in.

“He’s deeply sorry and ashamed for what happened.

“The relationship got on top of him and he clearly took his eye off the ball.

“Both have now moved on and he has a new life in Gainsborough, working with his step-father in roofing and window cleaning.”

Mr Morley said, ironically, Lindop has a background of looking after animals and won a number of rosettes for training dogs in his younger days,

But he added that his client does not accept responsibility for the death of Hades, for which he has shown “genuine upset and remorse.”

Katie Spence, for Melrose, said her previous employment involved working with animals, but the entire experience of what went on during her relationship with Lindop has put her off any future involvement, regardless of the punishment and bars put on her by the court.

“She is extremely remorseful for any behaviour and wishes she had dome more than she did in these circumstances (to prevent it).”

The judge, Recorder Peter Armstrong, said due to their age, their immaturity, and lack of previous offences, he was “just” able to suspend the inevitable prison sentences on both defendants.

He said, given the volatile relationship the pair were involved in, “I suspect you were taking out your frustrations on these animals in your welfare.”

He said he would not try to pinpoint who was primarily responsible for, “this catalogue of most unpleasant offending.”

Both defendants were given 16-month prison sentences suspended for two years, and were each banned from owning or looking after animals for 15 years.

They must both undergo 40 days of rehabilitation activity work with the Probation Service.

Lindop was also ordered to perform 100 hours of unpaid work.

See more court stories from The Northern Echo, by clicking here

RSPCA: County Durham pony owners banned from keeping pets

Stanley man banned from keeping animals after abusing pets

Middlesbrough owner banned from keeping dogs for ten years

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Speaking after the case, Inspector Clare Wilson, who led the two-year investigation, said: “This has been the most challenging case of my career so far and has been extremely distressing to investigate.

“It is clear that many animals suffered untold pain and mental torture at the hands of these defendants and I am immensely relieved that they will not be permitted to care for animals again for a long time.”

She said Dinky was owned by a third party and is doing much better having recovered from her mistreatment, while the recovered dogs were brought into the care of RSPCA Felledge Animal Centre, near Chester-le-Street, where they have now found, “happy, loving forever homes.”


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