An ‘eagle-eyed’ neighbour has been hailed a hero after spotting five ‘amateur’ thieves stealing eight hugely valuable bulldogs from their breeder’s home.
Five French bulldogs and three American bulldogs were stolen from their cages in the garden of a home, in Burton, and transferred into a Citroen Picasso by the thieves.
But the neighbour’s heroic actions meant that the crooks were captured by police within hours on the M1, reported Staffordshire Live.
The resident happened to be walking by the home at the same moment the crooks carrying the bulldogs jumped into the vehicle and sped off.
The scene raised his suspicions and he immediately jotted down the car’s registration number, which led to police tracking it down, a court heard.
Creddy Smith, Natalie Edis, Kevin Rogers, Danny Price and Jim Lee have all appeared at Stafford Crown Court yesterday, Monday, July 25, to be sentenced – after pleading guilty at an earlier court hearing to stealing the bulldogs valued at £56,000. The breeder had initially valued them at £70,000.
The five defendants had initially denied being involved in the theft charge but changed their pleas to guilty on the first day of their trial which been due to take place in February.
The court heard on May 25, 2020, the breeder of the dogs was not at home, but his son was in his bedroom.
At 10pm he heard the dogs’ gates opening, which raised his suspicion. He saw people picking up the dogs. The court heard the dogs’ owner wondered whether the thieves heard about him from a previous buyer, because he didn’t advertise his dogs for sale publicly.
At the same time, a neighbour was walking nearby and noticed a silver Citroen Picasso and saw several people running to the car with dogs in their arms. He wrote down the registration number and passed this to the police.
The owner returned home to find all five gates to the pens were open and the dogs, whose ages ranged between 18 months and four-and-a-half years, were gone. The car was later stopped by police on the M1 just after midnight.
The court heard that Edis, aged 31, of Shelley Avenue, Doncaster, had no previous convictions. Her barrister was not available on the day of sentencing and she will be sentenced at a later date.
Price, of Tolney Lane, Newark, is a 24-year-old father of two and was married when he was 17, the court heard. He is currently serving a six-year sentence for grievous bodily harm.
His barrister, Carl Hargan told the court: “This was a poorly planned and badly executed, almost amateurish offence. But thankfully the dogs were recovered quickly and were all well. He was drinking at the time and that is why he committed these two offences.
“Since he has been in prison he has taken various courses such as victim awareness and anger management. He regrets the impact his behaviour has had on his two young children.”
Lee’s barrister, Lyndon Harris, told the court that it was an amateur plan, adding that Lee, of Doncaster Road, Wakefield, was 42 years old and had 100 previous convictions, 27 of which involved dishonesty.
The court heard that, Smith, a 34-year-old father-of-six, of Brierley, South Yorkshire, was subject to a curfew since May 2020. Despite his nine previous convictions, he had never been before a crown court and was a full-time carer for his neighbour.
Rogers, aged 26, also of Brierley, had 26 previous convictions and was the subject of a curfew too.
Judge Kristina Montgomery told the five: “The goods you took were eight bulldogs from a professional breeder whose home you targeted in the hours of darkness so you could release from kennels a valuable commodity to sell yourselves. But if it weren’t for the eagles eyes of a neighbour who noted down the registration number.
“Each of you played a significant role, each of you travelled some distance and none of you can claim to be a bystander. It is well known that dogs of purebreed come at a high price so this was not amateurish.”
Price, who is already a serving prisoner, was given another 11 months in jail to be served concurrently to his sentence. Lee, Smith and Rogers were each made the subject of a 12-month community order and must complete 80 hours unpaid work.
They were also ordered to complete a rehabilitation activity requirement.