Pair admit charges relating to out of control dogs after 11 sheep mauled

Ipswich Magistrates Court on Elm Street Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The pair admitted a string of charges at Suffolk Magistrates' Court - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

A man and woman have admitted a string of charges relating to two out of control dogs after 11 sheep were mauled on fields in Suffolk and Essex. 

Vanessa Bice, 40, of Gravel Pit Lane, Brantham, and Warwick Foreman, 52, of Compton Road, Colchester, appeared before magistrates in Ipswich on Tuesday to face charges relating to a number of incidents. 

The pair previously lived together in Gravel Pit Lane, Brantham, and Bice owned a mottled brown and black female malinois named Furia and a black male podenco named Scoobie. 

Between January and May of last year, police received five different reports from members of the public regarding the dogs being out of control, and running loose in public areas and on private farmland in and around Brantham. 

The complaints all highlighted that the dogs were not on leads and the handler had no control over them in public, Ashley Petchey, prosecuting, told the court. 

On August 9, 2020, sheep farmer Thomas Hammer, who grazes his flock on various meadows in the area of Gravel Pit Lane, Brantham, discovered three badly injured ewes. 

Two ewes had to be put down due to their injuries while another was treated by a vet. 

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Police visited Bice's home and spoke with both her and Foreman the following day and they denied the dogs had been off the leads. 

But when one of the officers stroked one of the dogs he noticed what appeared to be a lot of dried blood and mud on its face and throat. 

Fur samples were submitted for forensic testing and crime scene investigators also attended the carcasses removed from the scene and collected swabs from the bite marks. 

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On August 23, Mr Hammer discovered two more severely injured ewes, both had to be put down.

Mr Hammer retained an ear of one of the ewes to be collected by crime scene investigators. The financial loss of replacing the ewes came to £450. 

Bice and Foreman were then invited for a voluntary police interview, and community protection notices were drawn up and served on both of them. 

On August 30, Mr Hammer found a further two breeding rams which were ultimately fatally injured and had to be put down. The financial loss was £920. 

On September 11, Mr Hammer found two more ewes that were critically injured and one had to be put down. 

Bice and Foreman were interviewed again and Bice consented to have saliva swabs taken from the dogs for DNA comparison.

She later withdrew this consent post-interview and police proceeded with a warrant for the samples. The results revealed that the ear that had been retained provided a match to Scoobie. 

On December 3, 2020, at a field next to Bromley Road and Grange Road between Lawford and Little Bromley, in Essex, a blue Ford Focus was parked next to a gate. 

There were around 165 sheep in the field and a woman's voice could be heard to shout "come here, come back" around 10-15 times, Mr Petchey told the court. 

A dog was chasing the flock in the field and split the herd in two and was around 100-150ft away from the woman shouting. 

This went on for around 15 minutes before the dog eventually came back, and was put into the car. 

The Ford Focus was intercepted going away from the area and followed to the Lawford service station. 

The vehicle was registered to Bice and officers took photographs of the vehicle. 

The farmer, Guy Lennox, attended the field and found four sheep badly injured. All four had to be put down to prevent further suffering. The financial loss in that incident was £522. 

A pet cat was also mauled in Gravel Pit Lane, Brantham, on January 5 this year, and the dogs fit the description of Furia and Scoobie.  

A chihuahua was also attacked in Gravel Pit Lane on January 9, and although the dog was not injured, damage was caused to the dog's jacket. 

Both Furia and Scoobie were seized by police on January 10. 

Bice pleaded guilty to two charges of being the owner/person in charge of a dog dangerously out of control and three charges of criminal damage. 

Foreman pleaded guilty to four charges of being the person in charge of a dog worrying livestock and four charges of criminal damage. 

Magistrates ordered an all-options pre-sentence report from the Probation Service and the pair will be sentenced for the offences on April 26 at Suffolk Magistrates' Court in Ipswich. 

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