Joy as stolen dog reunited with owners

A RETIRED couple plagued with hoax phone calls and a £3,000 ransom following the theft of their two dogs are celebrating the return of one of their pets.

Danielle Nuttall

A RETIRED couple plagued with hoax phone calls and a £3,000 ransom following the theft of their two dogs are celebrating the return of one of their pets.

David and Maureen Westgate, of Barham, near Ipswich, were distraught when their pet Miniature Dachsund dogs, Shadey, seven, and Cassie, 11, were stolen from their back garden on February 18.

The couple, who have 14 grandchildren and three great grandchildren, contacted Suffolk police in their panic and distributed hundreds of posters to help get them back.

They endured further distress when they were bombarded by hoax calls asking them to handover £3,000 in a supermarket car park to secure the safe return of the animals.

But last night the couple, both 75, received the news they had longed for - Shadey had been found.

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Annette Taylor-White, landlady of the Freston Boot pub, near Shotley, discovered the pet in the pub car park two weeks ago.

She alerted police but said she was told if she could not look after the pet herself she should take it to a dog pound. Luckily, a pub regular agreed to provide a temporary home instead.

Mr Westgate, a retired forester, said he was over the moon with the safe return of Shady but was disappointed the police did not carry out checks which would have seen them reunited sooner.

“The police had been informed. We had been in contact on a regular basis. They knew we were looking for him. We had a crime number and everything,” he said. “No checks were made. We did everything possible and we believe we were let down.

“We are so pleased to get him home. Everybody has been in tears. If it had not been for someone taking him in, we would never have got him back.

“We're both 76 this year. It's like losing a member of your family. People say it's just a dog but it's not just a dog.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said last night: “We are pleased that one of the two stolen dogs has been found and reunited with its owner. We would advise the owner to get in touch if they have any concerns, which would be looked into.”

Cruel hoaxers called the couple during their search and pretended to be a newspaper reporter, informing them they had won £1,000.

When asked what he would do with the money he had “won” Mr Westgate said he would put it towards the £500 reward his friends and family had collected for the return of the two dogs.

The “reporter” then began detailing how he had received a call at his London newsdesk from a man who had found two mini Dachsunds in Suffolk and was asking for £3,000 from the owner in order to reunite them.

The “reporter” asked Mr Westgate to meet him in the car park of Asda in Ipswich with the £3,000 at 11pm that night and he would ensure the man with the dogs was there, so they could be reunited.

No one showed at the meeting and the Westgates were crushed.

Mr Westgate said: “We are delighted to have Shadey home, but our joy is marred by the fact we still need to find Cassie. She is an elderly dog and we need her home with us for her last years.

“This is a living nightmare and we do not understand why anyone would steal two old dogs from a pair of pensioners and then try to secure £3,000 from us for the return of the pets.”

Suffolk police said dog theft was fairly rare in Suffolk and they were not aware of an increasing problem.

The couple have enlisted the help of www.doglost.co.uk, the UK's largest organisation for lost dogs, during their search.

Anyone with information should call the couple on 01473 831681.

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