Milton Keynes puppy smugglers who sold sick and dying dogs are jailed for 18 years

They traded in misery and cruelty, court hears

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 4:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th August 2021, 5:50 pm

Members of a cruel puppy smuggling ring based in Milton Keynes have been jailed for a total of 18 years after a judge heard how they sold dying dogs to unsuspecting customers.

The gang of smugglers, many of them from the Irish Cawley traveller family, had made more than £300,000 in a sophisticated fraud designed to dupe innocent pet owners out of their hard-earned cash.

Sentencing the 13 defendants today, Judge Francis Sheridan said: "You have all played your part in this disgusting trade and you preyed upon the kindness of British citizens."

These poorly puppies were seized

Earlier, prosecutor Hazel Stevens revealed that excited new owners were disgusted when their adorable pets started falling sick before they even got them home, with some being so riddled with disease they could not survive.

The case was brought by the RSPCA, who spent almost £100,000 getting it to court.

Judge Sheridan heard how the Cawleys, used frontman Daniel Yeboah, aged 45, to place numerous adverts under false names before luring unsuspecting families into buying the smuggled puppies - often out of pity for the conditions in which they were being kept.

Mrs Stevens told the judge: "Many people purchasing a puppy, naturally became excited and invested time and emotion as well as money into their puppy. They chose a name and planned the arrival of their new family member and were left devastated when the puppy was sick and in some cases died.

This is what the puppies were shipped in

"The use of these animals as a commodity without care for their welfare and for the effect on the purchasers and children in their family, is something that the RSPCA, other animal welfare charities and the Government have been working very hard to stop."

In a harrowing victim impact statement, Kimberley Duffy, an puppy buyer who had brought her Shih Tzu puppy Barnaby from the swindlers, told the court how the scam had affected her family.

She said: "When I went to see Barnaby and heard he was being bullied by another dog, I instantly decided to take him home. I then decided to surprise my partner at work with Barnaby on her lunch break and video her reaction.

"She was extremely excited and surprised he was an early Christmas present. When the children came home that evening, they too were extremely excited and we all bonded with him instantly."

One of the rescued pups

However, the court heard that their dream puppy soon turned into a nightmare, as Barnaby became ill soon after he arrived home and after a visit to the vet, Ms Duffy and her partner ended up staying up through the night to feed him.

Ms Duffy explained what happened next: "Myself and my partner stayed up all night with Barnaby, giving hourly food, fluids and medication. By 4.30am we decided on one more dose and then allowed him to rest.

"Being exhausted ourselves we fell asleep. At 7.15am we were awoken by the traumatic cries of our 11-year-old son who had been into our room and found Barnaby no longer breathing.

"Myself and my partner tried in vain to revive him while our children looked on traumatised and heartbroken. At 7.34am we decided to stop trying. We both broke down in tears, absolutely devastated that our little fur baby hadn’t survived despite our desperate tireless efforts to do all we could."

A poorly bitch is heavy with milk

The court heard that with vet bills and the price of buying Barnaby from the Cawley's the Duffy's lost more than £1,300.

Describing their emotions, Ms Duffy said: "We feel utter anger, frustration and are furious at the lies we were told by the seller, the sheer neglect and trauma Barnaby suffered at the hands of these vile people.

"The events that took place that morning, the screams and the devastation from our children and the loss and heartbreak will forever haunt us and is irreparable."

The couple's six-year-old son Beaux said: "I feel really sad that Barnaby died and I feel angry at his old owners because they didn’t feed him and look after him like we did. I really miss Barnaby and wish he was still at home with us, I just want Barnaby back."

Today after a two-day sentencing hearing at Aylesbury Crown Court, Judge Sheridan said: "Not one of the defendants in this case should ever be given a licence to breed animals.

"The effects referred to in this case cannot be regarded by the public as anything other than utterly abhorrent.

Two of the filthy and terrified puppies

"This is a trade in cruelty and misery for the animals and the human beings who sought to buy them. The protection of the public must be foremost in my mind.

"This is a massive industry and that is all it is, an industry of misery."

The judge also warned consumers to take care when they bought dogs from the website Pets4Homes, which had been used to facilitate the sale of many of the scammers' puppies.

During the chaotic hearing, Judge Sheridan railed at Parliament for not giving him the power to seize more money from the smugglers and then struggled with the confusing array of names before him, at one point nearly sentencing the wrong man after a paperwork error.

At an earlier hearing, most of the defendants had admitted conspiring to dishonestly making false representations to make a gain for themselves while other charges included failing to fulfill the duty of a person responsible for an animal to ensure its welfare and causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.

Daniel Yeboah, of Avon House, Bletchley, and John Cawley, aged 24, of Willen Travellers Site near Newport Pagnell, were jailed for 42 months for their role in the smuggling while Joseph Cawley Senior, aged 44, also from Willen Travellers Site, was jailed for 45 months.

A tearful Margaret Cawley, aged 46, of Willen Road, who was described by Judge Sheridan as "at the heart of the conspiracy", was jailed for 45 months.

Michael Cawley, aged 41, of Reeves Croft in Hodge Lea,, who the court heard had gained more than £54,000 out of the scam, was jailed for 27 months.

Austin Paice, aged 34, of Whaddon Way in Bletchley, was jailed for 13 months alongside another frontman for the operation John O'Brien, aged 49, from Grangers Croft, Hodge Lea.

O'Brien's wife Wendy, aged 32, was told she only avoided jail because she needed to care for her children while her husband was in jail. She was instead handed a 12 weeks prison sentence, suspended for two years.

Mrs O'Brien will also be subject to a three-month curfew between 6pm and 5am and will have to pay £1,000 in compensation to the victims of the scam.

Rebecca Hall, aged 30, of Shepherds Close in Newport Pagnell, who allowed her house to be used to sell puppies, was handed a four-month prison sentence, suspended for two years and ordered to pay £750 in compensation, which will be split between the victims of the fraud.

Mary Ward-Jackson, aged 31 years, of also Reeves Croft and the wife of Michael Cawley, was given three months in prison, suspended for two years, as well as a requirement to complete 20 rehabilitation activity days.

Joseph Cawley Junior, who was a youth at the time of offences, received a community order that would last for 24 months, including 150 hours of unpaid work and 30 rehabilitation activity days.

Annalise Cawley, aged 22 years, of Willen Travellers Site, was handed 12 months in prison, suspended for two years as well as a requirement to complete 20 rehabilitation activity days and 150 hours of unpaid work.

James Yeboah, aged 43 years, of Avon House, Bletchley, was roped in by his brother Daniel to help care for the puppies and add legitimacy to the sales, the court heard. He was given nine months in prison, suspended for two years.

In addition, he will have to complete 150 hours of unpaid work and pay £330.54 of prosecution costs and £669.46 of compensation to the victims of the scam.

Incensed Judge Sheridan banned each of the 13 defendants from owning or controlling any animals for the next 10 years, except for Wendy O'Brien and Rebecca Hall, who were allowed to look after their existing family pets.

Ending the hearing, Judge Sheridan told the packed courtroom he would do what he could to reimburse the victims of the scam. He said: "I will try to reimburse them so they can buy a puppy from a legitimate breeder if that is what they want to do.

"Some of them I suspect will never want an animal again because of the misery they have been through."