Two men plead guilty over Cody

Published Thursday, 04 September 2014
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A man has been told he is "facing an inevitable prison sentence" after he admitted dousing Cody the collie in flammable liquid and setting her on fire.

After two years of denying his involvement, Andrew Richard Stewart, who is 23 and from Wellington Parks in the Co Down village of Moira, finally accepted responsibility for the act which resulted in the death of the beloved family pet.

His co-accused, Jamie Downey, 23 and from Chestnut Hall Avenue in Moira, had also denied involvement - but earlier on Thursday he pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.

Cody was targeted on the morning of Sunday, 26 August 2012.

Despite making it home following the attack at a quarry in the Co Antrim village of Maghaberry, the three-year old collie's injuries were so severe that she had to be put to sleep a fortnight later.

She was so badly burned her ribs and other joints were visible through the charred flesh.

We will have a burial for her. We still have her ashes but we as a family wanted closure first, and then we will have a little service ourselves with her.

Cody’s family

Cody had to be put down after vets concluded the animal would never fully recover.

As the trial at Belfast Crown Court was due to enter its second day, Stewart's barrister Sean Mullan asked that his client be re-arraigned on a charge of causing Cody unnecessary suffering, contrary to Section 4 (1) of the Welfare for Animals Act (NI) 2011.

When the charge was put to him, Stewart replied "guilty."

After hearing that Stewart had "one very minor matter" on his criminal record, Judge David McFarland asked his legal team if they wished for a psychiatric report to be prepared, in addition to a pre-sentence report.

Pointing out that the case against Stewart had an element of arson, the Judge said the preparation of a psychiatric report was "normal for the court, to try and ascertain as to why people set fire to objects and animals and the like."

The Judge also asked Stewart's legal representatives if there were any domestic pets in his home, to which his solictor Denis Moloney replied there were not.

Following Stewart's plea, Crown barrister David Russell said: "Mr Stewart accepts that he was the person who in fact poured flammable liquid over the animal in question and set fire to it in the quarry."

Judge McFarland directed the jury to find Stewart guilty by confession. He then agreed to release Stewart on bail, but told him he would be "facing an inevitable prison sentence" and he should use his time on bail to "get his affairs in order."

Several hours after Stewart admitted his guilt, Downey's barrister Joel Lindsey asked that his client be arraigned on a second charge of perverting the course of justice.

Mr Stewart acted alone as far as the cruelty to the animal is concerned

Crown barrister David Russell

The basis of the charge was that Downey told a false account of both his and Stewart's movements on the morning of Sunday, 26 August 2012.

To this charge, Downey answered "guilty."

Prosecutor David Russell said the Crown accepted the plea, and asked that the charge of causing unnecessary suffering to Cody be "left on the books."

Mr Russell told the court that Downey's guilty plea indicated that he had accepted he was with Stewart "throughout the course of the journey throughout Maghaberry".

He also said that after Stewart had set Cody on fire, the pair sat on a wall close to the scene and "discussed what account they would give of their movements that day, and Mr Downey subsequently gave a false account about both his and Mr Stewart's movements."

A pre-sentence report will also be prepared on Downey, ahead of sentencing next month.

Before the pair were allowed to leave the dock, they also heard Judge McFarland ask for a Victim Impact Report.

He said: "I would like to know the impact this has had, particularly on the family."

Stewart and Downey were both released on bail and ordered to come back before the court for sentencing on Tuesday, 7 October.

Speaking outside Belfast Crown Court, Cody's owners Natalie and Martin Agnew from Maghaberry spoke of their relief at the guilty pleas.

The couple also revealed that when Stewart and Downey are sentenced, they will finally be able to bury the ashes of their much loved and missed pet.

I'll never forget the smell and what [Cody] looked like. We didn't let the kids see her for about a week at the vets. It wasn't good. I wouldn't like to see anything like that again

Cody’s family

Mrs Agnew said: "We are delighted at the outcome today. We have waited two years for this, for the guilty verdict, and we look forward to six weeks' time for the sentencing of the two culprits."

Recalling the fateful Sunday morning two summers ago, Mr Agnew said: "The first time that I saw Cody when she came back, we didn't recognise it was Cody she was that bad.

"I'll never forget the smell and what she looked like. We didn't let the kids see her for about a week at the vets. It wasn't good. I wouldn't like to see anything like that again."

Saying he was pleased the trial had ended and guilty pleas had been entered, Mr Agnew said he hoped the maximum sentence will be imposed.

The Co Antrim man also said he hoped cases like this would lead "somewhere along the line" to the two year maximum sentence for such offences being extended.

Mrs Agnew spoke of the devastating effect Cody's death has had on her family.

Branding the last two years as "horrendous", she said: "The effect it has had on the children - let alone what they actually did to the poor dog - the effect it has had on the two boys is still ongoing.

"They have had to have counselling ... sleepless nights, nightmares. It's just been awfully hard trying to come to terms with it ourselves, and trying to explain it to children when we can't understand or fathom it ourselves - it's been very hard and we are still dealing with those issues.

"It's been stressful trying to come to terms with it, but we have kept focused on our Justice for Cody site. We have had so much support, and without them we couldn't have done this.

"We would like to thank all the supporters, the PPS, the police investigator and all the friends and family who have stood by us."

The mother of two also said she hoped a prison sentence would act as a deterrent to others "thinking of doing acts like this, cruel acts to animals".

Since Cody's death, the Agnews have brought two new dogs into their home, which Mrs Agnew said has helped her sons recover from what happened to their pet.

She said: "That has helped fill a gap, but we will never forget Cody."

Mrs Agnew also revealed some positives have emerged from Cody's death. Around £30,000 has been being raised for animal charities including Guide Dogs for the Blind.

She said: "Some good has come of it, which is some consolation."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
16 Comments
David in Downpatrick wrote (47 days ago):
The cowards that done this should be locked away forever!!!
jean martin in Derry wrote (48 days ago):
This story has sent ripples all over the island of Ireland. Animal protection laws are grossly out dated. These two cruel people need to be jailed and actually do jail time, not suspended. Unfortunately there will always be people who will carry out despicable acts on the innocent, defenceless and vulnerable. What we need to do is keep these people off the streets for as long as it takes to socialise them, if such a thing is possible. I would ask all people interested in animal welfare to contact their political representatives to force through laws to protect animals both domestic and farm. We have, as a nation, a terrible reputation for both animal abuse and neglect. It is our responsibility to protect and defend the animal kingdom, they can't speak for themselves, they depend on us for that protection. The Agnew family in this case have been an inspiration.
conrad mcveigh in belfast wrote (48 days ago):
It's hard to believe anyone can do something like that to an animal. totally scum and deserve a long sentence . RIP wee cody !
Big Ian in Antrim wrote (48 days ago):
I really do hope our justice service hands down a heavy sentence to these two men, so that such a vicious crime may not happen again and not a lenient sentence. They are both at the age to know what they were doing. The heart broken family that have suffered, not only the loss of a close family pet but having to put up with the denial from evil men. I hope justice prevails.
WALTER in EAST BELFAST. wrote (48 days ago):
PUT HIM IN PRISON. NEEDS TO BE TAUGHT THE VALUE OF LIFE, WHETHER HUMAN OR ANIMAL.
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