West Hampstead stolen dog held for ransom
PUBLISHED: 17:00 26 January 2012 | UPDATED: 17:48 26 January 2012
»What started as an ordinary walk in West Hampstead, soon turned into the worst nightmare for one dog owner when her beloved pet was snatched, "drugged" and held for ransom.
Ruby, a 17-month-old rottweiler-labrador cross breed, was snatched from Hampstead Cemetery in Fortune Green Road, West Hampstead, at 2.15pm on Friday.
It is believed she was taken to be used as “bait” for illegal dog fighting in east London and she was snatched when her owner’s back was turned to put a collar on another dog.
Owners Gary Wilton and Liz Shorts frantically searched the neighbourhood with the help of 50 other dog lovers.
But their hearts sank when they received a ransom call.
Mr Wilton, 51, said: “They said we’ve got your dog and we want £500 or you won’t see it [the dog] again. They said they’d kill her.”
After more calls the police sprang into action to try and catch the dognappers and rescue the pet.
A sting operation was arranged and Ruby’s owners met the alleged dognappers for a handover at Seven Sisters station in Tottenham that evening.
Two suspects were apprehended by police and the dog, who the couple rescued from Battersea Dogs Home, was reunited with her overjoyed owners, left worse the wear by the frightening experience.
“She didn’t recognise us when she saw us,” said Mr Wilton. “She’d been drugged up to the eyeballs.
“She’s had a terrible stomach and diarrhoea from what they did to her and she’s been like a zombie for a day and a half.”
It is believed Ruby, who came back wearing a heavy spiked collar and a thick metal chain, had been “poisoned”.
She is now at home recovering from her ordeal and the community remains alert in the wake of the dog-napping.
“It’s blackmail at the end of the day, and kidnap,” said Mr Wilton. “Whether it’s a human or a dog it doesn’t make any difference.”
Ms Shorts, 52, said: “Everybody thinks it’s never going to happen to them, but that’s what we thought and then it did. It was my worst nightmare come true.
“Unfortunately for them she’s a really soppy dog and that’s probably why they tried to get a ransom out of us instead.”
Two men aged 21 and 22 were arrested on suspicion of blackmail and bailed to return in March pending further enquiries.