A man accused by a growing band of horse owners of stealing horses using a bogus loan scam has been reported to West Mercia police.

Four people have told H&H that Brian Evans, of Vowchurch in Herefordshire, and previously of Malvern, Worcestershire, has taken their horses on loan and then sold them on, pocketing the money.

They claim that when owners request the return of their loaned horses they are told it has died suddenly, went mad and was destroyed or that the horse will be disposed of unless livery costs are paid.

Mr Evans denies the accusations.

He told H&H: “I’ve never stolen a horse in my life. I’ve not got any convictions — I’ve never even had a parking ticket. I’ve got no history of theft. I don’t deal too much with the horses. I don’t even ride.”

More than 10 cases have now been reported to Sergeant Adrian Bean at West Mercia Police.

Sgt Bean said: “It’s a grey area. People loan in good faith. We’re now collecting evidence.”

He asked anyone with information to come forward to the police.

Beverley Firth of Weybridge, Surrey, says she loaned two ponies to Mr Evans as broodmares, but when she asked for them back, he told her that one had died overnight in its box and the other was at stud.

She said: “I couldn’t understand how a four-year-old pony had just died. Mr Evans comes across as very charming, but became threatening when I challenged him.

“In the end I found one of my ponies in Birmingham and bought her back for £1,800. It had a false passport as I’d kept the real one.”

Eric Brown of Melton Mowbray claims he asked Mr Evans to sell his horse, but then failed to receive any money.

He says he eventually tracked the horse down to Bradley Hill, Gloucester, but has not been able to secure its return.

He said: “I’ve issued a county court summons on the people who have the horse, but they didn’t want to know he’d sold it illegally.

“Mr Evans is such a plausible chap when you talk to him.”

Another owner, Philippa of Guildford (who prefers not to reveal her full name), claims she loaned a pony to Mr Evans and his partner, Hattie Dandridge, but that Mr Evans subsequently told her it had been destroyed because it had gone mad.

And Alex Aungeaer of Lingfield in Surrey , who was the only person to have an official contract with Mr Evans, claims she loaned her horse to him and Ms Dandridge with a view to them buying it for £3,000.

She says the pair competed the horse in British Show Pony Society competitions, winning a couple of classes, but suddenly claimed the pony had gone mad and offered to pay her only £500.

Ms Aungeaer declined but allowed Mr Evans to extend the loan period. But when this expired he demanded £1,000 livery costs from her, threatening otherwise to “dispose” of the horse.

Ms Aungeaer said: “We had to go and snatch the horse back. We gave him a cheque, which we quickly cancelled. It was the only way to get the horse out of his yard. They were aggressive; it was very heated.”

Mr Evans said he’s annoyed by these accusations: “Beverley Firth gave me two ponies. She said she’d lost the passports. She said, ‘Take the ponies, I don’t want them’. She only wanted them back when we had broken them. She made my life hell.”

He claimed Mr Brown lied to him.

Lee Hackett, head of welfare at the British Horse Society, said: “The only protection in such cases is a legal loan agreement. We suggest people use one even among friends. We have a free, legally-constructed loan form on our website. Click on welfare on our home page at www.bhs.org.uk and the loan agreement can be downloaded, top right.”

Anyone with further information on Brian Evans or Hattie Dandridge should contact Sgt Adrian Bean at West Mercia police adrian.bean@westmercia.pnn.police.uk.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (5 June, ’08)