James Gray, a Buckinghamshire horse trader, has been accused of horrendous cruelty to more than 100 animals at his Amersham farm. He created a grotesque mound of skulls and other equine body parts at his dilapidated Spindle Farm, a judge heard today (Tuesday 9 December).

Mr Gray, who is also known as Jamie Gray, 45, his wife Julie, 41, and daughters Jodie, 26, and Cordelia, 20, all deny 10 counts of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, and two counts of neglecting an animal’s welfare.

A 15-year-old boy, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, faces the same charges.

District Judge Andrew Vickers, sitting at Bicester Magistrates’ Court, heard how RSPCA officers, called to the Gray family’s property, Spindle Farm in Amersham, on 4 January 2008, found at least 15 dead animals and removed 115 horses, donkeys and ponies which were taken to animal sanctuaries.

Four more horses were so ill they had to be destroyed.

Prosecuting for the RSPCA, Robert Seabrook QC said RSPCA officers, vets and police were confronted by “a grotesque and disturbing state of affairs”.

“Perhaps most extraordinary, disgusting and distressing of all, a number of carcasses of dead horses [were found] some in the pens with other horses living around them.

“Carcasses in varying states of decomposition were found not only in the pens and yard area, but in various parts of the field.”

As the full extent of the cruelty became apparent, experienced equine vet Bob Baskerville was sent for. Mr Baskerville was forced to destroy a piebald gelding covered in abscesses and another animal almost immediately.

“Mr Baskerville has been a vet since 1955 and he said it was the worst case of cruelty and unnecessary suffering he had encountered,” said Mr Seabrook.

The trial was adjourned after the opening prosecution speech and continues tomorrow (Wednesday 10 December).