The trial of Buckinghamshire horse trader James Gray at Bicester Magistrates Court came to an unexpected stop today (22 January) when the defendant failed to arrive in court.

Mr Gray, with wife Julie, daughters Jodie and Cordelia and a teenage boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, faces 12 charges of cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act relating to 125 horses, ponies and donkeys.

The case is being brought by the RSPCA and relates to an investigation where officers were called to the Gray family’s property, Spindle Farm in Amersham, on 4 January 2008.

They found at least 15 dead animals and removed 115 horses, donkeys and ponies which were taken to animal sanctuaries.

Four more horses had to be destroyed.

At 10am this morning district judge Andrew Vickers was told by Mrs Gray that Mr Gray was unwell and intended to visit his doctor today.

As Mr Gray had not contacted the court or his solicitor to explain his absence, and was not answering his phone, a family member was sent to find him.

Mr Gray arrived at court two and a half hours later but the judge adjourned the case until he had visited his doctor.

Court staff expect the prosecution to resume tomorrow morning with the testimony of vet Ben Wakeling, of Wendover Heights Veterinary Centre in Aylesbury.