Hampshire family found guilty after conning Horse & Hound magazine readers into parting with their horses
Three people are awaiting sentencing after a court found them guilty of duping at least 16 horse owners into parting with their animals on the grounds that they would be used as companions.
Winchester Crown Court heard how the Hampshire family, who were found guilty of “obtaining property by deception”, made thousands of pounds over a period of five years by selling the horses on for inflated prices.
Fred and Mary Keet and their daughter, Julie, who were based in Liphook, Hants, put advertisements in the classified section of Horse & Hound magazinewhich stated:
“Wanted: a companion horse – age and looks immaterial. Slight lameness or problem horses not objected to. Loving home awaits with stable and grazing.”
The owners who were shown round the farm, were told that they would be able to visit their animals and would be given first refusal if their animals were sold on.
But when those owners made subsequent enquiries after leaving horses with the Keets, they were told the horses had been sold on.
Police who were contacted by an owner in 1997 spent four years gathering evidence from around the country. Owners were alerted by magazine advertisements to contact the police if they had suspicions.
WDC Heather Hastings, the police officer in charge of theinvestigation, said: “The investigation was time-consuming because we were dealing with cases around the county.
“The fact that they have been found guilty and the publicity this is generating will, I hope, stop this happening again.”
She said one example of the inflated prices charged was for a horse called Paddy who had an injury and was sold to the Keets for £200. He was then sold on by them for £1,200.
Only six of the horses which were sold on have been traced.
The three defendants will be sentenced at Salisbury Crown Court on 22 March.
A fourth defendant, Rory Simpson, was found not guilty of the charges.
Horse & Hound deputy editor, Lucy Higginson, said: “This verdict will be some recompense for the many families who made transactions in good faith with these conmen, and suffered immeasurable heartache as a result.
“The fact that this scan involved the misappropriation of animals – often horses and ponies that had performed longand faithful service – made that abuse of trust particularly shocking. It is heartening to see that justice will now be done.”
Fred and Mary Keet and their daughter, Julie, were sentenced to 200 hours’ community service at Salisbury Crown Court on 22 March.