James Gray trial resumes at Bicester Magistrates Court

  • Witnesses at the resumption of the Spindle Farm trial on Monday (12 January) have alleged they saw James Gray and a teenage boy treating a sick horse in a cruel manner.

    Employees at the National Trust’s Hughenden Manor, near High Wycombe, say Gray and the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, came to collect horses which were on the Trust’s land without permission.

    Nick Phillips of the National Trust told the court he called Gray in November 2007 alerting him that the animals were on the land.

    Gray did not come for them until 18 December after a call from another National Trust worker, Neil Harris, to say that one of the horses had collapsed.

    “It was clearly not looking well,” said Mr Harris.

    Gray arrived in a 4×4 with a trailer and tried to drive over to the horse but because of boggy conditions had to stop around 25 metres from the animal.

    “They made some attempts to get the horse to stand up, encouraging it, lifting it up, pushing its backside and trying to get it to stand on its own four legs,” said Mr Harris.

    “They took some rope and a head collar and Mr Gray attached it [the rope] to the tail of the horse. It tried to stand up but couldn’t.

    “The animal was then dragged, head and tail, towards the trailer. It was pulled from the front and pushed from the rear in a seesaw motion.”

    Robert Seabrook QC prosecuting asked Mr Harris if the horse had moved by itself. Mr Harris replied it had not. “I did think at one point that it was already dead,” he added.

    He said the horse was pulled into the trailer with the same seesaw movement and alleged the teenager kicked it to ensure it was fully inside the trailer.

    “The horse was not making any resistance, it was almost a dead weight being dragged. Occasionally it twisted but it was being dragged all the way, not smoothly at all,” he said.

    Mr Seabrook asked if Mr Harris had said anything to Gray or the boy as they moved the horse.

    He replied: “I said this horse is clearly in distress — why don’t you call a vet out or have it shot? I felt that would have been better.

    “One of them said the horse would be fine. It just needed injecting.”

    A horse with similar markings to the one described by Mr Harris was later found dead at Spindle Farm, but neither Mr Harris or Mr Phillips could say with “100 per cent certainty” that it was the same animal.

    Mike Fullerton, for the defence, said that the ground had sloped towards the trailer and as it was wet the horse would have slid more easily.

    He also suggested that the teenager had not kicked the horse, but Mr Harris said he was close enough to confirm that the kick had connected with the animal.

    Gray and the teenager are among five people who each face 12 charges of cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act relating to 125 horses, ponies and donkeys.

    The other defendants are Gray’s wife Julie and daughter Cordelia, both of Spindle Farm, Hyde Heath and another daughter, Jodie, of Park Road, Ashford, Middlesex.

    The case continues.

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