'Dr Death', ringleader of Essex dog-fighting gang, jailed along with accomplices for animal cruelty

3 June 2024, 23:54

The dog fighting ring showed "a shocking level of barbarism and callousness"
The dog fighting ring showed "a shocking level of barbarism and callousness". Picture: RSPCA

By Kit Heren

A man known as Dr Death has been jailed after running a dog-fighting ring in Essex.

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Phillip Harris Ali, 67, of Chigwell, was given five years for his role in the repeated acts of animal cruelty. Two other men were also sentenced to prison time, while a woman was given community service.

The dogs were were starved before being put in bouts where they sometimes fought to the death, Chelmsford Crown Court heard on Monday.

They were kept in filthy conditions and were denied clean water and proper bedding.

Judge Jamie Sawyer said the gang showed "a shocking level of barbarism and callousness" for the dogs involved in the case.

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He said the fights, which took place in England, Ireland and France, were "highly planned and without a care for the welfare of the animals in question".

The judge told the defendants: "Dogs were treated as a commodity by each of you. They were playing pieces in your game."

Much of the key evidence in the case came from a phone belonging to Ali, of Manford Way, Chigwell, Essex.

This included photos and videos of dogs and gruesome match reports detailing how the animals were set upon each other, sent via the encrypted messaging app Signal.

Many of the crimes were committed while Ali was still under licence conditions put in place after a 2007 conviction for attempted murder.

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His "right-hand man", Stephen Albert Brown, 57, of Burrow Road, Chigwell, Essex, was jailed for two years and six months after he was found guilty of five offences under the Animal Welfare Act.

As the fighting ring's medicine man, he got illegal veterinary medication and equipment and was involved in training dogs and arranging fights.

Personal trainer Billy Leadley, 38, who had a dog fighting pit at his home in Bambers Green, Takeley, Essex, was jailed for four years for 12 different offences.

The judge said reading a match report about one 58-minute fight at which Leadley was referee, in which one of the animals suffered two broken legs, was "horrific".

His wife, hairdresser Amy Leadley, 39, who was not directly involved in the ring, was sentenced for various offences linked to keeping a premises for dog-fighting and not caring for the animals properly.

She was given an 18-month community order, 200 hours of unpaid work and 25 days of rehabilitation activity.

The four defendants were banned from keeping dogs for ten years.

RSPCA chief inspector Ian Briggs said: "Dog fighting is a barbaric and horrific blood sport which has been illegal in this country for almost 190 years; yet there is a secretive and clandestine underworld where it continues to happen today.

"It has become a hobby, passion and source of entertainment for the people involved, but the reality is that the dogs involved suffer unimaginable pain, suffering, fear and distress.

"This gang dedicated their lives to breeding, preparing and training what they believed were champion fighting dogs.

"They enjoyed the build-up to a fight and the excitement of the bloody brawls, as well as trying to patch their injured and dying dogs back together after the event.

"Sadly, some of the dogs in this case suffered severe injuries and were never found but a mobile phone recovered as part of the investigation included match reports that detailed awful and fatal injuries suffered by some of the dogs involved."

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