Family told to pay £500 or dog would be killed – days before it was found dead

A family were told to pay a £500 ransom after their beloved dog was kidnapped – but it was found dead just days later.

Pebbles was snatched from their home in Burslem, Staffordshire, on April 17.

The owners received a call from a man calling himself an Irish traveller, who threatened to decapitate the dog if they didn’t hand over £500.

Six days later, a group of schoolfriends were walking through a field behind Stoke-on-Trent College’s Burslem campus where they found the staffie in a basket.

Dawn Johnson, from volunteer group Lost Dog Capture, said: “I went straight over. I felt sick and heartbroken. When I got there I contacted her owner and took her home to them.

“When I first rang her she burst out crying and one of the young girls did as well."

Describing the suspect, she said: “We don't think these people actually have the dogs all the time. They are just going on Dog Lost and ringing the owners to try to get cash. It’s horrible. They are preying on vulnerable owners.

“Unfortunately there has been a woman over in Stockport who has paid more than £1,500 and then only last week another woman paid £500.”

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Dawn says a man saw Pebbles on the morning of April 20 with a young couple.

She is now hoping to go through CCTV from local shops in a bid to track them down.

Dawn continued: “We're heartbroken for Pebbles' family. It’s such a shame. They have had this dog for over 11 years and she has gone missing and then found dead.

“I didn't see any injuries on her at all. I did lift her head up a little bit and a tiny bit of blood came out of her mouth but I think that’s part of the dying process. I don’t think she'd been dead for long as she was still quite stiff.

Staffordshire Police have also been alerted to Pebbles’ death.

A spokesman for the force said: "We were informed at about 10.50am on Saturday [April 24] that a dog had been found dead in a Moses basket near to the Stoke-on-Trent College campus off Moorland Road, Burslem.

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"The basket was found on a field near to the college campus.

"A dog – a red Staffordshire bull terrier – was found inside wrapped in a blanket. It was found to be a dog reported missing from Dartmouth Street since April 17.

"The RSPCA was informed, as was the dog’s owner."

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