A man who stole a woman’s life-long beloved ‘pet’ horse called ‘Flush’, which has never been located, has avoided jail.
Roy Archer (58), with an address at Creevy Avenue in the Braniel area of Belfast, pleaded guilty to stealing the 24-year-old horse which he had originally loaned from the victim.
However, when the year’s lease was up Archer never returned the horse and claimed he sold ‘Flush’ for £300.
He recently pleaded guilty to a charge of theft regarding Flush and was back at Ballymena Magistrates Court for sentencing on Thursday.
A prosecutor said the horse would have been worth around £1,200 and had been owned by the woman since she got it as a “childhood pet”.
Reading from a Victim Impact Statement, District Judge Nigel Broderick said the horse was of “huge sentimental value and no amount of money could ever replace the horse being stolen”.
Defence barrister Chris Sherrard said Archer, who was using crutches in court, was electrocuted at work in 1998 and also recently suffered an Achilles injury.
The lawyer said Archer fully understood the seriousness of the offence.
Mr Sherrard said Archer had been entrusted with the horse but had sold it on and it had not been a “sophisticated plan” and he wished to apologise.
The lawyer said having ‘Flush’ had caused difficultly between the defendant and his landlord and he decided to sell the horse for £300 to avoid any more “complications”.
Judge Broderick said he didn’t believe that and said Archer was simply “a dishonest person”.
The judge said Archer had a “long history of dishonesty” and therefore “it was not surprising he stole this horse and sold it on”.
He added: “This was a very nasty and mean offence. This animal was of significant sentimental value to the complainant.”
Judge Broderick told Archer: “It is quite shameful what you have done, taking somebody’s life-long pet that was held dearly and to sell that for £300 just to line your own pockets was a very nasty thing to do”.
The judge said if it was not for Archer’s health difficulties he would have jailed him and handed down an eight months prison term, suspended for three years, and ordered the defendant to pay compensation of £750.
After the court, Flush’s owner Demi Moore said her whole family had broken down in tears when they realised that Archer had sold her.
“Flush had been in our family since before I was born,” she said. “I’ll be 25 in July, and she was bought when my mummy fell pregnant with me.”
Ms Moore said she encountered Archer when she had had to put Flush up for a year-long loan after losing her job.
“I couldn’t afford the £50 per week livery bills to look after Flush. So I had put her up for loan for a year, to give me enough time to get a new job.
“The Archer family got in contact via Gumtree, saying they were looking for another pony to hack with their own. They said they lived on a big farm, and everything looked perfect.”
She said the two families became friendly. “On one occasion I even babysat his child,” said Ms Moore.
But Archer constantly made excuses to avoid going out hacking with Demi and Flush. “I thought it was innocent enough, I didn’t expect him to be lying to me,” she said.
But on the day when Flush was due to be returned to Demi, she never arrived.
“It’s as if she has just vanished from the face of the Earth,” she said. “Right now my only hope is that she is with a loving family that’s looking after her. But I fear I’ll never see her again.”