Kirkcaldy man who beat his dog to death avoids jail

A sheriff said jail wasn't the only appropriate sentence for Alexander McGheeA sheriff said jail wasn't the only appropriate sentence for Alexander McGhee
A sheriff said jail wasn't the only appropriate sentence for Alexander McGhee

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A man who battered his dog to death in an attack so violent it left the animal with injuries “the same as a boxer when they get a haemorrage” dodged jail.

Alexander McGhee “hit, kicked or shook” lurcher Murray at his home in Methil, in a brutal assault that left his neighbours horrified at the noise.

Police were called by “disgusted” residents nearby – with one later telling police they were so horrified at the noises they heard coming from McGhee’s property that they had to go out and walk their dog – which was also distressed by the noises.

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One told the court it sounded like a dog was being “thrown against a wall”.

When police arrived hours later McGhee told them that Murray had escaped from the property in the middle of the night and that he had later found him dead in a nearby street.

Cops were then led to the lurcher’s body, which McGhee had put in the boot of his car, with the owner claiming the animal must have been hit by a vehicle.

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But in reality he had subjected the animal to an horrific death, with vets saying the injuries were “not consistent” with a road smash.

However, a sheriff today declined to imprison McGhee - saying a jail term was “not the only appropriate sentence” in the case.

The train driver was instead handed a community payback order with 240 hours unpaid work and banned from owning or having sole custody of a dog for 20 years.

An earlier trial at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court heard veterinary experts tell the trial that a post-mortem suggested a vehicle impact was “not likely”.

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The court was told that when police initially interviewed him he appeared to be “hiding” an injury to his hand with the sleeve of his jumper.

PC Kirsten Lawrie (36) said she “believed he was covering the hand intentionally”.

She added: “My colleague asked him about it and he showed us a v-shaped cut to his hand.

“He said he had sustained it when he punched a wall in a temper when the dog ran away.”

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Veterinary pathologist Dr Bryn Tennant said he believed Murphy had sustained the injuries from being “hit, kicked or shaken with considerable force”.

Dr Tennant said: “The outcome of the post mortem was that this dog had been subjected to multiple traumatic incidents.

“The injuries were spread across the body and the cause of death was the bleeding on the brain.

“The constellation of injuries, in my opinion, were not consistent with a road traffic accident.

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“There is a very, very remote possibility that this dog was struck by a vehicle but from what I saw, I do not believe that happened, on the basis of my examination.

“The bleeding around the brain is the same as boxers get when they haemorrhage.”

Fiscal depute Ronnie Hay told the court that earlier evidence in the case suggested McGhee had inflicted the injuries.

He said: “The couple next door left their flat because of the noise emanating from his property.

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“When they returned they spoke of a bottle of bleach being outside the premises that wasn’t there when they left.

“They were adamant the noises were not a dog fight.

“They spoke of a male voice talking aggressively.

“One heard slapping sounds and one said it sounded like the dog was being thrown against a wall.”

Giving evidence in his own defence McGhee said the dog had been named Murray as they had rescued him from a sanctuary around the time Andy Murray won Wimbledon in 2013.

His lawyer, Scott McKenzie, asked him: “The neighbours describe hearing a fairly distressing incident going on within your property with the dogs. Did you engage in any distressing conduct towards your dogs?”

He said: “I’m not going to rescue dogs to hurt them.”

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Mr McKenzie asked: “Did you lose your temper with the dog and cause him so much pain that he was in agony for minutes or possibly hours before he died?”

McGhee: “No.”

But fiscal depute Ronnie Hay accused him of drunkenly losing temper and killing the animal.

The prosecutor said: “Sorry to use this phrase but you were off the leash - your partner was away and you were out drinking.”

McGhee replied: “I’m not a big drinker.”

McGhee (44) of Kirkcaldy, denied a charge under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act on summary complaint.

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The offence was committed on July 8 2017 at his home address.

Defence solicitor Scott McKenzie said McGhee would accept any non-custodial sentence – but was still maintaining his innocence.

He added: “His partner has another dog and they also have a guinea pig.

“There has never been any other cause for concern with those animals.

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“I’d ask any disqualification order that is imposed allows the dog to remain under the care of his partner.”

Sheriff Alistair Thornton imposed a community payback order with 240 hours unpaid work and banned him from owning or having sole custody of a dog for 20 years.

He said: “The evidence was that the blunt force trauma suffered by the dog was substantial and repeated.

“The social work report I have read indicates you maintain your denial of the offence and accordingly there is no remorse expressed by you.”

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