Prison promise for the man who set light to Cody

Codie, a three-year-old collie dog, was doused with flammable liquid and set on fire
Codie, a three-year-old collie dog, was doused with flammable liquid and set on fire

A man who admitted setting fire to a family’s pet dog has been told he will face an inevitable prison sentence.

Andrew Richard Stewart, 23, from Wellington Parks in Maghaberry, pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary cruelty to an animal in August 2012.

Afterwards, the owners spoke about the ordeal they and their dog had faced.

Cody, a three-year-old collie, had been so badly burned her ribs were visible through the charred flesh.

She survived for two weeks but had to be put down.

Stewart, who had denied the charges for two years, dramatically changed his plea minutes before the dog’s owners were due to give evidence on Thursday last at Belfast Crown Court.

Judge David McFarland, Belfast Recorder, said: “It is a serious matter, you will be facing an inevitable prison sentence.”

The judge also requested that a psychiatric assessment be carried out on the defendant to try and understand why he carried out the attack.

Judge McFarland then told the jury of seven women and five men he would be directing them to find the defendant guilty.

His co-accused Jamie Downey, 23, from Chestnut Hall Avenue, also in Maghaberry, admitted a single charge of perverting the course of justice while the animal cruelty charges were left on the court’s books.

The trial had earlier heard Stewart and Downey had repeatedly lied about their whereabouts on the morning Cody was attacked.

They had attended a house party close to the dog’s family home and were identified by eyewitnesses walking along railway tracks towards a quarry on the outskirts of Maghaberry accompanied by a black and white dog.

Both men were released on bail and are due to be sentenced on October 7.

Addressing Downey, Judge McFarland said: “The fact that I am granting bail is not an indication as to what the sentence will be.”

Cody’s owner, Natalie Agnew, said she was “delighted” by the guilty pleas.

“We’ve waited two years for this, for the guilty verdict, and we look forward to the sentencing of the two culprits,” she said.

“It’s been horrendous, the effect it’s had on the children, let alone what they actually did to the poor dog.

“The effect it’s had on my two boys is still ongoing, they’ve had to have counselling and sleepless nights, nightmares.

“It’s just been awful hard to try and come to terms with.”