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Horse dealers and vet jailed for drugging and selling sick horses

Charlotte Johnson and Aniela Jurecka
Charlotte Johnson and Aniela Jurecka

Three people have been jailed after being found guilty of a scam involving selling sick and potentially dangerous horses to unsuspecting buyers.

Horse dealers Aniela Jurecka and Charlotte Johnson, both 28, were convicted last month along with vet David Smith, 66, of conspiring to con people into buying sub-standard horses.

Police said Jurecka and Johnson advertised horses for sale in equestrian publications. But text messages revealed that the pair were drugging horses to mask poor behaviour or lameness.

The two women would advise buyers to save money by using their recommended vet David Smith, who would give the horses a clean bill of health.

The prices for the horses ranged from £1,950 to £5,700, and police identified 17 victims of fraud. Some buyers were looking for animals suitable for children, detectives said.

And one woman was left unable to walk for a year after being thrown from a horse which had serious back problems, police added.

The horses were sold from Duckhurst Farm in Staplehurst and Great Thorn Farm in Marden, both in Kent, with certificates for good health provided by Smith at his vet's practice in Capel Le Ferne, near Folkestone.

Police launched an investigation after the first report was received by officers in October 2010, relating to a horse called Belle.

The animal developed behavioural problems and was lame. After doing research, the victim found out the mare was a thoroughbred, not an Irish sports horse as advertised.

Following a lengthy and complex investigation, the trio were eventually charged with fraud in January last year.

After a trial at Maidstone Crown Court, Jurecka, Johnson and Smith were last month convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, Kent Police said.

On Monday, Jurecka, of Collier Street, Tonbridge, Johnson, of Tollgate Way, Sandling, and Smith, of The Street, Finglesham, Deal, were each sentenced to two-and-half-years behind bars, police added.

Detective Constable Tracey Brightman, of Kent Police, said afterwards: "The criminal aspect of the case may overlook the fact that passing an injured horse as fit to ride and jump is nothing short of cruel and shows a complete disregard to the veterinary oath.

"Unfortunately in some cases the horses were so ill they had to be euthanised, causing yet more distress to the new owners."

Following sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Neil Parker said: "These horses were not suitable to be ridden or kept as pets.

"We have heard of victims who have suffered significant injuries having been thrown from their horses, and in some cases the tragedy of having to pay for their horses to be put to sleep.

"This must have been truly harrowing and I can only imagine how upsetting this has been for them. The defendants have shown no regard for the welfare of the horses.

"They have apparently drugged them and exposed them to unnecessary stress."