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Perthshire pet owner tells trial snooded stranger stole his dog while he watched

Ally McLaren with dog Harvey who was allegedly stolen.
Ally McLaren with dog Harvey who was allegedly stolen.

A pet owner has told how he confronted a stranger outside his home, and watched as he lifted his dog and bundled it into a car.

Ally McLaren said working terrier Harvey was snatched from his kennel outside their home in rural Perthshire.

Clifford Hodgkins is on trial at Perth Sheriff Court accused of stealing four dogs from two properties in the Blairgowrie area on October 20 2020.

It is alleged he took one dog from a remote property on the Meikleour estate and three others from a farm house in Forneth.

Hodgkins is further accused of driving a blue Ford Focus without insurance and without a test certificate, in Macdonald Crescent, Rattray, on the same date.

He is alleged to have failed to identify the driver of the car, when required to do so by a police officer.

Hodgkins, of Woodlands Park, Blairgowrie, denies all charges.

Confrontation

Mr McLaren, 22, told the court Harvey, a cross-breed terrier, slept in a kennel outside his home in Meikleour.

He said the dog could not have opened the kennel door from the inside.

Alistair McLaren, pictured with his dog Harvey in 2020

“I was working from home that day,” he told the court.

“We have a pet dog who lives inside, and every time someone goes past the house he will bark.

“At about 9.30am, he started barking.”

Mr McLaren said: “I looked out of the window into the front garden.

“I could see a car parked at the other side of the hedge. It was a blue Ford Focus.”

He said a man wearing a snood-type covering, camo jacket and blue tracksuit bottoms walked over to the kennel.

“He picked up Harvey,” said Mr McLaren.

“I ran outside and asked: ‘Excuse me, what are you doing?’

“He said: ‘Nothing’.”

Mr McLaren said: “He had an English accent.

“There was a bit of lisp in his speech.”

Asked by fiscal depute Andrew Harding if he recognised the person in his garden, Mr McLaren said “that man there,” and pointed to Hodgkins sitting in the dock.

Video taken by Mr McLaren of a blue Ford Focus driving away from his home was shown in court

He said the man then got back in the Ford Focus and drove off.

Mr McLaren used his phone to film the vehicle leaving his property.

The clip, which he shared as part of a social media appeal later that day, was shown in court.

Visited the house weeks earlier

Under cross-examination by defence solicitor David Holmes, Mr McLaren said he recognised Hodgkins because he had seen him at his property some “four to six weeks earlier”.

He said: “I can guarantee it was the same person.”

Harvey was allegedly stolen from a kennel outside his owner’s home.

His father Ian, 57, told the court he later phoned Hodgkins’ brother-in-law, after “word got out” that Hodgkins was allegedly responsible.

“He (the brother-in-law) said it wasn’t him,” said Mr McLaren snr.

He also said that it was “impossible” for the dog’s kennel to open from the inside.

Confused witness

The trial got off to a chaotic start when the Crown called its first witness, Hugh Mullen.

He appeared in the witness stand and asked: “What the f*** am I doing in this court room?”

Questioned by prosecutor Mr Harding, Mr Mullen said he had never owned a blue Ford Focus and he did not speak to police in October 2020.

“I think that would have been impossible,” he said.

“I’ve been in the prison for 12 years.”

Mr Mullen initially declined to state his age.

Mr Harding said: “I understand you are in your 50s.”

“Do I look like I’m in my 50s?” replied Mr Mullen. “I’m 39.”

After several minutes of confusion, Mr Mullen was led back into custody.

Mr Harding later explained to Sheriff Francis Gill that Mr Mullen had been called as a witness “in error”.

The trial continues on June 13.

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