'Dr Death' and Essex gang who held brutal dog fights jailed

A man known as Dr Death is among a group jailed for arranging bloodthirsty dog fights in which the animals suffered terrible injuries.

The dogs were put on treadmills and starved to get down to fighting weight, and sometimes died during the bouts.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard others were badly hurt, suffering broken legs for example, and were kept in dirty conditions without clean water or proper bedding.

They were denied access to a vet and were treated with makeshift medical kits.

The gang showed "a shocking level of barbarism and callousness" and treated the dogs as "playing pieces" and a "commodity", said judge Jamie Sawyer.

He said a report about one 58-minute fight, in which one of the animals suffered two broken legs, was "horrific".

The court heard the fights took place in England, Ireland and France.

A phone belonging to ringleader to Phillip Harris Ali, 67, from Chigwell in Essex, known as Dr Death, provided much of the evidence.

It contained video and photos of the dogs, as well as gruesome fight reports, and were sent via an encrypted messaging app.

Ali's accomplice, Stephen Albert Brown, 57, also from Chigwell, was the person who obtained illegal veterinary medicine and equipment.

He also helped train the dogs and arrange the fights.

Personal trainer Billy Leadley, 38, had a dog fighting pit in his home in Bambers Green, Takeley, Essex, and was referee for some of the bouts.

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Ali was sentenced to five years in jail for 10 offences under the Animal Welfare Act, Brown got two-and-a-half years for five offences, and Leadley got four years for 12 offences.

Leadley's wife Amy was not directly involved in the ring, but was sentenced for offences linked to keeping a premises for dog fighting and not caring for the animals properly.

She received a community order, 200 hours of unpaid work and 25 days' rehabilitation.

All of those convicted were banned from keeping dogs for 10 years.