UK

Gang convicted of training and fighting dogs across Europe

One man, known as Dr Death, had a ‘goldmine’ of evidence on their phone documenting their involvement in the brutal treatment of dogs.

Phillip Harris Ali, left, and Stephen Brown pictured at dinner together after a dog fight
Phillip Harris Ali and Stephen Brown Phillip Harris Ali, left, and Stephen Brown pictured at dinner together after a dog fight

A man who had a “goldmine” of evidence on his phone of his involvement in a brutal dog fighting ring was one of four people convicted for training and fighting dogs across Europe.

Phillip Harris Ali, 67, who was known as “Dr Death” in the dog fighting world, came to the attention of the RSPCA after concerns were raised about the welfare of a dog at his home in Chigwell, Essex, in August 2021 – and investigators soon uncovered evidence that he was involved in organising fights.

Officers saw four dogs at the property – a pet inside the house and three dogs being kept in kennels in the garden, one of which had scars and scratches on her face – and found a portable kennel and two dog running machines.

It prompted an investigation by the RSPCA’s Special Operations Unit, a taskforce which investigates serious and organised animal crime.

When Ali’s home was raided on March 14, 2022, two dogs were seized by the Metropolitan Police and placed into RSPCA care, while dog-fighting paraphernalia, including a slat mill, two treadmills, four break sticks and two flirt poles, were recovered.

A DIY vet kit containing items such as skin staplers, an IV kit, bandages, needles, steroids, antibiotics and painkillers were also found, while a seized mobile phone showed Ali had recorded hours of WhatsApp voice notes describing planning for fights.

Deleted videos on the phone showed graphic dog fights and injuries, while the phone also revealed match reports following organised fights, information relating to travel plans for fights, as well as messages planning fights, talking about training regimes, and discussing injuries dogs had suffered.

The investigation led to warrants being executed at other addresses, including that of Billy and Amy Leadley, aged 38 and 39, in Bambers Green, Takeley, Essex, and Stephen Brown, 56, of Burrow Road, Chigwell, and at a third address in Merseyside.

Sixteen dogs were seized from the Leadleys’ address, including bull breeds thought to have been used for fighting, many being kept in poor conditions in a garage, plus two smaller breeds who were removed on welfare grounds from the house.

One dog was seized from the property in Merseyside.

A book on treating dog injuries was found at Brown’s address.
A book on treating dog injuries was found at Brown’s address. A book on treating dog injuries was found at Brown’s address.

A slat mill, vet kit and books about dog fighting were all recovered from Brown’s address, while a flirt pole, two slat mills, weighted collars and other weight training equipment, plus four break sticks, were seized from the Leadleys’ property, which also had a dog fighting pit.

The three men and one woman were all convicted by a jury on Wednesday of a string of offences following a four-week trial at Chelmsford Crown Court, which started on March 4.

Ali, of Manford Way in Chigwell, was found guilty of 10 offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, including four of keeping and/or training a dog for use in a fight, and two of causing a fight.

A picture of a dog fighting pit in France that was on Ali’s phone.
A picture of a dog fighting pit in France that was on Ali’s phone. A picture of a dog fighting pit in France that was on Ali’s phone.

Billy Leadley, who was also known as GSK or Green Street Kennels, entered a guilty plea part-way through the trial to one offence of causing unnecessary suffering to a dog by failing to provide veterinary treatment for an injury.

The jury also found him guilty of a further nine offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, including keeping a premises for use in fighting, taking part in a fight by refereeing, and keeping and/or training a dog for use in a fight.

His wife Amy Leadley was found guilty of three offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, including keeping a premises for use in fighting.

A dog named Dotti was pictured in a crate on Ali’s phone.
A dog named Dotti was pictured in a crate on Ali’s phone. A dog named Dotti was pictured in a crate on Ali’s phone.

Brown was found guilty of five offences, including three of keeping and/or training a dog for use in an fight.

At the end of the trial, Amy Leadley entered a guilty plea to one offence of failing to meet the needs of seven dogs in their house, while Billy Leadley entered guilty pleas to two additional charges, one of failing to meet the needs of nine dogs being kept outside, and owning a prohibited type of dog.

Speaking outside court following the verdicts, RSPCA Special Operations Unit investigator chief inspector Ian Muttitt, who gave evidence during the trial, said: “The mobile phone was a goldmine of information and evidence.

“It contained graphic videos and images of brutal dog fights, match reports following organised fights, information relating to some of the men’s travel plans and accommodation for specific fights, as well as messages between a number of the defendants planning fights, talking about training regimes, and discussing the injuries dogs had suffered.

A garage containing kennels at the Leadleys’ address.
A garage containing kennels at the Leadleys’ address. A garage containing kennels at the Leadleys’ address.

“The information on the phone linked most of the defendants together and we could see that they’d been involved in at least four dog fights; one held in Essex, at the Leadleys’; one in Ireland; and one in France, for which they flew into Bordeaux. The other fight was held at an unknown location in England.”

Mr Muttitt said one of the gruesome match reports showed a dog named Bonnie, who was never located, lost a fight within 25 minutes and suffered two possible broken legs in the brawl.

Another fight, which took place between February 25 and 27, 2022 in Ireland, resulted in the death of a dog named Olivia from her injuries.

Mr Muttitt added that another fight involving two dogs named Dotti and Oscar was planned for the weekend of March 25 and 26, 2022, but it did not go ahead as the dogs were seized by police beforehand.

In a voice message sent by Ali and recovered from a phone, he said he intended to reschedule the fights if he got the dogs back from the RSPCA.

Another voice note, sent by Ali to Brown, said both Oscar and Dotti had been matched for fights later in the year, with prize pots of £3,000 and £5,000 respectively.

Amy and Billy Leadley, Ali and Brown will face Chelmsford Crown Court on June 3 for sentencing.