A HUSBAND spurned by his wife of 30 years put her beloved pet cat in a tumble drier in an act of revenge, a court has heard.
Martyn Birchall, 55, of no fixed abode, denied a charge of animal cruelty during his trial at Preston Magistrates’ Court but was found guilty.
The bench heard his estranged wife Amanda, 52, noticed her pet Rosie wasn’t sitting in her usual spot on her bed when she arrived home from work on May 11, and frantically searched their Chorley home for her.
When she asked her husband if he had seen her he remarked: “She’s probably in the tumble drier.”
Speaking from her home on Botany Brow, Chorley, she told the Evening Post how Birchall, a former postman, changed after starting to take tranquillisers to deal with pressure at work.
She said: “Martin and I had been married for 30 years and have three lovely girls. The Martin I married was a good man - he would never have been cruel to an animal. We met when we were 17.
“We had had puppies and kittens before and he never did anything like this. He needs help.
“Rosie is one year old. She’s beautiful, a calico. I got her off Gumtree.
“She really took a shine to me, following me around.
“When it happened it was horrible. I managed to bring her round and save her by giving her water but it took me around 20 minutes.
“He says he doesn’t remember anything about it.”
She added: “She was right at the back of the machine.
“I took her straight out. She didn’t look good. Her eyes were everywhere and her tongue was sticking out. She was disorientated and panting like a dog.
“She was quite lethargic.”
Amanda had to give evidence at her husband’s trial.
Prosecuting, Andrea Fawcett said: “ It is agreed between both sides that the animal in question was put in a situation whereby she suffered.
“ The issue in this case is how Rosie got in the tumble drier. The Crown say Mr Birchall was responsible for Rosie’s predicament.
“Mr Birchall denies that and in interview puts forward various other scenarios, saying she climbed in herself, or the daughter or ex wife was responsible.
“Mrs Birchall who is extremely fond of the cat, realises it’s not with her, starts looking for it, goes downstairs, asks Mr Birchall has he seen the cat, and his response is: “She is probably in the tumble drier”. That’s exactly where Mrs Birchall found her.
“Despite Mr Birchall’s denials he’s the one person that had the opportunity to put the cat there, he had the motive in that he knows full well that cat means a lot to his partner, whom he doesn’t get on with.
“The cat was found at the back with clothes in front of it. It hasn’t got in, put clothes in front of itself, shut the door and switched it on on its own”
The court heard at the time the family lived in the same house but the couple were effectively living separate lives.
The couple’s daughter rang the police and Birchall, who now lives in a homeless shelter, was arrested.
Bizarrely, three months before the incident, Birchall had posted a link to an animal cruelty petition on his Facebook page and declared: “ I hate cruelty to animals and any owners who treat them like this should be locked up and no excuses.”
He was given a restraining order banning contact with his estranged wife and daughter, and must pay a £270 fine, a £27 surcharge and £300 costs.
Today the Cats Protection charity, which rescues and rehomes stray and abandoned cats and kittens, reacted to the case.
In 2015, its Preston Branch helped around 2,900 cats,and rehomed 199 cats.
A Cats Protection spokesman said: “As the UK’s leading feline welfare charity, Cats Protection is completely dedicated to cats and their welfare so it is very distressing to imagine the suffering Rosie must have gone through. We would strongly urge anyone who witnesses an act of animal cruelty to contact the police or the RSPCA.
“It is vital that we all do what we can to ensure that acts of this nature do not go unpunished.”