Martin Bell and Frank Hudson walked free from court yesterday after magistrates considered jailing them for the “horrendous events” they put white lion-head rabbit Percy through after being stolen from its hutch by another youth.

Peterlee Magistrates’ Court heard how the pair, along with a man who has since turned 18, were already naked in a bath at a house party in Eloise Close, Seaham, when a 17-year-old, who had taken the rabbit from Embleton Mews in Dawdon, threw the animal in with them.

During the ordeal, Percy, who had given birth to five babies days earlier, which have all since died, was washed and attempts made to shave her fur.

Bell, 20, of Parkside Crescent, Seaham, then threw it from a window.

The attack was captured on a mobile phone and later posted online.

The bench was told the rabbit, which belonged to the Atkinson family, suffered a ruptured liver, broken ribs and abdominal injuries, with the most damage caused by its dislocated head.

Magistrates were warned of the graphic nature of photos they were handed as evidence.

One of the youths had wrung its neck after they found Percy on the ground, hurt and unable to stand. It was then put into a bin liner and dumped.

Inquiries begun after the Atkinsons, Anthony and Rebecca, both 31, and children Jessica Lennox, 14, Aarron Lennox, 10, and Brynn Atkinson, four, discovered Percy gone from her hutch on the morning of June 28, and appealed for help via Facebook.

Among the messages sent to the family was a screen shot taken from the Instagram video showing the three in the bath.

The 18-year-old, who cannot be named, also sent the family a message saying: “I’m in that photo, it got brought in the house, someone hoyed it out of the window. I’m just telling you the craic.”

In statements, Mr Atkinson told the court they heard their pet had been “tormented” and it had a lasting effect on his family.

His wife and children were in tears for days afterwards and Rebecca lost two stone, now suffers panic attacks and is on anti-depressants.


All were fearful they would see the defendants in the street, keeping clear of Seaham Carnival in case their paths crossed.

Both Bell and Hudson, 19, of Evesham Road, Eastlea, Seaham, and the 17 and 18-year-olds admitted causing unnecessary suffering to an animal. The two youths are due to be sentenced at a youth court in Newton Aycliffe on Monday.

Comments from friends of the serial killers [birds of a feather]:
Mike Simpson, mitigating on behalf of Bell and Hudson, said what had happened was “bizarre” and also said: “Since this incident occurred, the defendants have faced retribution from the community, threats of violence and, in one case, violence towards them, and you would probably expect that, and they don’t make a complaint about it.

Both were sentenced to 18-month community orders with supervision, ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and pay £85 in costs and £50 in compensation.

Bell was also told to carry out alcohol-related modules during his order.

Chairman of the bench William Brown said what had happened was “quite horrendous events” and said the compensation was a “small token” to the family.

He added: “It’s only a rabbit, but it was somebody’s pet and it meant a lot to them.

“From social media, people are horrified by what you did.”