A BELOVED dog, which was stolen just days after her owner died of cancer, has been reunited with her family.
John Schirrmann left boxer dog Phoebe at Whitelands Kennel in Westfield before Christmas as he intended to spend the holiday season with family in Holland.
But his wife fell ill and died on New Year’s Eve, and when Mr Shirrmann went to collect the death certificate on January 4, the kennel’s owner rang him to say the dog had been stolen.
Mr Schirrmann’s stepson, Austyn Hayman, of Welton Rise, St Leonards, said: “This automatically caused my usually very strong stepdad to break down.
“My parents had wanted to spend the New Year in Holland with relatives and decided to book Phoebe into a local kennels.
“When my mum fell due to her illness she was taken into hospital and Phoebe remained at the kennels.
“We are over the moon that Phoebe has been reunited with us and are pleased the police dealt with the case quickly.”
Sean Bennett, 18, of New Moorsite, Westfield, appeared before Hastings magistrates last Friday (January 7) and admitted stealing Phoebe, who is worth £600.
Mark Kateley, prosecuting, said: “Back on January 4 it was discovered at Whitelands Kennel a female boxer dog called Phoebe had gone missing.
“It was left there by a gentleman for a period of time while he made arrangements for his wife. A lead, which had been hung up, was also taken.”
Police suspected Bennett had been involved and found a boxer dog at a Westfield address.
He was arrested and told police he had been walking his own dog in Whitelands Wood when Phoebe ran up to him, wearing a collar and lead, and played with his dog.
He told police he took Phoebe home with him and later gave a ‘lost dog’ flyer to the local newsagents.
Mr Kateley said: “He did not think about taking the dog back to the kennels and said he did not think they would have done anything anyway.
“That was the explanation he gave in interview.”
Bennett pleaded guilty to theft. A charge of burglary was withdrawn.
Magistrates heard Bennett had a criminal history and had several convictions for theft and one for failing to surrender to custody.
He was due to be sentenced for another theft matter at crown court on Monday.
Aiden Harvey, defending, argued that Bennett should be granted bail before he is returned to court to be sentenced for stealing the dog.
Mr Harvey said: “As far as bail is concerned, perhaps you could allow bail with a package of conditions.
“The only time he failed to surrender was more of an error on his part and he handed himself in the next day.”
Bennett was given conditional bail and will reappear at Hastings Magistrates Court today (Friday) for sentencing.