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Grief-stricken horse owners duped in cremation con

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: November 12, 2012

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Knackerman Philip Cooper duped 26 further women into cremations for their beloved horses when he instead sold the animals to be rendered, a court was told.

Last year Cooper, 69, was ordered to pay almost £29,000 in fines and costs after he admitted pretending to five women that he would have their beloved animals cremated, when in fact he sold the remains for rendering.

He charged the victims £550 each but paid only about £40 for the disposal of each horse.

Friday’s trial at Gloucester Crown Court was brought after 26 more victims came forward on the back of publicity of the case in February last year.

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Cooper, of Chilcompton, Somerset, admitted four more charges of fraud by false representation and asked for 22 similar offences to be considered.

Giving Cooper, of John Cooper Livestock Services, an eight-month jail term, suspended for two years and ordering him to pay £1,000 to each victim, as well as £7,925 in fines and costs, Judge Jamie Tabor QC told Cooper: “You have spectacularly fallen from grace. This was a long-term fraud and all your 26 victims were emotionally vulnerable.

“You caused them upset and continue to cause them upset in their lives. You betrayed their trust. It was greed – it was easy money.”

Cooper will also be fitted with an electronic tag and be subjected to an 8pm-6am curfew.

It was as a result of an article in Horse and Hound magazine that three further complaints came in, said Judith Kenney, prosecuting for Gloucestershire Trading Standards.

All of the women had lost horses in 2007 and paid Cooper a total of £14,393 for the cremation and casket service, said Mrs Kenney.

As a result of new investigations, officers checked the records of the Bushy Equine Clinic in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, for whom Cooper carried out the supposed service but were unaware of his scam, and found the new cases.

Judge Tabor said: “The victims are largely ladies who formed very close attachments to their horses – something I am very familiar with.

“They decided to take the very considerable step of having their animals cremated rather than go through the rather more gruesome rendering process.”

Mark Caprell, defending, said the offences began when Cooper realised too late that a client wanted her horse cremated.

By then he had already put the animal in for rendering but he did not want to upset her by telling her the truth, said Mr Caprell.

“I have sympathy with that,” said the judge. “But then he did it another 20 odd times.”

Mr Caprell asked the court to pass a suspended sentence on the grounds of Cooper’s age, the “antiquity” of the offences and the fact he has now retired.

Speaking after last year’s trial, Chris Wright, director of Bushey Equine Clinic, said: “We are devastated that he has done this and especially for our clients who have been so badly let down.”

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