A FAMILY today said they are horrified after being told their pet rabbit was stolen and tortured before being killed.
Rebecca Atkinson initially made an online appeal to track down white lionhead rabbit Percy, after daughter Jessica Lennox discovered the pet’s hutch had been broken into during the night.
However, among the messages of support which flooded in was one from a woman who said Percy, who had given birth to a litter-of-five just days earlier, had been snatched by men and videoed with them in a bath.
The footage, posted on video-sharing site Instagram, but now taken down, is said to show them threatening to cut the animal’s fur with scissors and trying to shave her coat with a razor.
It is also claimed Percy was set alight and thrown out of a window, before being killed.
The family believe the creature was stolen by people on their way back from a rave held in woods near to their Dawdon home and taken to a house party, where the horrific attack is said to have been carried out.
Durham Police and the RSPCA are investigating the claims.
Four people were initially arrested on suspicion of theft and criminal damage – two men aged 19 and 20 – and two boys aged 16, 17, all from Seaham.
Three have been released on bail until the end of next month pending further inquiries. The 16-year-old was still in custody last night.
A fifth person was arrested by officers this morning.
The 21-year-old from Seaham was taken into custody last night on suspicion of theft and criminal damage and released on bail pending further inquiries.
Meanwhile, Jessica, 14, and brothers Aaron Lennox, 10, and Brynn Atkinson, four, are keeping the 13-day-old litter Shadow, Misty, Flash, Nibbles and Floppsy, alive by feeding them four times a day with kitten milk at their home in Embleton Mews.
They had been caring for Percy, who they originally thought was a boy, and the litter’s father Ken, for a month after adopting them from friends, with the delivery of Percy’s babies a surprise.
Rebecca, 31, who is cared for by her husband Anthony, also 31, as she suffers from chronic stomach pain and depression, said: “We’re absolutely devastated.
“It’s just beyond belief and we’re more upset for the kids, because they were so attached to them.
“People just can’t believe what’s happened, saying they’re pathetic excuses of human beings, things like that, and say they can’t believe people who live half an hour away from here can do this.
“I just want justice.
“It feels like we’ve lost a member of the family.”
The RSPCA have been notified over the death of Percy.
A spokeswoman for the charity said: “This sounds like a very disturbing incident which is being investigated by police.
“An RSPCA inspector has been in contact with the investigating police officer and we are happy to offer any assistance needed.”
A spokesman for Durham Police said: “Police are investigating the theft and subsequent death of a white lionhead rabbit.
“The rabbit is believed to have been stolen from its hutch in the Dawdon area of Seaham, sometime between Friday evening and Saturday morning.
“Four men have been arrested in connection with this.”
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 and quote reference number DHM-29062014-0153.