A disgraced police officer and her boyfriend have been jailed for selling sick, dying kittens in a twisted £280,000 scam. 

Former British Transport Police officer Amy Byrne and her partner Harry Angell appeared at Woolwich Crown Court on Friday (May 5) after pleading guilty to charges of fraud and breaches of the Animal Welfare Act. 

The couple bought and bred kittens for sale but when customers received their new pets many found that they were malnourished, ill and covered in their own urine or faeces, the court heard. 

Sales and complaints stretch back as far as 2015 and in court RSPCA prosecutor Hazel Stevens gave six examples where kittens died soon after being purchased. 

The couples used at least 33 different fake names in their adverts, including claiming to be from Cat Cuddles Rehoming which is a genuine charity. On another occasion they used the ID of someone who had purchased a cat off them to advertise other kittens. 

Byrne, 30, lied to buyers that she was a vet and that the kittens had been wormed and microchipped but health certificates provided turned out to be fake, the court heard. 

Borehamwood Times: Another kitten bought from the couple that sadly passed awayAnother kitten bought from the couple that sadly passed away (Image: RSPCA)

One victim told the court that she arranged to buy a male kitten off Byrne and Angell as a surprise for her autistic son who had recently lost his cat. 

Her son made a thank you card for Bryne which she accepted as she dropped off the kitten. 

After Byrne left the mum realised the kitten was female, emaciated and had diarrhoea stuck in her fur. The kitten died a short time later. 

Ms Stevens told the court: “There were human and animal victims in this. Humans were risk of getting these illnesses from the cat. Children who were excited about a new member of the family including one child who made a card to thank Amy Byrne, only to see them die days later. 

Borehamwood Times: Another kitten which sadly died after Byrne and Angell sold itAnother kitten which sadly died after Byrne and Angell sold it (Image: RSPCA)

Another victim of their scam said: “Having recently lost a cat to the road, we were so looking forward to giving a home to a new kitten. We instantly fell in love with Elsa who was so sleepy and cuddly when we got her. For the two precious weeks we had her in our lives, she became part of our family. 

“We were just devastated to watch her slowly go downhill, monitoring her eating so little, trying to rid her of the worms she arrived with and taking her to the vet for numerous checks/tests. She spent her last two days in the animal hospital with them trying everything to make her better but she gave up the fight and we began our grieving for little Elsa.” 

When owners got back in contact with Byrne and Angell after the sale they were often ignored, Ms Stevens said. 

The court heard that on one occasion a distraught buyer and her boyfriend turned up at their house to ask for their money back. Byrne told them to wait outside until Angell arrived on the scene and shouted: “You bought the kitten from me not Amy, but I am not giving you a f***ing penny.” 

As a result of the volume of complaints that Trading Standards, the RSPCA and the police were receiving, a search was carried out at Byrne and Angell’s home on Downbank Avenue in Barnehurst on August 26, 2021. 

A total of 17 kittens were found on the premises on the day of the search and a vet judged that six of them were suffering. 

Those six cats were confiscated and one died a short time later, Ms Stevens said. 

During the search Byrne and Angell tried to dispose of their mobile phones. Angell jumped out of the window and threw his phone in the front garden and while police were chasing him Byrne carried out a factory reset of hers, the court heard. 

Borehamwood Times: The kittens were kept in a hutch in the couple's gardenThe kittens were kept in a hutch in the couple's garden (Image: RSPCA)

Angell’s phone was recovered and revealed hundreds of images of kittens, enquiries about adverts and complaints from people reporting that their kittens were sick. 

Messages also revealed that the couple found adverts for cheap kittens online, give the cats flea treatments and then sell them on. On one occasion he bragged about how he bought two kittens for £75 then sold them on for £600 each the next week, Ms Stevens said. 

Ms Stevens said analysis carried out by the RSPCA showed that the couple intended to make a gain of £278,870.

During an interview Angell confirmed that the kittens seized had not seen a vet as he does not agree with veterinary practices. 

Byrne admitted they breed cats and sell them but said they were not making a profit. 

Byrne was a British Transport Police (BTP) officer when these crimes were carried out but was the subject of a misconduct investigation which eventually led to her being fired in January 2023.

A BTP misconduct hearing report said a hydroponics tent, two cannabis plants, bag of cannabis, half smoked join and pack of cannabis seeds were found at an address that she shared. 

Byrne and Angell appeared at court for sentencing after they both pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and breaches of the Animal Welfare Act. 

Angell was jailed for three years and four months, while Byrne was jailed for three years and eight months. 

The couple were also disqualified from owning pets.