A horse trader found guilty of the "worst case" of animal cruelty seen by the RSPCA, has absconded as he was awaiting his appeal against sentence.
James Gray, 46, neglected more than 100 animals on his farm in Amersham, Bucks, with many found ankle-deep in faeces.
Gray attended Aylesbury Crown Court to appeal against his 26-week prison sentence having lost an appeal against his convictions last week.
But when the court resumed, Gray had gone. An arrest warrant was issued.
Commenting on the state of the animals found in the care of Gray, Rob Skinner, chief RSPCA inspector for Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, said: "It was the worst case of neglect I have ever seen."
It is thought Gray walked past security guards and into the town centre, despite being told by Judge Christopher Tyrer not to leave the court building for the hour-long break.
Michael Fullerton, representing Gray, was asked by the judge where his client was, and replied: "I have no idea. I haven’t seen him from the time the court rose."
Gray, who was convicted along with his wife and three of his children following the neglect at Spindle Farm was sentenced in his absence to 26 weeks in prison.
Sentencing him to the maximum possible, Judge Tyrer said: "What the court has been listening to is an horrendous case of animal cruelty.
"It is the worst case ever experienced by the RSPCA. In our judgment, this was animal cruelty on a scale that beggars belief.
"In January 2008, the RSPCA were faced with a calamity of huge proportions. One hundred-plus horses had to be removed. Others were so ill that they had to be euthanised.
"Carcasses in various stages of decomposition were found. Some of them were in full view of the farmhouse, where young children lived and had access to the adjacent garden.
"The animals were dead and dying. There was neglect, starvation, emaciation and squalor. The animals that the RSPCA found were hungry and thirsty, dejected, miserable and depressed.
"After removal, nearly all of them recovered and have thrived.
"The business, of which all of you were party, was concerned only with profit. Animal welfare did not figure at all."
Gray and his teenage son, James Gray Jnr, were found guilty of 11 charges each under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 after a trial last year.
Two of the charges were dropped when they launched an appeal following sentencing last June.
James Gray Jnr, 17, was acquitted on two further charges following the appeal, but all other convictions against him, and his relatives, were upheld.
Gray’s wife, Julie, 42, and daughters, Jodie, 27, and Cordelia, 21, had each been found guilty of two animal welfare offences.
All of the Grays were banned from keeping horses, ponies and donkeys following the neglect. Gray was banned for life, with his wife, son and daughters each banned for 10 years.
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