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Men took 'sadistic enjoyment' in arson attacks to watch piglets burned alive

PUBLISHED: 16:25 26 April 2019 | UPDATED: 13:27 01 May 2019

Norwich Crown Court. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Norwich Crown Court. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

Two men took sadistic pleasure in setting fire to farm shelters to watch sows and their piglets burned alive, a court heard.

Marcus Derbyshire, 25, and Steen Lawrence, 21, were behind eight arson attacks on farms in the Northwold area over a three-week period in 2017.

Their actions caused more than £10,000 worth of damage and left dozens of pigs either burned alive or so badly injured they had to be put down, Norwich Crown Court heard on Friday.

Richard Kelly, prosecuting, said they carried out the arson attacks at weekends and on one occasion killed 25 piglets in a blaze and on another killed 10 piglets and a lactating sow in a fire. They also set two geese alight in a field at Ickburgh.

After the attacks, Mr Kelly said farms in the area employed extra security, along with increased police patrols, and Derbyshire and Lawrence were caught red-handed after setting fire to a shelter in a field, off Brandon Road, on June 24, 2017, in which seven piglets were burned alive and three others had to be put down.

A third defendant, Joseph Abbott, 23, was also with the pair that night.

Mr Kelly said they appeared to take “sadistic enjoyment” in what went on and said the offences had a significant impact on the farms and workers involved, who had to deal with the aftermath. He said the public would be rightly “horrified and outraged” by the offences.

Mr Kelly said when they were arrested, footage was found on a phone showing an attack on chickens, involving a dog.

Derbyshire, of Yew Tree Drive, Brandon, was jailed for three years and Steen Lawrence, 22, formerly of Newmarket, was given an eight-year extended sentence after both admitted conspiracy to commit arson in June 2017.

Lawrence, who unlike the other two defendants has a number of previous convictions, will serve four years custody and have four years on extended licence.

Abbott, of Watson Close, Corby, admitted one count of arson on June 24, 2017, and was jailed for 15 months.

Judge Stephen Holt said the facts of the case were “horrendous”.

He said farmers and those involved in the care of livestock cared deeply about the welfare of their animals.

He said he was imposing an extended sentence on Lawrence as he felt he posed a danger to the public.

David Stewart, for Lawrence, who had worked at a Newmarket stable, said he felt sickened by what he had done.

William Carter, for Abbott, said he was being sentenced for just the single episode, which was now two years ago and he was full of remorse.

Charles Kellett, for Derbyshire, said he was a hardworking young man and could not give an explanation as to why he got involved in the events.

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