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Article taken from The Evening Telegraph dated 25th November 1968

Pets Tortured to Death at School

The Headmaster, Mr Pringle, looks at the empty cage where the guinea pig Gussy was tortured before being drowned.
The Headmaster, Mr Pringle, looks at the empty cage where
the guinea pig Gussy was tortured before being drowned.

Burton children in tears after horror raid by sadistic vandals

Children were in tears at St. Mary's School, Burton Latimer this morning, when they were told the school pets had been tortured and killed following a break-in over the weekend. The school was broken into and cash stolen, but before the sadistic culprits left they:-

COVERED a pet guinea pig called Gussy with cleaning powder and drowned him;

TORTURED two hamsters with the same treatment before drowning one and taking the other;

KILLED a number of goldfish and tropical fish by putting washing up fluid in their tanks, and

RANSACKED the headmaster's study and stole money collected by the children for Oxfam.

On a desk the thieves left  a note with the cruel message: "THANK YOU", in a young person's handwriting. It is now with the police who have already taken fingerprints at the Church of England School.

The headmaster, Mr. W. K. Pringle, said: ''The children were shocked and horrified about the pets. It was so sadistic, these animals must have suffered excruitiating agony." The school's 70 pupils, aged between 5-11, were told what had happened by a policeman when they arrived for school.

A spokesman for Kettering police said: "This was despicable behaviour from what appears to have been young people." He appealed for anyone who saw anyone suspicious near the school last night - when it is thought the break-in happened - to get in touch with the police immediately.

Very Cruel

This small terrapin was the only survivor.
This small terrapin was the only survivor.
One of the pupils, a small fair-haired boy, said: ''It was very cruel to our pets, I think it is horrible."

The school was entered when a small window was broken and the latch lifted. Once into the school corridor, the thieves took savings stamps worth over £4 and the Oxfam money, about 14s, before going into the television room where the pets were kept.

Caretaker Mrs. A. W. Taylor, of 14 Eady Road, Burton Latimer, discovered the damage. She found the white guinea pig drowned in the fish tank with one of the hamsters. The other is missing. All the fish were dead, killed by the detergent. Cleaning powder was scattered in the pets' cages.

Two pets escaped. A tiny terrapin in a small basin was found alive, and Joey, the budgerigar, was at the home of one of the pupils over the weekend.

Mr. Pringle said the pets were great favourites of the children, who took them home often, particularly over holiday periods.

The Rev. D. Hole, Rector of Burton Latimer, said: "It is absolutely despicable for anyone to have done this. If anything makes my blood boil it is cruelty to animals. I hope the culprits are caught and properly punished.”

Personal Reminiscence

Louise Loasby (nee Ellson) was a pupil at the school at the time, and has e-mailed in the following memory:

On walking into school one morning we were met by confusion and fear.  I was only about five at the time but the memory is still vivid.  There were muddy footprints placed on the wall in the foyer. Our imaginations ran wild as we pictured some stranger scaling the wall like Spiderman.

The reality was someone had thought it amusing to set this scene of confusion, by taking off their shoe and creating the illusion.

Worse was to come when we realised that our beloved fluffy white guinea pig with bright pink eyes had been cruelly drowned in the goldfish tank. The collection money had also been stolen.  Like the Station Road murder, I never really found out the results of the investigation (being five at the time).  There were rumours that it was someone local - or even a pupil - not sure how true they were.

Editor's Note: There is a happy ending to this story. Please click here to read all about it.

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