A dog was found dead covered in a prayer mat after her owner received a ransom call for her safe return.
Pebbles disappeared from a street in Burslem, Staffordshire on April 17.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s worry-ridden owners then received a call demanding £500 for her safe returned, Stoke Sentinel reported.
On April 23, six days after the dog went missing, her body was found by children playing at the back of Stoke-on-Trent College’s Burslem campus.
Now Dawn Johnson and the team at Lost Dog Capture are trying to find out what happened to Pebbles in the lead up to her untimely death.
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The 52-year-old said: “On Friday I got a call from a friend of mine whose teenage daughter and her friends were cutting through a field at the back of the Burslem campus and saw a Moses basket at around 5.15pm.
“When they looked in the basket they found Pebbles dead in there.
“She was on top of a child’s blanket with a little knitted teddy bear and a prayer mat put over the top of her.
“I went straight over. I felt sick and heartbroken. When I got there I contacted her owner and took her home to them.
“When I first rang her she burst out crying and one of the young girls did as well.”
Pebbles’ owners say they received a call from a man with an Irish accent demanding payment for the dog prior to her death after an appeal for her was posted on Dog Lost – a site where you can register their pets as missing with contact details.
Dawn continued: “He told them he was an Irish traveller and he was calling people and demanding money. He told them if they don’t pay he will kill their dog and decapitate it.
“He rang Pebbles’ owner and asked for £500.
“We don’t think these people actually have the dogs all the time. They are just going on Dog Lost and ringing the owners to try to get cash.
“It’s horrible. They are preying on vulnerable owners.
“Unfortunately there has been a woman over in Stockport who has paid more than £1,500 and then only last week another woman paid £500.”
Dawn added: “We’re heartbroken for Pebbles’ family. It’s such a shame. They have had this dog for over 11 years and she has gone missing and then found dead.
“I didn’t see any injuries on her at all. I did lift her head up a little bit and a tiny bit of blood came out of her mouth but I think that’s part of the dying process. I don’t think she’d been dead for long as she was still quite stiff.
“I put a post of her up after she was found and a man says he thinks he saw her on Tuesday (April 20) morning with a young couple so I need to go down to the local shops and see if I could look at the CCTV.
“If anyone in that area has got CCTV we’d really like to view it.”
Staffordshire Police have also been alerted to Pebbles’ death.
A spokesman said: “We were informed at about 10.50am on Saturday (April 24) that a dog had been found dead in a Moses basket near to the Stoke-on-Trent College campus off Moorland Road, Burslem.
“The basket was found on a field near to the college campus.
“A dog – a red Staffordshire bull terrier – was found inside wrapped in a blanket. It was found to be a dog reported missing from Dartmouth Street since April 17.
“The RSPCA was informed, as was the dog’s owner.”