Source: What is that over there?
Martin McGuinness 1950 – 2017
News broke shortly after 7am today that Martin McGuinness, former IRA leader turned peacemaker, had passed away.
The 66-year-old Irish republican died after a short illness in Derry’s Altnagelvin hospital surrounded by his family. He had a rare genetic disease caused by deposits of abnormal protein – amyloid – in tissues and organs.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Martin McGuinness in 2013, weeks after he announced his decision to step down from his role as MP for Mid-Ulster.
At the time I was working for a local newspaper with a circulation of around seven – maybe even eight – thousand. It really served him very little to speak with me, however he made the time because he said he owed a lot to the people of South Derry and East Tyrone who he emphasised made it possible for him to become Deputy First Minister.
He invited me up to his office in Stormont and even though I had a strict 20 minute time slot, he continually pushed it back and made sure all my questions were answered.
He talked at length about his career, the peace process, Ian Paisley and the Queen, and at that time his hope of maintaining the powersharing government with Peter Robinson.
Unsurprisingly he said being central to the peace process negotiations was the highlight of his political life. And he acknowledged the huge significance his role played in making peace possible in the province.
“I was able to engage and work on vital negotiations that I believe have changed for the better the history of the north of Ireland and the island of Ireland forever and for good.”
Here is the interview in full (published in the Mid Ulster Mail on February 5, 2013).
By Patricia Devlin
IT is unlikely there will ever be another MP who will enjoy a political career as colourful as that of Martin McGuinness’.
Elected in Mid-Ulster three years after the IRA ceasefire, and a year before the Good Friday Agreement, he has been at the helm of the Northern Ireland peace process for over 15 years.
He has negotiated with British Prime Ministers, gone into government with his most bitter enemy, and shook the hand of the Royal Monarch once considered a prime target for the paramilitary organisation he was Chief of Staff for.
On January 2nd this year, he signed off a letter to Chancellor George Osborne that signalled the end of an era for Mid-Ulster, and his career as MP.
“One of the most interesting elections I have ever fought was the very first election that I stood in, in Mid-Ulster. I have never forgotten it, and I never will,” he told the Mail.
“I remember travelling around every town land and trying to get to every single door, up very long lanes and canvassing to very late at night.
“Quite a percentage thought that the seat wasn’t winnable because it had been tried before, and because there had been narrow losses in the past, in other occasions there were very substantial losses because of the divided vote.
“And I had a real engagement with the people of the constituency, I told them, that I believe there was a change in political situation, that the IRA ceasefire in 1994 had changed the ball game completely, that I also believed there would be a change of government in London, that there would be a new government led by Tony Blair and Mo Mowlam.
“That in my view because we had done work with the Labour party that would represent a real opportunity to get a peace agreement and to the forefront of my mind was to be very, very conscious that all of the people of Mid-Ulster, no matter what their political persuasion or religious beliefs, had suffered from the conflict.
“And I was making a pledge to them that I was determined to bring that conflict to an end and so the people came out in huge numbers and I, against all the odds, won the seat by 1800 votes,” he said.
To Mid-Ulster and beyond
Taking the seat from the DUP’s Willie McCrea was seen as a huge victory for nationalists and republicans in the constituency, so much so that Mr McGuinness’’ election as seen as a catalyst for Sinn Fein sowing it’s roots across the province.
“It was clear to me from speaking to the people of Mid-Ulster that they were very tuned in.
“They were very political and they were very willing to seize the opportunity to make their contribution to the peace process, albeit it being a peace process in it’s very early stages.
“And I think that had a very dramatic impact on the peace process, it certainly had a dramatic impact on constituencies like West Tyrone where Pat Dorrity later emerged as MP, Fermanagh and South Tyrone where Michelle Gildernew emerged as the MP and Newry and Armagh where Conor Murphy emerged as the MP.
“I give credit to the people of Mid-Ulster for having accomplished that and by voting for me, then made it possible for people in other constituencies to recognise that voting for Sinn Fein could bring change, not just in terms of recognising the constituency but in terms of bringing peace which I believed at that time was a passionate objective of mine, but I also believed that it was passionate desire of the people of Mid-Ulster.”
The Deputy First Minister says he is in no doubt at what the highlight of his time in Mid-Ulster has been.
“It has to be the success of the peace process,” he said.
“The peace process is considered as the most successful peace process in the world today and because I was elected by the people of Mid-Ulster as the MP, in 1997, within a month of that I led a Sinn Fein delegation to South Africa with other parties, Peter Robinson led the DUP delegation, David Trimble led the Ulster Unionists and Mark Durkan led the SDLP, where we met with Nelson Mandela and learned many important lessons about peace negotiations.
“I was then obviously entrusted by the party to be the chief negotiator in the Good Friday negotiations and obviously it was because the people of Mid-Ulster put me in such a prominent political position that I was able to engage and work on vital negotiations that I believe have changed for the better the history of the north of Ireland and the island of Ireland forever and for good.”
The challenges? The building of those personal, political relationships that have dominated the headlines since the powersharing agreement in 2007.
“Of course the first meeting between Ian Paisley was historically of huge importance, whenever it was certain that he and I were going to be First and Deputy First Minister.
“He said a very significant thing, which gave me an insight into Ian Paisley, he said ‘you know Martin, we can rule ourselves, we don’t need these people coming over from England, telling us what to do,’ and I immediately said to myself, ‘well that’s common ground that you and I can stand on’.
“So for a year I had a very good working relationship with Ian Paisley, albeit he was coming to the end of his time as leader of the DUP and First Minister, and of course people then described us as the ‘Chuckle Brothers’, christened that by a member of the Ulster Unionist party who thought it would demean us, in fact people liked it.”
One of the most defining moments of those personal relationships happened in June 2012, just weeks after Martin McGuinness outlined his intention to step down from his MP role.
He says even at the height of his powersharing role with Ian Paisley, shaking the hand of Queen Elizabeth never entered his mind.
“Back in those days I never contemplated even taking a decision on shaking Queen Elizabeth’s hand, but when I did that, I took a very conscious decision to do it as an act of friendship to those who had an allegiance to her In the north of Ireland.
“I think that recognising that things are constantly changing and showing unionists what a United Ireland, or a reunified Ireland would look like I think it is important that we continue to make gestures that make people feel comfortable that moving forward in a shared way, particularly trying to develop an all island economy, is making economic sense for us both north and south.”
Although standing down from Mid-Ulster as an MP, the Deputy First Minister says he will not be standing down from the constituency.
“Some people had that false impression,” he says. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
“I will be as proud and honoured to continue on as a humble MLA for Mid-Ulster and as Deputy First Minister because I am very committed to the constituency and very committed to the people of South Derry and East Tyrone who have supported me through thick and thin over the course of the last 15 years.
“I have a great affinity with the people of South Derry and East Tyrone and I am very conscious that I would not be Deputy First Minister or even as many people describe it, joint First Minister, on the basis of equality with Peter Robinson, had it not been for the support I received from Mid-Ulster.”
SHE’S Sinn Fein’s new leader in the north.
But outside of Michelle O’Neill’s Stormont roles, little is known about the young Tyrone woman who has stepped into the shoes of republican leader Martin McGuinness.
Born in 1977 to Kathleen and Brendan Doris, Michelle was brought up in the staunchly republican village of Clonoe in East Tyrone.
A former pupil of St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon, she first became involved in republican activism in her teens.
It was her father Brendan, a former IRA prisoner who spent time in Crumlin Road and Long Kesh jails, who introduced his daughter to politics.
His election to Dungannon Council in 1989 saw Michelle take a behind-the-scenes role helping her father with local constituency work
It was in 1998, following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, that the future health minister began working full-time for Sinn Fein.
Initially she took on the role of political advisor to MP and Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy.
But before long was also taking on her own constituency work surrounding social and welfare issues, setting herself out in the party as an intelligent go-getter who could succeed on her own.
In 2005 she won her father’s seat on Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council after his decision to step down after 16 years.
The former civil rights activist was said to have been extremely proud of his daughter, by then a married mother-of-two, following in his footsteps.
He also told how she reminded him of his own mother Kathleen, a fierce civil rights champion who had travelled the length and breadth of Ireland to protest and attend squats to highlight housing need.
Brendan – known as Basil to friends – passed away in 2006, a year before Michelle was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
In 2010, still juggling her MLA and council positions, she made history by becoming Dungannon’s first ever female Mayor.
Hailed by her Sinn Fein colleagues as a leading political light to both women and the youth, she was fast being seen as the ‘new’ face of a party often bogged down by some of its members IRA past.
In 2011 the mother-of-two’s rise continued and she was handed the reins of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) from party colleague Michelle Gildernew.
This would be her most challenging position yet, involving the management of a diverse and vast ranging portfolio which stretched from fisheries, to forestry to food, and beyond.
It also saw her become the first Executive minister ever to be tasked with decentralising hundreds of civil service jobs outside of Belfast.
The following year she announced that DARD would move to the former Shackleton Britsh Army barracks in Ballykelly, Co Derry.
After the announcement, it came to light that Strabane had actually been chosen as a more suitable location by an internal DARD assessment, a decision that O’Neill then overruled.
In February 2013, it was also revealed that the decision had been questioned by then Finance Minister Sammy Wilson.
Her ability to manage such a demanding portfolio of work under pressure undoubtedly put her in the frame for the top health spot in Stormont’s new power-sharing Executive last year.
Before even stepping into that role in May 2016 she was well aware of the urgent matters that lay ahead in one of the Executive’s toughest roles.
That included mounting hospital waiting lists, funding shortfalls and reform.
Her likeability would be a welcome asset to Sinn Fein in what is set to be one of the province’s toughest ever elections.
Like Martin McGuinness, who cited family as being one of the pull factors in his decision to step down from front-line politics, she has not not allowed her demanding political life take away from her family one.
She has commuted daily from rural Tyrone throughout her time in Stormont.
And as DARD minister she also chose to base herself at least one day a week out of offices at Cookstown’s Loughry College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, close to her Coalisland home.
That was no doubt a decision taken so she could be close to her children, son Ryan and daughter Saoirse.
It’s been a week now since I contacted Gardai to ask for a response to allegations that the only sketch of a suspect in the brutal, unsolved murder of RTE set designer Charles Self has ‘went missing’ from detective files.
I was told by the press office that my query had been passed to the investigating officers and I would receive a response in ‘due course’.
I don’t know exactly what time frame ‘due course’ is in the books of An Garda Siochana, but given that it is coming up to the 35th anniversary of Charles’ horrific killing (which no one has even been arrested for) and the continued distress those close to him still feel at not only his loss but also the subsequent failure to find his killer, you’d think the gards would be keen to address such a serious claim quickly.
Hopefully this week I’ll be able to update both Charles’ friend Bill, who was shown the drawing in 1982, and others, with an official Gardai response to this serious allegation. In the meantime the story from last week’s Irish Daily Star is in full below.
By Patricia Devlin
THE only sketch of a suspect in the brutal murder of RTE man Charles Self has gone missing from garda files, it’s been claimed.
Bill Maher, a friend of the English-born set designer, says detectives have told him the drawing, given to gardai by a man present in the house the night he was killed, can’t be located.
Mr Maher, 60, said he was only told the news after repeated requests to see the artist’s sketch again over 30 years after the January 1982 killing.
“Gardai said they don’t have it, it can’t be located,” Mr Maher said last night. “They say there’s nothing recorded about it any statements given at the time. But I was shown it, as were a number of other people.
“It was drawn by Charles’ friend who was proud of how well he recalled the man’s face.”
The sketch was made by RTE man’s colleague Berty Tyrer, who’d stayed in Mr Self’s Monkstown home on the night he was killed.
He later told gardai how he’d returned and retired to bed at the Annesley Mews address before the 33 year-old returned from a night out.
During the early hours of the morning Berty said he was disturbed by a man who came into the bedroom where he was sleeping and said: “Sorry, wrong room,” and closed the door.
The next morning Mr Tyrer, who passed away in 1995, found Charles’ body lying in a pool of blood partly slumped against the front door.
He had been stabbed fourteen times and there were three slash wounds to his throat. A ligature had also been tied around his neck.
No-one has ever been convicted of Mr Self’s murder.
Mr Maher, who is the nephew of murdered Catholic priest Father Niall Molloy, says it was in the days following Charles’ death that gardai presented him with the sketch of a man with “curly black hair”.
“I didn’t recognise him and that was the last time I saw the drawing,” he said.
“When the cold case unit was set up some years later I mentioned the drawing to them, but they didn’t really want to talk about it then.
“I was told over a year ago the case had been reverted back to Dun Laoghaire garda station and that they’d be in touch.
“I didn’t hear from them again until around October/November time and I met with two detectives and I asked them again about the sketch.
“I said if they were doing an appeal, why not use the sketch? It’s the obvious thing.
“They rang me later to say that they had no record of the sketch and it’s not mentioned in my statement.
“But I was interviewed within 24 hours of Charles’ murder, it wouldn’t have been shown to me then, they wouldn’t have had it.
“They then said it could be in storage and they’d send someone to look for it.”
Mr Maher, who had met his friend for a drink the day before he was killed, was contacted again by detectives last week, ahead of a special Crimecall appeal set to be broadcast around the 35th anniversary of the murder.
“I asked them what the story was about the sketch, and they said, ‘we don’t have it, and there’s no record in any statements’.
“I told them name of the guy who had been dealing with at the time and to contact him, he would have been present at the time when I was shown it.
“Then I met with them for the Crimecall piece and they said there’s no record of it. It’s very peculiar.
“Either they have it, they don’t have it or they aren’t putting any effort into finding it.
“It’s frustrating and it’s left me quite angry. It shows how appallingly Charles’ case has been handled.”
Gardai have yet to respond to various requests for comments over Mr Maher’s claims.
In 2008 the murder case was given priority by the Garda’s Serious Crime Review Team and Detective Sergeant Alan Bailey, who has since retired, was placed in charge of it.
He reviewed the case files and found that it was widely accepted at the time that Charles had been killed by a rent boy he had picked up in town and who had never been identified.
Mr Self had spent the earlier part of the night of January 20 that year drinking in known gay haunts in Dublin and was in celebratory mood having got a promotion in work.
He left Bartley Dunnes pub on South William Street at around 11.30pm and walked to a takeaway restaurant on Burgh Quay.
Shortly after midnight, he was seen in the vicinity of the public toilets on Burgh Quay by two different witnesses, but when he hailed a taxi on nearby Eden Quay he was in the company of a 25-year-old ‘fair haired’ male dressed in a two-piece suit.
A taxi driver later said the two became ‘amorous’ in the back of his cab before being dropped off at Mr Self’s home. Despite appeals, this man has never been identified.
His description is also very different to that of the man described by Mr Tyrer, who discovered his friend’s body.
By Patricia Devlin
A FANTASIST who made a false police report claiming former Health Minister Jim Wells made homophobic comments at a public event has claimed she is the child of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.
Dorothy ‘Dee’ Gardener made the astonishing allegation on an internet broadcast show where she also sensationally claimed to have no criminal convictions.
In a series of shocking allegations, which Sunday Life has been unable to stand up, Gardener said the Catholic church was aware that Smyth – who abused hundreds of kids over a 40 year period- was her father.
Speaking on the Conscious Consumer Network (CCN) she said: “I was the only product child of Brendan Smyth. There’s more than me, but I was the only proven one.
“They (Catholic church) tried to pay me off, but I told them to stick the money where the sun doesn’t shine.”
The 49 year-old, who escaped jail over the Jim Wells incident in October, appeared via Skype on the web chat-show style programme in late November.
There she told host Angela Power-Disney that her biological mother had been raped by Smyth.
“I was the product of that, of a rape and I ended up where legally he’s (Smyth) the biological father,” she said.
“So without going to much into it, I was shipped over to a convent, the Good Shepherd in Newry and then I went over to Nazareth House and then I was sent over to the Good Shepherd and then I was sent back over to England.
“The Good Shepherd was closed down in the early 90s because it was my story with Brendan Smyth that went out into the public domain, but I was anonymous at the time, because I was just at the age of 13, under the age of 16 I couldn’t be named to the public.”
However Gardner, who was born in 1968, would have been in her mid twenties at this time, and not under the age of 16.
Gardner, who claims to work as a suicide prevention officer, said her allegations were proven via a DNA test which confirmed sicko Smyth, who died in prison in 1997, was her father.
She then said the matter was reported to police, but no action was taken.
She added: “I have his DNA but I don’t have his mind, I don’t have his body, I don’t have anything that belongs to that sick, evil twisted…”
Smyth was at the centre of one of the first clerical child sex abuse scandals to rock the Catholic Church in Ireland.
The Northern Ireland-born priest was eventually convicted of more than 140 offences against children over a 40-year period and spent time in prison on both sides of the Irish border.
Gardner went on to speak about her alleged activist work in Ireland, which included “exposing corruption”
She then said: “I’m well known in the north of Ireland and the police don’t like it when I speak out.
“I’ve had 16 super injunctions taken out against me by politicians and I got a resignation just recently and that’s how I got into this, and let me clarify this, I have never had a criminal conviction in my life. Never in my life.”
What she failed to mention was how in August she was sentenced to three months behind bars after concocting a false report to police about DUP Minister Jim Wells.
She had claimed in a police statement that she had attended a hustings event in Downpatrick where Mr Wells – who was then the Health Minister – had told the audience he believed treatment to HIV patients should be stopped and that children of gay parents would be abused.
She claimed she was with a group of protestors at the event, wearing tops with the inscription “I’m proud to be gay” on the front and “No politician will tell me who to love” on the back.
She said she had heckled Mr Wells, who later resigned from his post, and in response, the DUP’s Nelson McCausland and Gregory Campbell had laughed at her.
Gardner also claimed to police she had video footage supporting her story.
The court heard that Mr McCausland and Mr Campbell were not at the event and that no video footage was produced by Gardner. Nor did CCTV footage demonstrate any such protest group attended.
Gardner also claimed to be suffering from cancer, but the court was told that no evidence had been provided and she had not attended a probation appointment to discuss a pre-sentence report.
The court was also told that Ms Gardner had claimed to be at the home of a lesbian couple in Rathfriland when Jim Wells came to the door canvassing.
Police investigations revealed that this was also not true and that the couple in question had no knowledge of Ms Gardner.
The court heard that Ms Gardner admitted she had wanted to “get Jim Wells”.
The judge said that fabricating statements attacked the very heart of due process.
The judge said the false statement made by Ms Gardner not only wasted police time but could impact on legitimate complaints from the LGBT community.
She later made a public and personal apology to Mr Wells from the dock before a judge reduced the jail on appeal to community service.
Judge Piers Grant told Gardner at the time there was a “fine line” between fantasy and lies, and warned her that if she breached either the probation order or failed to complete the 100 hours, she would be brought back before him and re-sentenced.
Speaking outside court Mr Wells said he felt “vindicated”following Gardner’s conviction.
ONE of the longest running newspaper investigations I have ever carried out was one involving a Co Tyrone puppy farmer who was selling hundreds of sick and dying dogs to animal lovers across Ireland.
Co Tyrone woman Wilma Little posed under so many aliases, used so many phone numbers and managed to meet ‘customers’ in so many different locations across the province that it took our team a year to track her down.
By the time we were able to knock on the door of her plush, newly built two storied house armed with enough evidence to prove she was running a cruel battery farm, she had already made thousands from selling sick dogs – many who died within weeks of leaving her premises after being diagnosed with serious diseases.
This is what you are funding when you are buying puppies from internet selling sites.
If you really have to buy a dog this Christmas please, please, please do your research.
There are shelters across the north and south bursting at the brims with unwanted puppies and dogs who desperately need homes. There are also magnificent breeders across the country who will make sure the dog you are buying is the right one for you.
Thankfully following the publication of the below article, animal welfare officers stepped in and closed down Ms Little’s battery farm. She also appeared in court on a number of illegal breeding charges.
She may no longer be in operation, but there are hundreds more like her currently operating across the country. Watch out.
Puppy farmer exposed
This is the heartless puppy farmer selling sick and dying dogs to unsuspecting animal lovers across the province.
Sunday Life unmasks Wilma Little as one of the key players in the cruel money-grabbing trade.
In a year-long investigation into her secluded puppy mill on the outskirts of Dungannon, we can reveal how Little, who also uses the name Emma, has been making a fortune churning out ‘designer’ dogs like ‘jugs’ (a Jack Russell/pug cross) and ‘schoodles’ (a shih-tzu/poodle cross) and selling them on the internet.
Sunday Life also gained access to the squalid shed in Donaghmore where the 40-year-old keeps scores of different pups and dogs locked up in disease-ridden cages.
Our shocking undercover footage shows countless breeds caged together before they are sold on.
In a joint investigation with the the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA), we can also reveal:
- Little poses under five different identities to sell various breeds of designer dogs;
- she is raking in thousands of pounds selling dogs for up to £300 a time;
- she uses countless mobile numbers to advertise on the web; and
- the USPCA has received hundreds of complaints about her Tyrone puppy farm in the last 18 months.
Sunday Life launched an undercover investigation into the illegal puppy farm last year after being contacted by a number of devastated dog owners who fell victim to Little.
Each bought a different breed of pup from her, and each was left heartbroken when the pets they brought home turned out to be seriously ill. Some were so sick, they had to be put to sleep.
Belfast woman Tracey Cousins, who bought two miniature Jack Russell pups, was left with a vet bill spiralling into hundreds of pounds after both dogs were found to be suffering from the parvo virus – a killer infection spread amongst dogs.
Just one of them survived.
Another dog sold by Little, a small shih-tzu male, had to receive treatment for urine burns to his legs and body – believed to have been caused by other dogs inside the farm shed.
Our undercover reporters called to Little’s Garvagh Road home after responding to one of her many online adverts.
This time she was selling a litter of brown and black maltese, shih-tzu cross pups, known as ‘mal-shis’.
When we arrived at her plush, two storied home, just a few miles from the quiet village of Donaghmore, she greeted us at the door with the tiny, male pup in her arms.
Selling it as a “loving pet” raised in a “family home”, Little , who at that time told our reporter her name was ‘Julie’, said: “It likes running about, and is very good with children as well.”
Little also paraded out a small black and white female shih-tzu, and claimed the female dog was the pup’s mother.
She said the small shih-tzu, around two years old, was a family pet, and that it was her first litter of pups.
When asked if we could see the father of the pup, she replied: “We don’t have the daddy, we got her covered. He was very healthy, very healthy now.”
She also handed our reporter a health card, apparently signed by a vet, with a sticker from a recent vaccination.
She said: “He has no problems – it went to the vet and got checked over.
“The vet looked over him and gave him his first injection, and he is due again on the 7th of June for another one. And he said it was a very healthy, very healthy wee pup.”
Pointing to a sticker on the small, white card which had the words ‘vaccination record’ across the front, she said: “That’s called parvo, and that is very, very important to get into the pups.
“Very, very important. Then that’s him fully vaccinated for a year.”
We handed over £220 in cash to Little and we did not receive a receipt.
Our undercover team immediately took the animal to the USPCA’s Animal Hospital in Newry where he was examined by a senior vet.
And far from the clean bill of health allegedly given to it by the Co Tyrone woman’s vet, the tiny pup was found to have a list of medical problems.
“He has a large scrotal hernia on his side where you can actually push the contents of the hernia back up inside to the abdomen,” the USPCA’s senior vet told Sunday Life.
“That would be a pretty substantial congenital abnormality. That will require surgical correction.
“Also, you were told the pup was eight weeks old, well at that age they really have all of their teeth – he’s only got a couple of sets. The rest are still under the gum, so he’s probably a bit younger than what you were told.”
He will also require rehabilitative treatment due to behavioural problems – directly caused by being caged with other dogs since being born.
Examining the so-called vet card, handed over by Little, the USPCA vet said: “If your puppy takes sick tonight, who do you contact here? There’s just the name of the company that provide the drugs.
“The second thing is, the vaccine is signed by whoever this is. There really should be a vet stamp here.
“Also, If the puppy is eight weeks, the puppy should have had its first full vaccine and not just its parvo shot.
“We would usually do a parvo shot at six or seven weeks because we can’t give them a full vaccine at that stage.
“So I am little confused as to why it was given a parvo shot at eight weeks, when it could have just been started on the full vaccine.”
Earlier this month we returned to Little’s sprawling home where this time she was selling a litter of ‘schoodles’ – shih-tzu/ poodle cross pups.
Appearing at the door of her sprawling country home with two small, white dogs – one male, one female – the puppy farmer told our reporter: “I had six of them and they are all very healthy pups, very healthy.”
She again paraded out the same female shih-tzu dog she brought out to our undercover team five months before, and again claimed that it was the mother of the litter of pups. Again, she also claimed it was the animal’s first litter, and that the female dog had been “covered” by a pal’s male poodle.
Despite both shivering in fear on the front door step of her home, she told our reporter the timid animals were “more used to children” than adults.
Pointing to the female pup, which sat timidly with its head on its paws, she said: “It doesn’t come near me, but it follows my wee girl everywhere. It’s more of a children’s dog.”
Claiming the dog had been “checked over” and vaccinated, she handed our reporter a health card – allegedly signed, stamped and dated by a vet.
She added:”They’ve been parvoed (received a parvo vaccination), wormed and ‘fleaed’.”
Again, we handed over £220 in cash to Little and then rushed the lethargic and distressed pup straight to the USPCA’s Animal Hospital in Newry, where staff were shocked at its condition.
Diagnosed with kennel cough – a serious respiratory infection in dogs – the tiny, white pup sold to our undercover reporter as a “very healthy” house pet, also had an infection in its nasal passage.
Terrified of human contact because it was only used to the presence of other dogs, the distressed animal also had urine burns on its tiny paws.
A senior USPCA vet also said the schoodle was “riddled with worms”.
But just an hour before, crafty Wilma Little told our undercover team a very different story.
In fact the “friendly” dog had been suffering inside the battery farm shed close to lying Little’s Garvagh Road home.
Stephen Philpott from the USPCA said his charity has been inundated with complaints about Little.
He said: “In recent months, she has been by far the person who the public are complaining about the most. There are others, numerous others, but she is the one that is getting the most complaints.”
On Friday we confronted Little with the evidence we had gathered.
She admitted that she knew what she was doing was illegal, but said she was currently awaiting on a block licence from her local council.
“We did have a licence you see,” she said. “It went out of date and we had to do a couple of things, I’ve paid for it (a block licence), and we are just waiting for the dog people to come out.”
When told about the condition of the animals that Sunday Life bought from her, she replied: “Right.”
And when told we had spoken to other victims whose animals became seriously ill, she replied: “I don’t get many complaints because I tell the people, if anything goes wrong, give me a ring. I have said that to people.”
When asked why she uses so many different names, and telephone numbers to advertise the dogs, she replied: “My daughter puts them on (Gumtree) for me. You are only allowed to use two numbers, and that’s why.”
Sunday Life also asked how many dogs she had sold in a year, after saying that she had to “check the book”, she confirmed she currently had 40 dogs on her premises.
She added: “All our dogs are injected every single year. As I said, anything goes wrong with the pups, ring me and I’ll sort money back. No problem. No-one has came to me with complaints.”
We also asked her to show us around the shed where she admitted to breeding the dogs.
She declined, saying her husband “told me not to.”.
Little added: “I have nothing to hide, not a thing.”
Inside Little’s puppy farm
Howling through the bars of their urine-soaked cages, these are the designer dogs being sold off by a Co Tyrone puppy farmer as “beautiful house pets” reared in “a loving family home”.
But as our exclusive footage from inside Wilma Little’s puppy farm shows, nothing could be further from the truth.
Their beds consist of saw dust, and the only heat they have is the October sun shining through an opened wooden shed door.
It’s unlikely these animals have ever seen the inside of a cosy family home as Little makes out in her online ads, where she advertises pups for up to £300 a time.
Inside one small section of this shed, five cross breed pups are caged inside the one pen.
There are pugs, poodles and shih-tzus – all are unclean, and their fur is unkempt.
Next to them is a fully grown dog, who jumps into a plastic basket in fear as the footage is recorded.
Just inches away, two tiny Chihuahuas scurry into the corner, while a black and tan dog inside the same pen barks over the top of a steel panel, used to separate them from the other dogs. Next to them, is one small black and white terrier like dog.
She is on her own, so has the luxury of having her own bowl of water and food. The rest share in each pen, covered with a scattering of sawdust, probably caused by the dinner time rush.
These scenes are nothing like the pictures used by Wilma Little to sell these production line dogs.
In one advert, Little, who uses various mobile numbers and identities to avoid being detected as an illegal breeder, called one litter of shih-tzu crosses “balls of fluff” ready for their “loving homes”.
“This footage is just typical of the puppy farms I have seen,” USPCA boss Stephen Philpott said after seeing Sunday Life’s footage. “Par for the course.”
“We are getting these types of dogs into our animal hospital on a twice weekly basis, and countless complaints over the phone.
“Puppy farmers like Little will portray themselves as something completely different.
“They’ll use multiple phones, multiple numbers and this particular one that you have experienced will say they are from one part of the country when they are from another.
“They’ll misrepresent the dog, they will say it is something it is not. They will portray the dog to have health and veterinary work, when they haven’t.”
The USPCA Chief Executive added: “You see the lengths we go to here to control disease, and we don’t have anywhere near the amount of dogs these people have.
“There’s an endemic problem with these dogs, so many of them, coming from this address, are sick and someone needs to go and sort it out.
“For all the animal welfare people, we are asking them through your newspaper, who is going to sort this out?”
(Article originally appeared in Sunday Life in October 2014)
“Writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events has been found to result in improvements in mental health” My GP explained at the end of my 15 minute consultation with her.
“Not really my thing but I’ll give it a go”I duly replied, never expecting that I would actually start a blog let alone write about traumatic experiences. I only made the appointment with my doctor as I felt I needed a little bit more time off work following the discovery of my fathers decomposing body. My plan was to get the time off, let the dust the settle and get back into running then return to work feeling fresh.
Last week – rather nervously I might add – I decided to follow through with the idea of writing and posted a blog about a memorable day I had during my operational tour of Afghanistan during my military career…
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