Farmer escapes jail after shooting neighbour's pet dog
This is the heartless farmer who gunned down a family pet because he wrongly believed he was a sheep killer.
Brian McEldowney was convicted last month of shooting Buster, a beloved family pet.
Farmer McEldowney conspired with his nephew Gerald in a plot after some of his livestock were attacked in the fields.
The defenceless collie was gunned down in its own back yard, then his carcass was dumped beside some dead sheep before pictures were taken to justify the crime.
McEldowney narrowly escaped jail last week after he was handed a suspended sentence for using his legally held firearm to shoot two-year-old Buster.
This week he told the Sunday World that what had appeared in local papers were “lies”.
His nephew was also handed a suspended jail term for removing the dog’s carcass to impede the apprehension of his uncle.
The shocking story has rocked the sleepy rural area near Draperstown, Co. Derry, ever since it happened in April 2016.
The McEldowneys believe Buster was responsible for a number of sheep kills, costing the family business hundreds of pounds.
They say they had to act after warnings to Buster’s owners that he was dangerous, but chose to take the law into their own hands rather than contact the police.
Buster’s owners – the McGuigans, who live next door – don’t believe Buster is to blame,
It has also divided opinion in the area, with many farmers sympathetic to Mr McEldowney’s plight – given the fact the incident happened during the stressful period of the lambing season.
Either way, the circumstances of how Buster was killed and how the farmers put him in the boot of their car and drove him to one of their fields to have his body pose with some of the dead sheep has rattled the local community.
We contacted the McGuigan family but they didn’t want to comment.
A family friend of the McGuigans described how two of family’s kids had heard the gunshots that killed their beloved pet Buster.
“Buster had got free but only for a few minutes and they caught him very quickly,” they explained.
“Brian McEldowney went to the house apparently and was very angry – he told them he was going to get his gun. He had already hit Buster with a stick.
“The mum left to go to Draperstown and was away for about 15 minutes. They killed Buster and the kids heard the gunshots and saw them cleaning up.”
The prosecutor told Derry Crown Court: “The defendant Brian McEldowney was seen by her carrying a shotgun.
“He opened the byre door and he went in and the daughter heard two bangs. She came running out of the house and saw the third man hosing blood away from the byre.
“She saw Gerald McEldowney tying a blue rope around the dog’s legs and then pulling the dog by its legs. The dog was then lifted by him over a gate and put into a field as if to make the shooting of the dog legal for sheep-worrying.”
Three days later the carcass was thrown into a second field by Brian McEldowney, again to make it look as if it had been shot for sheep-worrying.
It was said in court both men had apologised, but Brian McEldowney seemed less contrite when we called at his door on Wednesday.
Despite pleading guilty, he told us the court action was not finished but would not confirm whether he intended to appeal or not.
“You can’t print a story without my consent,” he shouted.
“We are not finished with the court and I’ll tell the truth of what happened when it is.”
Bizarrely, photos of a dead Buster lying beside some dead sheep appeared in a local newspaper along with comments from Brian McEldowney, though he was not named.
He told the paper three days after shooting the dog: “My livestock has been attacked on six occasions. I have seen this dog around and in other neighbour’s fields. I had been turning a blind eye to it, but I have had enough. It was either my sheep or the dog.”
Brian McEldowney went on to tell the paper he had warned Buster’s owners to look after the dog better. He said the cost of the two dead sheep was about £400 and complained that the police had removed his gun.
He said: “I think it’s unfair that the police have confiscated my guns, at the end of the day this is my livelihood and I have to protect it. If I don’t, no-one else will.
“I am very angry I have been left with no gun. I need it to protect my livestock and my crop.”
Sources say the McGuigan family were devastated when they picked up the paper to see a picture of Buster’s bloodied body.
“It shook the whole family to see wee Buster dead in the paper,” they explained.
“They are adamant Buster didn’t kill those sheep and there was no evidence to show he had. It’s been very traumatic for the whole family and one of the girls has been having nightmares.
“The family are trying to get on with their lives but it’s been very difficult given they live so close to the McEldowneys.”
Brian McEldowney (56), admitted shooting Buster with his legally held shotgun. He also admitted trespassing at a byre at Cloane Road, Draperstown and possessing a shotgun and ammunition with intent to endanger life.
He sentenced Brian McEldowney to 12 months’ jail, suspended for three years, and ordered him to pay compensation of £500 to the McGuigan family.
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