THE mystery over the fatal poisoning of a Crufts prize- winner has deepened as it emerged officials are investigating reports that six dogs may have fallen ill due to foul play at the famous show.
An Irish setter died after being fed poisoned beef at the show last week, and the owners of two Shetland sheepdogs also believe their animals were poisoned during the show at the NEC in Birmingham.
Now there are reports that a West Highland terrier, an Afghan hound and a Shih Tzu were taken ill after the show, raising the possibility that one or more poisoners was at work on each of the four days of competition.
There are also claims that dogs have been poisoned in previous years.
Mylee Thomas, whose Shetland sheepdog Myter Eye to Eye is thought to have been poisoned the day after Irish setter Jagger was killed by poisoned meat, said she thought her dog was deliberately targeted by someone with knowledge of the breed, but Jagger had been the victim of a random attack carried out by someone else.
Other exhibitors believe Jagger's killer may have randomly targeted the Westie, the Afghan and the Shih Tzu. The British Kennel Club said it was aware of the reports of six poisonings and was urgently investigating.
Mrs Thomas said: "The setter was poisoned the day before my bitch, and I don't think there is a link between the two. I think that one [Jagger] was someone who had randomly targeted them because a lot of people don't agree with Crufts."
She said in the case of the Shelties, dozens of similar dogs were in a judging area open to the public, but the only dogs that fell ill were her own bitch, which is one of the most successful in history, and a dog called Singin The Blues, which won the best of breed trophy.
"I think it's driven by jealousy," she said. "People do get fed up with seeing the same dogs and bitches winning all the time. When my bitch became ill and I took her to the vet at Crufts, the vet said that in some years it happens quite a lot, but it doesn't normally end up with dogs being killed."
Mrs Thomas (52), who co-owns six-year-old Eye to Eye, or Ariel, said she believed the poison had been administered between 1.30pm and 2pm on Friday, when she went to the loo and left Ariel unattended. The judges were on their lunch, meaning it would have been easier for someone to poison the dogs without being noticed.
She said: "When I got back from the loo she had been violently sick in her cage. I got her out and she carried on being sick. I did take her into the ring but she just wasn't right at all. I took her straight to the vet when I came out of the ring.
"The top dog and the top bitch were both taken ill minutes before they were due to compete. You would have to be in the breed to know which dogs were which. It couldn't just be a member of the public walking past. It was someone who knows their dogs.
"It can only be to knock them out of the competition. It's rivalry, people's desire to win. The worst part for me is that my husband Peter died last month and I wasn't going to go to Crufts, but Ariel was one of his favourites, so I did it for him, and then this happens."
Debbie Pearson, the owner of Singin The Blues, said: "I think the Irish setter was a random dog who was killed by someone trying to cause problems for the dog-showing world."
The owners of Jagger, show name Thendara Satisfaction, revealed that three types of slow-acting poison had been found in cubes of beef, including what appeared to be slug pellets and rat poison.
The three-year-old dog collapsed and died in Belgium 24 hours after coming second in its best of breed class at Crufts. (© Daily Telegraph London)