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Police hunt leader of dog fighting gang, former Grantham man John Knibbs

A man who lead a dog fighting gang remains on the run, prompting a hunt by police to bring him to justice.

John Herbert Knibbs, formerly of Grantham and latterly Sleaford, was the leader of a group which trained and bred dogs to fight and was convicted in his absence following a seven-day trial in February.

He was convicted for a number of offences including keeping and training dogs for fighting, ear cropping, and causing unnecessary suffering to a bull terrier called Baddy and another called Panther by failing to provide veterinary care for their injuries.

Knibbs again failed to show up at Lincoln Magistrates' Court yesterday (Monday), where he was due to be sentenced. A warrant is out for his arrest.

John Herbert Knibbs (7309196)
John Herbert Knibbs (7309196)

He was first prosecuted for dog fighting by the RSPCA in 2009 when he was disqualified from keeping animals for life. At the time, he was living in Harrowby Lane, Grantham. He was convicted of breaching his ban in 2016. On investigation of a second breach of the ban, police and the RSPCA obtained a warrant in September 2017 to search a premises in Sleaford.

It was here that they found eight dogs including an American bulldog, a Bully Kutta cross Presa Canario, and a pitbull terrier.

The investigation uncovered paraphernalia commonly used by people involved in dog fighting, including a ‘flirt pole’, a long pole with a rope attached, and a ‘break stick’, a tool commonly used to break up a dog fight. There were also messages and photos on Knibbs’ mobile phone which led to two other addresses - and the people connected with these became the subject of two further warrants on November 2, 2017.

Baddy, a dog used by John Knibbs in dog fighting. (7309505)
Baddy, a dog used by John Knibbs in dog fighting. (7309505)

Knibbs' co-defendant, 30-year-old Kimberleigh Joanne Steele, of Polyanthus Drive, Sleaford, was also convicted in her absence at an earlier hearing. She was convicted of jointly possessing a dog banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act, namely a pitbull terrier-type dog, and aiding and abetting Knibbs.

Dogs fighting in footage taken by John Knibbs and discovered by RSPCA officers. (8216676)
Dogs fighting in footage taken by John Knibbs and discovered by RSPCA officers. (8216676)

However, she did turn up for sentencing yesterday. She was disqualified from keeping dogs for five years, sentenced to a 16-week prison sentence suspended for one year and ordered to pay costs of £500 and a victim surcharge of £115.

An RSPCA spokeswoman said: "The magistrates commented on the ‘overwhelming evidence’ of her involvement in the case and the serious nature of the offences."

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