Four people, including a couple from Takeley, have been convicted for their involvement in a dog-fighting ring.

The group organised dog fights across England, the Republic of Ireland and France.

Three men and four women were convicted on Wednesday, April 3, following a four-week trial at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Billy Leadley, 38, of Bambers Green, Takeley - who is also known as GSK or Green Street Kennels - entered a guilty plea part-way through the trial to one offence of causing unnecessary suffering to a dog by failing to provide veterinary treatment for an injury to the dog's tail.

Dunmow Broadcast: Dogs were found at the property in TakeleyDogs were found at the property in Takeley (Image: RSPCA)

The jury also found him guilty of a further nine offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, including keeping a premises for use in fighting, taking part in a fight by refereeing, and keeping and/or training a dog for use in a dog fight.

Billy's wife Amy Louise Leadley, 39, also of Bambers Green, Takeley, was found guilty of three offences, including keeping a premises for use in fighting.

Philip Harris Ali, 67, of Manford Way, Chigwell - who is referred to in the dog-fighting world as 'Dr Death' - was found guilty of 10 offences, including four offences of keeping and/or training a dog for use in a dog fight, and two of causing a fight.

Stephen Albert Brown, 56, of Burrow Road, Chigwell, was found guilty of five offences, including three of keeping and/or training a dog for use in an animal fight.

The RSPCA launched an investigation into dog fighting in Essex and London after an officer visited Ali's address in Chigwell in August 2021, following information relating to the welfare of a dog at the property.

Animal rescue officer Nick Jonas found several dogs with suspicious scarring and two dog running machines - which Ali said he used to exercise the dogs.

He passed on his concerns to the RSPCA's Special Operations Unit, which investigates serious and organised animal crime.

The team - led by Inspector Kirsty Withnall - began to gather information and intelligence on Ali, prompting a warrant at his address in March 2022, which was executed by Metropolitan Police.

Two dogs - Dotti and Oscar - were seized by police and placed into RSPCA care.

Dog fighting paraphernalia - including a slat mill, two treadmills, four break sticks and two flirt poles - were all recovered from Ali’s home, as well as a DIY vet kit.

Dunmow Broadcast: An image taken from Ali's phone of dogs fighting in the pit in TakeleyAn image taken from Ali's phone of dogs fighting in the pit in Takeley (Image: RSPCA)

The vet kit was so dog fighters can treat dogs themselves rather than taking them to the vets and arousing suspicion.

Videos, voice notes and messages relating to dog fighting were also found on Ali's phone.

Sixteen dogs were seized from the Leadley's address in Takeley, including breeds thought to have been used for fighting, many being kept in poor conditions in a garage, plus two smaller breeds who were removed from the house on welfare grounds.

Inspectors also discovered a dog-fighting pit on the property.

The four defendants will all appear at Chelmsford Crown Court for sentencing on Monday, June 3.