The Late Alan Brough in the 70's with Lion Cub
A Cumbrian ‘animal lover’ who owned the wild ponies of Caldbeck Common is thought to have killed himself after they were taken away by the RSPCA and he was arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty.
Alan ‘Tutty’ Brough, 68, from Newbiggin, near Penrith, was arrested at 8.30am on Wednesday shortly before a major RSPCA and police operation began to catch about 90 of his ponies that had lived wild on Uldale and Caldbeck commons for 30 years.
After being released from Carlisle’s Durranhill police station at 3pm, Mr Brough returned home but later drove to St Ninian’s Church at Brougham, where his family say he was found hanged.
One of his four daughters, Kathleen Michie, from Carlisle, said: “It was not my dad who walked out of the police cells – he was trance-like. He said they had taken his life. He was not a people person, he preferred animals. We ran down to the car to stop him leaving the house and I took the keys out of the car.
“We spent 45 minutes talking to him and eventually he agreed to take his grand-daughter Natasha with him – he wanted to go and think.
“He stopped at Rheged for fuel and drove off when Natasha went to pay. She chased him and jumped in front of the car. But he drove off when she tried to get in.”
The 18-year-old alerted the rest of the family, who gave chase. Natasha eventually found her grandfather by the River Eamont.
His daughter Kathleen added: “We had begged him to carry on and fight for the ponies. He spent half his life fighting the parish council and Caldbeck Commoners to keep the ponies on the common.
“He got up at 5am every day to go out and gather grass for his horses. He spent every day with them.”
The ponies were rounded up and loaded onto lorries on Wednesday before being taken to new homes. Mr Brough, a builder, was not told of the operation before it started.
He first released the Shetland ponies onto the common when he lived at Mosedale when his daughters outgrew them. The ponies bred and multiplied, becoming a tourist attraction on the commons.
In an effort to control numbers, a castration programme was started by landowners, The Lake District National Park Authority, two years ago. Mr Brough co-operated with the programme but the RSPCA got involved after welfare concerns were raised.
following advice from a vet, four ponies were seized by Cumbria police last Friday. The RSPCA said one pony was put to sleep because of its poor condition.
Redwings Horse Sanctuary, World Horse Welfare, the British Horse Society and Horse World were involved in Wednesday’s operation and they are housing the ponies in undisclosed locations. Mr Brough’s family have not been told where they are.
A statement from the RSPCA and other horse charities involved in Wednesday’s operation said: “We are saddened by what has happened and our thoughts are with Mr Brough’s family at this time.”
Paragon Veterinary Group has castrated many of the ponies over the last two years.
David Black from the group said this week: “Of the ponies we saw, considering their management as wild ponies, the vets involved did not have concerns about their body condition.”
Mr Brough was well-known in his home town of Penrith and once kept lions at his Mosedale home in the hope of starting a zoo.
His family said he would never have let any animal suffer and that he was treating the horse that was put down by police. His daughter Cindy said the family were angry with police.
She added :“He was taken away for the best part of the day. They put him in the cells and broke his heart. It was as if they wanted him out of the way so they could take the horses.”
Mr Brough leaves his wife Kathleen, four daughters and nine grandchildren.
Enquiries into Mr Brough’s death are ongoing, but officers are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident.The RSPCA has offered to return Caldbeck’s wild ponies to the widow of Alan Brough who was found dead last week after the charity removed his animals from the common.
Kathleen Brough, from Newbiggin, near Penrith, will meet officers from the RSPCA on Monday to discuss the return of the animals.
Around 100 ponies were removed from Caldbeck and Uldale commons on Wednesday and Thursday in an operation involving police, the RSPCA, the British Horse Society and several other charities.
Mr Brough was arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty before the operation started on Wednesday morning.
He was not charged.
Hours after his release on bail, he was found dead by the River Eamont at St Ninian’s Church, Brougham, by his grand daughter.
Mr Brough’s daughter, also called Kathleen, said: “The RSPCA has told mum she can have as many back as she wants. She wants them all back and the whole family will help to look after them.
“He (Alan) died to get them back, we can’t turn our backs on them. They won’t tell us where the ponies are and it’s torture.”
The RSPCA took action after welfare concerns were raised about the ponies. One was put to sleep because of its poor condition.
The RSPCA said in statement: “We certainly would not rule out any suggestions put forward by the family providing, of course, the needs of the animals can be met.”
The ponies have become a tourist attraction since Mr Brough released the first few onto the common more than 30 years ago. The 68-year-old builder would take hay and grass to the ponies every day and his family said they were his life.
James Irving, chairman of Uldale Commoners Association, worked with Mr Brough for two years to control their numbers. A castration programme began two years ago in co-operation with Mr Brough and landowners, the Lake District National Park Authority.
Mr Irving said: “Everyone living round here is in shock, it’s horrendous what’s happened.
“We’re upset and furious at the way the RSPCA and British Horse Society handled this. The farmers, commoners, National Park and Mr Brough were happy with the castration programme.
“We’re all farmers round here, we know when something is suffering and these ponies had a happy life.”