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Billionaire's son Tariq Al Habtoor in live Twitter Labrador dog kidnap plot in Chislet

12 December 2013
by Paul Hooper

Tariq Al Habtoor kidnapped a dog and boasted on Twitter

Tariq Al Habtoor kidnapped a dog and boasted on Twitter

The son of a billionaire stole back the pedigree pet he had given away for free – and then live-tweeted the military-style operation.

Tariq Al Habtoor, 22, carried out the raid on the home in Chislet, while reporting his every move on social media site Twitter.

The student had given his chocolate Labrador Ozzy away to Rosanne Morgan, whose boyfriend’s family live in the village.

He said he couldn’t look after it and wanted the pet to go to a loving family which would give it a happy life.

But then he had a change of heart and offered £1,500 to buy back the pet – but when Rosanne and boyfriend Joshua Gould refused to sell, he began plotting the kidnapping.

The bizarre incident was captured in tweets made by the son of billionaire hotel owner Rashid Al Habtoor, who has played polo with Prince Charles and counts Prince Michael of Kent, the actor Omar Sharif and Dubai’s ruling Makhtoum family among his pals.

In them, and before the theft, he says it is “time for a late night mission”, adding there is “no going back now” and “now or never”.

After snatching the dog, he then posted “success”, before a minute later adding “on the run”.

He then bizarrely tweeted a link to a BBC story headlined ‘Microchip scanners to tackle Kent dog thefts’.

Dean Thistle, prosecuting, told Canterbury Crown Court how Habtoor was seen in the garden of Joshua’s parents, Graham and Clair Gould, enticing Ozzy away.

The engineering student then grabbed the animal and leapt over a 5ft fence and raced away in his silver Range Rover.

A chocolate labrador, like the one stolen by Al Habtoor

A chocolate labrador, like the one stolen by Al Habtoor

He told the court: “I got the dog when it was just eight weeks old. I raised it for about a year but then I thought that, living alone, the dog needed more attention. It was a happy dog but I wanted it to have kids.”

He said that he placed adverts on Kingston University Facebook site advertising the animal and later met Ms Morgan and handed Ozzy over along with toys and paperwork.

Ms Morgan, a fellow student in London, saw an advert for the dog.

“I asked him about the dog and he replied and I met up with him to see what the dog looked like. He told me he could no longer look after him.

“He was more than happy for us to rear the dog when I described how Ozzy would be kept and he said: ‘Perfect’. He said he didn’t want any money,” she said.

Judge Nigel Van Der Bijl

Judge Nigel Van Der Bijl

But later Habtoor claimed he sent messages saying he had changed his mind and now wanted the animal back and decided to kidnap the animal when, he claims, he wasn’t allowed “one last look”.

He offered £650 and then £1,500 to buy back the pet but Ms Morgan told him: “No, absolutely not.” She said: “I told him the dog was doing very, very well and it was not for sale.”

She broke down and cried in the witness box when she recalled receiving a call from her boyfriend that the animal had been snatched.

Joshua Gould said he heard a noise and saw a dark figure in the back garden “making a noise enticing the dog towards him”.

“He then just picked up the dog and ran out. I went back into the house and shouted that someone had taken Ozzy.”

But the billionaire’s son – who fled his father and settled with his mother in England – told the court: “I felt wronged when I wasn’t allowed my last visit. I had given everything for free. I didn’t ask for anything. I just wanted a visit.

“I know that what I did was wrong by taking the dog but it was the only way I was going to be able to see him. To me he wasn’t just an animal, but when I thought I wasn’t going to see him again I felt I had no choice.

“I tried to negotiate but there seemed to be no way we could be civilised about it.”

The Twitter bird symbol

The Twitter bird symbol

Judge Nigel Van Der Bijl asked: “But why did you plan this as a military-style operation?”

Habtoor replied: “I didn’t really think that I would make it. I thought I would be caught.”

The police were alerted and Habtoor, who lives in Long Ditton in Surrey, was questioned by police but refused to reveal where the animal had been stashed.

But two weeks later a woman in High Wycombe in Bucks out walking her pet saw the bedraggled and under-fed animal, caught it and took it to a vet.

Mr Thistle said that the micro-chip in Ozzy was scanned and Rosanne and Joshua were alerted because it had been registered with the Kennel Club.

Magistrates in Thanet found Habtoor guilty of theft and ordered him to do 120 hours of unpaid work.

But he appealed against the verdict and the sentence – claiming that the couple had broken their word to allow him to see the dog “one last time”.

He admitted in the witness box that he had taken the animal – and his appeal was rejected within five minutes by the judge and two magistrates.

"I don’t have time for community service, so I would rather have a suspended sentence or a prison sentence” - Tariq Al Habtoor

Habtoor, who was representing himself, was then asked if he wanted to appeal against the sentence.

He told the judge he did because he was “too busy” as a student to do unpaid work for the community.

“I am a full time student in my second year of engineering.

Instead he was given a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years and was ordered to pay £450 costs – on top of the £760 costs and surcharge from the earlier hearing in the magistrates.But Judge Nigel Van Der Bijl told him: “I am sorry but I can’t offer you a place in prison.”

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